Saturday, September 29, 2012

Self Driving Google Cars and the Techno-magical World

Google hopes to have self-driving cars available to the public in about 5 years or so.

Big deal.

What exactly are the problems that a self-driving car will solve? I can't think of any. Supposedly autonomous cars that are driven by computer software will help traffic congestion and reduce human error accidents.

This plays into the silly myth that computers don't make mistakes. I don't have to belabor this point much. I think we've all experienced glitches, bugs, dysfunctions, unavailable sites, viruses, cache errors, browser screw-ups, and other problems. Sometimes just refreshing the page or restarting your computer fixes it. Other times, more drastic measures are required.

When you think about self-driving cars, not many benefits come to mind. Eat a sandwich, text your friends, read a book, talk on the phone, have sex, watch a movie, browse the web -- people are already doing these things in their car as they drive. A self-driving car will just allow the more timid (or less reckless and crazy, I should say) among us to join in.

The main thing for me is the possibility of hackers hijacking your car. A possible scenario: criminals hack into your car's operating system, they hijack it, taking you somewhere, then holding you against your will until you pay ransom money (the rich fat cats can worry about that), or just making Google cars crash for the sheer mayhem of it.

Viruses in Google cars, that will be a big problem.

Nobody does usability testing anymore, so you know the software for self-driving cars will be full of problems. The public, as usual, will be the unpaid beta testers. "Rush the buggy product to market, let the users find the glitches and suggest fixes for us" seems to be the prevalent "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" (Guy Kawasaki) mindset.

3rd party apps for the self-driving car represent yet another potential nightmare. Customers will be suckered into adding all kinds of apps, then the rise of rogue apps will appear, with an increase in malware, surveillance, and ad annoyances.

Sit back, relax, and watch these advertisements as your car drives itself to your destination.

Will a Google car have a glitch, go too fast, change lanes without a turn signal, or run stoplights, and then, when a cop comes after you, will the Google car pull over so you can get a ticket while Google car laughs at you?

According to Wikipedia: "In August 2011, a human-controlled Google driverless car was involved in the project's first crash near Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Google has stated that the car was being driven manually at the time of the accident.[12] A second incident involved a Google driverless car being rear-ended while stopped at a stoplight."

Some people seek a Science Fiction Reality. They want glasses that tell you what to do and cars that drive all by themselves and jetpacks that enable you to fly...and all sorts of things like that. They don't care about the new problems such devices may cause. They don't care about the opportunities these devices will make available for criminals and terrorists and idiots.

They just want to inhabit a techno-magical world. They're still lost in the childish illusions of Tolkien, Harry Potter, and DisneyWorld.

Fundamentally, they seek a dream state where humans no longer have to do much, because machines (which have replaced fairies, wizards, and witches) are waiting on them hand and foot. They even hope for artificial intelligence, where the machines will think and feel and self-propagate and devise their own schemes.

My prediction: humans and civilization will then be deleted as irrelevant, antiquated, irrational, and dangerous. We already have combat robots (drones, etc.) that violate Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics:

1, A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2, A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3, A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

What will happen when self-driving cars also create an itinerary for you? When they decide where you should go, based on the Contextual Web? Based on data accumulated by various social media surveillance systems, your clicks, the time of day, and your normal routine will determine where the car drives you.

You get into the car at lunch time, you tend to eat Mexican food on Wednedays, so off you go to La Hacienda, with no input from you.

Contextual Web Self-Driving Cars will eliminate both driving and thinking from your life. Just hop in and go where you need to go, with no planning or spontaneity.


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