Friday, August 23, 2013

Self-Driving Cars Save Lives

The "self-driving" car is on the way and coming faster every day. It can't happen soon enough.  Car accidents kill millions, and maim millions more. Computer-driven automobiles won't drive better just because they drive themselves.

Self-driving cars will also be interconnected and constantly communicating with each other.  They'll "know" their own goals and intentions as well as those of the vehicles around them. Being able to rely on each other to the degree of effectively perfect shared understanding will enable them to plot safe trajectories and prevent nearly all accidents.

Even if someone should dart out in front of traffic, such as a child running for a ball, the cars will be able to react in ways and at speeds that are impossible for humans.

Cars as well as sensor nets in the road itself or built into local infrastructure would be able to monitor conditions and report them to the shared "road database", allowing cars to reduce speed near playgrounds or route around them altogether during games, for example.

Ubiquitous computing, sensors, and networking will make most accidents a thing of the past. They will also prevent such soon-to-be-anachronistic things as traffic jams and car chases.  You won't get moving violation tickets any more either. Driving will be like watching a really comfortable but slightly boring movie rather than the often-nightmarish gamble you take with your life every time you take to the road.

It can't happen fast enough.

It will also be a totalistic surveillance system of such intimacy and perfection as to constitute a synthetic Akashic records. In the process of driving these machines will know everything about everybody around them, and they can be ganged together to track everything they see, and they remember.

This is the price of the universal machine: universal transparency.  We are entering the time when we can make ourselves live to whatever rules we will, so it behooves us to do our best to make those rules indeed liveable (autocorrect suggested "lovable"...  Not bad machine, not bad.)

You are going to be surveilled. That cat is not going back in the bag.

You must make your peace with that, as I did.

But now we will live without hypocrisy (if we can!) and we will no longer mash ourselves up in our car crashes, and kill people just to get from point A to point B, and waste hours jammed in traffic.

We will have to learn to forgive ourselves for a lot of the shit we do, and learn to stop doing the worst of it, and pay for the bits that must be paid (the Devil will have his due, and some of us are very right to be terrified of the panopticon: I almost feel sorry for the ones who are only now realizing that the National Security Agency already has their dirty laundry.)

We will have to learn to be good. There is no other way to get good government. No matter the system it is made out of us, we rule ourselves whether we own it or not.  Yes your privacy is a fiction, but you might notice that suddenly most kinds of crime can no longer be committed!

We can actually detect most kinds of crime already from the existent systems we know about. I am convinced there are much more powerful and extensive systems still hidden, but the results of these systems can be selectively fed to outer levels for reduction of undesirable aspects of civil society. We should not be concerned that this will happen (as there is no way to stop it in any event) but rather that the definition of "undesirable" may be warped by residual power bases.

In the great struggle to govern ourselves the executive power has become perfected by the fulfilment of the Analytical Engine's great promise, and now we can rule ourselves completely for the first time since the fall.

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