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Here It Comes


Randy Wilson

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It almost feels like we are just sitting quietly while AI takes over our turf careers.  AI promises to help us work, but what if it intends to render us obsolete?  Shouldn't we at least offer some resistance?

Contrary to popular narratives, Rockbottum Science states "AI does not think for itself, it's merely an improved algorithm."  If AI could actually think, we'd already be dead.  My Dad dealt with first generation AI, (Adolescent Imbeciles) and AI golf course personnel management was just as problematic then as now.  My primary AI function was as a top-dresser.  I also mowed grass, picked up rotting clippings, changed cups and watered at night, but my real value was in top-dressing.  We top-dressed a lot.

we aerified greens with an exposed-crankshaft amputation machine

In those days, we aerified greens with an exposed-crankshaft amputation machine.  Then, in rented mule style, I manually dragged a square chain mat to break up the cores.  During this phase I enjoyed bellowing out the chorus of Led Zep's "Immigrant Song", unless members were present.  In that case, I switched to old field hand spirituals.

Next, I filled up our 1937 Ford pickup bed with two parts sand and one part peat moss.  It had to be a full load or Dad would suggest I was lazy.  He did this by yelling, "Dammitboy" at me, a title I thought was my actual name.  I usually shoveled sand until the suspension groaned like a moose in labor.  (No skid steers back then, folks.)  Once, I loaded so much sand that the special golf course tires (I think they were Maypop brand) refused to roll, so I had to unload some sand and for some reason, Dad became impatient.

Upon arriving at the green to be dusted, I hossed the old crate as close to the green as possible, so as not to waste sand.  At this point, I commenced flinging sand like a fiend, allowing Dad to go back to pulling cores with the amputation machine.

One hot August day, an equipment sales guy appeared and began harmonizing with me.  I was surprised that a sales guy would know the words to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", but I figured that was part of his sales skillset.  Anyway, he commiserated with me for a while and then said, "You know there's a machine that does this job, right?"

"Oh, sure," I scoffed at the idea.

"It's called a Meter Matic.  It's a self-propelled little sand hopper with a conveyor belt and a spinning brush on the back that spreads sand smoother than icing on a cake.  All you do is fill it up and steer it around the green."

"And I guess it talks in three languages, too."

"No, really!" Sales guy protested.  "You're living on the edge of the future of golf.  Right now, Toro is working on a greens mower that you ride!  Soon, you'll even be riding sand trap rakes!  There are mowers that hover and automatic irrigation systems and--"

I went back to shoveling, ignoring the crazy man, but it wasn't long before there I was . . . happily riding a shiny red greensmower.  The riding sand rake was exciting because it liked to catch fire and the hovering mower required wearing steel baseball spikes to avoid toe removal, but all these dreams came true.  Soon, I was piloting a Turfco Meter Matic!  It was much smaller than modern versions, but it was still wonderful.

The only downside to the Meter Matic was the order--on pain of death--to never, ever ride in the MM when transporting to the next green.  Of course the drive chain came off and I was freewheeling down a steep, mogul-filled hill when I passed by Dad walking the amputation machine.  To this day, I can still hear him hollering, "Dammitboy!  What did I tell you?"

Now all this progress wasn't attained without a negative side.  There's a quote that applies here:  "A convenience gained is a skill lost."

The following year I discovered the Vari-Time 2, a fine electro-mechanical early version of an irrigation robot . . . and that's when I looked around and realized what had happened:  There were fewer of us.  It no longer took 23 people to aerify, top-dress, fertilize, verticut, rake, drag, water and pick up debris.  Now we had machines for that.  It didn't take three of us to mow greens, it was just one guy.  A reduction in force and skills had taken place and we hadn't even noticed. robot.thumb.jpg.2b356e9f37b5d5ff1b753bead9c8ebef.jpg

Now, it's about to happen again.  There will be robots for every task.  Unmanned Aerial Platforms (UAPs) will monitor the robot workforce, perhaps even control it.  In the area of unintended consequences, I predict a backlash driven by other UAPs (Unemployed Adolescent Pranksters) carrying out counter-measures involving slingshots and fishing weights trailing monofilament line.  Idle hands and all that . . .

What all these corporate zombie AI evangelists fail to realize is, when robots take over, we won't have the income to support their product.  Maybe a few of us will survive, as in one GCS and a couple of IT rated equipment techs traveling from course to course writing AG-Code, but it might be time to prepare for another reduction in force . . . and skills.

If we don't resist the robotic corporatocracy, then we need to prepare to shift careers, to find something AI can't do.  I don't know what that is, but I'm considering HR, because those folks are like cockroaches.  They will survive anything.

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So glad I happened to be on when this blog came through.

Randy ALWAYS delivers!

Just like artificial turf has squeezed out much of the joy from sports field management, robot mowers will squeeze the joy AND craftsmanship out of mowing.

When will I use a robot mower? Does "cold dead hands" mean anything?

Keep the faith Randy.

Rock Chalk, JF

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Thanks, JF.  Here at the Rock, we always appreciate the positive comments.

I'm hoping the "cold dead hands" and actual AI is a long way off, but it's hard to tell what's true nowadays.

Thanks again,

rw

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Randy - Do you remember those magical 3-wheeled "Gofer" creatures that allowed us to run around our courses with stuff in the back like a knife and 4 buckets, a skid tank full of Cygon to kill those pesky mole insects?  That masterpiece of early turf engineering with the manual dump, big block Briggs motor mounted to a chain drive, those sweet ape motorcycle handle bars for steering, no suspension other than the tires  and most importantly no governor.  I distinctly remember doing set up in record time one morning when I arrived at tad late and bleary eyed, much to the Pro's verbally conveyed disgust as I flew past the practice green, one tournament Sunday morning -- the cups were plumb but tucked in tight and one stick and a 'hair' off the collars every third hole damnit...... JW.

Gofer.PDF

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JW,

As Ludell would say, "I seen 'em" but I never had the pleasure of driving one.  I still fear the 3-wheelers, especially the old Cushman with a steering wheel that was known as the "wrist breaker".

I remember Cygon because of the important member who "borrowed" some, put in the trunk of his Cadillac and failed to secure the top.  Apparently the odor was permanent enough to require junking the car after repeated failed attempts to remove it.

Can you imagine the fit OSHA would throw nowadays at the mere sight of an ungoverned, unsuspended beast like that in the hands of young'uns?

Thanks for reading, JW

rw

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