We are, as we may have mentioned, afraid of everything. Empty out your pockets and we'll guarantee you there's probably something that absolutely terrifies us. And not just the picture on your driving license or that piece of hard candy that looks like a hunk of amber.
We're afraid of bees, wasps and greenheads. We tremble at snakes, eels, sharks and just about everything else that crawls or swims. And certain foods, especially eggs. We can't even watch people eat eggs. Spiders really scare us, too. We actually took Arachnophobia as our confirmation name.
Maybe FDR was right. Maybe we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But jeez, isn't that enough?
At the top of our hit parade of fear are robots, which we are convinced are planning the ultimate downfall of the human race. Just like the pig-men massing in the treeline. We have been a lone voice in the wilderness, our plaintive cries echoing off the canyon walls of general disdain. But we are alone no more.
Set another place at the table and allow us to introduce our new best friend: Toby Walsh, a professor at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and one of that country's leading experts on artificial intelligence.
Walsh has become a leading opponent to the development of autonomous robotic weapons. And, according to a recent Q&A interview in the New York Times, he has been working with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which sounds like something straight out of the "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." -- our favorite TV show of all time.
"That you can't have machines deciding whether humans live or die," Walsh told the Times. "It crosses new territory. Machines don't have our our moral compass, our compassion and our emotions. Machines are not moral beings."
Sing it, T-Wa!
"What makes these different from previously banned weaponry is their potential to discriminate," Walsh told the Times. "You could say, 'Only kill children,' and then add facial recognition software to the system. Moreover, if these weapons are produced, they would unbalance the world's geopolitics. Autonomous robotic weapons would be cheap and easy to produce. Some can be made with a 3-D printer, and they easily could fall into the hands of terrorists."
So, there you go. For a refreshing change, even smart people agree with us.
It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Gizmo
Perhaps we need to add seagulls to our list of frightening things.
According to the Washington Post, a woman in England told the BBC that a seagull swooped down from the sky and snatched her 4.4-pound miniature Chihuahua, Gizmo, and flew off.
Gizmo, for whom we grieve, was never seen again.
Personal note: We love all pups no matter their race or religion, their slobbering or their shedding. And we're not looking to draw the ire of Chihuahua Nation (a very tiny country next to Liechtenstein), but even we may have to draw the line at miniature chihuahuas. They're more a collectible than dog. More like a something in the rodent family. Just sayin'.
Anyway, there are those that dispute Becca Hill's abduction claim.
"Though possible, the suspected attack would certainly be a rare occurrence," the Post story related. "'Seagulls do not have talons, so it would be challenging to pull off such a feat,' Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab or Ornithology said in an email, calling the incident 'very unlikely'."
McGowan, as the piece points out, wasn't there. But still.
"Not only would it be hard to lift off with that much weight," McGowan told the Post, "but there would be no possible way to get it to a stable position under the weight-bearing portion of the wings."
A local dog search and rescue outfit took up the mission of finding poor Gizmo, asking area residents to keep an eye out for him.
"Please check your gardens and roofs," they requested.
Lobsters and tariffs
We got word Friday afternoon that U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton plans to ship up to Gloucester on Tuesday to meet with area lobstermen and others in the lobster industry to discuss the Chinese tariffs that have strangled exports of American lobsters to the world's most populous market. We imagine the subject of the new protections for North Atlantic right whales also may receive some attention.
We've been invited to tag along, so look for that story in Wednesday's editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and online at gloucestertimes.com.
Right place to talk right whales
Speaking of North Atlantic right whales, NOAA has scheduled a series of eight public scoping sessions in advance of its draft environmental impact statement for modifications to the current Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan.
The plan, which calls for the lobster industry to modify gear and remove as many vertical lines as necessary to reduce right whale mortalities, entanglements and injuries by 60 percent, has been highly criticized by some lobster stakeholders and public officials, particularly in Maine.
So, if you've got something to say, here's your chance.
There are two sessions scheduled in Massachusetts, including one in Gloucester on Aug. 20, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office at 55 Great Republic Drive in the Blackburn Industrial Park.
As always, no fish were harmed in the making of this column.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.