Just read an interesting post about driverless cars and the change that would be needed in order to adopt such a concept.
David Roberts writes that we don’t struggle with decisions that follow a reasonable progression of change:
If we want to use less electricity, we swap our dishwashers and furnaces for more efficient ones. If we want to transition from coal, we swap out coal plants for natural gas plants or wind farms. If we want our homes to consume fewer resources, we stick solar panels on the roof and chicken coops out back. And if we want to use less oil for transportation, we swap out gasoline cars for cars that run on something else.
And in order to make the change to driverless cars, we ought to think about how that change could benefit our lives:
But adopting driverless cars could mean much more than just substituting a new, better-performing widget in place of an old one, especially if we act with some foresight and thoughtfulness. Let’s ponder what sorts of systemic changes might be possible (emphasis on might).
The rest of his post outlines some of the benefits we might see from this change but as I continued to read I felt the room closing in on me. It was as if I could see where this was going and I didn’t like it at all. By the end of the article I felt that every aspect and every decision was out of my hands and my ability to feel the freedom of driving where I wanted, when I wanted was just snatched away in favor of something that could make me more productive, efficient, always working.
I have given this a lot of thought and the more I think about it I cringe. It feels more like imprisonment that anything else, perhaps because I love to drive. I love knowing where I am and not having to use technology to tell me how I should go from point a to point b.
Driving to me isn’t just accomplishing the task of going from one place to another, it’s being in control, being in the driverseat, making decisions on the fly that may have nothing to do with arriving at my destination. This is the complex nature of the human brain, and the reason computers won’t ever have the parallel capacity to compete with us. Sure computers might make less mistakes but they aren’t going to see what we see and be able to relate it to what we know. It’s our life experience that helps guide us, and it makes us who we are.
If we are in a driverless car and we see someone in need of help, will the car stop, or will it just keep on going?
It’s not like we’re going to wake up one day and everyone is going to be in driverless cars, there would be a time period for this transistion so how are people going to drive regular cars mixed in with driverless cars? I don’t know about you but I don’t like it when someone follows me too closely, but I suppose if it’s a self driving car I shouldn’t blame the person riding in it? How about those times when your about to change lanes at the same time as someone else but one of us has to let the other one proceed? There’s an infinite number of situations like this that a computer is simply going to be inferior until it learns how to react, and with that in mind what’s the reaction time going to be, I certainly wouldn’t want it to hesitate like my phone does on daily basis without reason.
I think the technology is very impressive, and for some people it might be the right thing. Some people may care less about experiencing things along the way, but for me that could be just as important as getting there.
We are creative beings, and sometimes we might take Highway 101 along the coast even if I-5 would get us there quicker.