Interesting article: Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars by Rodney Brooks

This is an interesting article about the unexpected consequences of self-driving cars. I’m still unconvinced that 100% self-driving cars will happen in my lifetime.  I’m not even sure I’d want it, though I do understand there is probably a significant safety argument to be made to get humans away from the steering wheel (many of us are quite dumb and reckless).

But I come at this from a rural-ish part of the USA where I don’t see everybody being able to afford, let alone want or trust a fully autonomous vehicle. But who knows.

In this post I will explore two possible consequences of having self driving cars, two consequences that I have not seen being discussed, while various car companies, non-traditional players, and startups debate what level of autonomy we might expect in our cars and when. These potential consequences are self-driving cars as social outcasts and anti-social behavior of owners. Both may have tremendous and unexpected influence on the uptake of self-driving cars. Both are more about the social realm than the technical realm, which is perhaps why technologists have not addressed them. And then I’ll finish, however, by dissing a non-technical aspect of self driving cars that has been overdone by technologists and other amateur philosophers with an all out flame. And yes, I am at best an amateur philosopher too. That’s why it is a flame.

Source: Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars – Rodney Brooks

Build It To The Sun: A Short Story

I wrote this story a number of years ago when my daughter was quite a bit younger than she is now. I quite like this story, actually. To be honest, I’m surprised at the quality. Doesn’t seem much like me. Anyway, I thought I’d share it here because I think it deserves some more views.

Build It To The Sun

“What are you building there, honey?”  said Ashley, raising her eyes from her smart phone just enough to verify her daughter was still in the room and that she was playing with something that was neither breakable nor lethal. The prior night had been such a trying one, again, and all she wanted to do was veg. At least her Facebook friends would provide her some sympathy.

“I’m building a ladder to the Sun, Mumma,” answered Sam, a pink spoke amidst a colorful loop of Duplo bricks.  “I’m makin’ it real high.”

“That’s nice honey,” Ashley answered. “You do know you can’t really build a ladder all the way to the Sun, though, don’t you?”  She was all for imagination, of course. However, preschool was less than a year away and theirs was a house of science, not fancy.

“Yes I can do it,” cried Sam, squeezing a brick with all her strength. “I’m doing it right now.”

“You don’t have enough bricks to build all the way to the Sun sweetie,” said Ashley. Why did they make the keys on phones so tiny anyway, she thought. And were the letters getting smaller and smaller, or had her eyes begun to age like the rest of her body?

“We could buy some more,” said Sam. “I don’t need much more.”

Ashley hit the send button on her status update, waited a moment, and then refreshed the screen, hopeful for the oncoming parade of comments and likes. She skimmed her friend’s status updates, clicking Like here and typing LOL there. “And how would you breathe when your ladder exited the Earth’s atmosphere? There is no air in space, you know.  You would need a helmet and oxygen.”

“I have my Dora helmet,” said Sam. “But I don’t wanna wear it.” Now on her tip-toes, she placed a blue block on top of the stack. The blues ones always went on top of the stack.

“Mmm hmm”.  Ashley  launched her phone’s web browser because Facebook was so dead. Her status update had received just a single Like. Everybody was probably eating breakfast, she figured.  She and Sam had done that hours ago, early as always.

This conversation was definitely post-worthy anyway. She contemplated putting away her phone and walking to the office to get the laptop, but she was just… so… tired.  The thumb pain would be worth it.  She logged into her blogging dashboard.

“Mumma,” said Sam, her voice loud with excitement.  “I’m really very close to the Sun now, Mumma.”

“Sammy,” said Ashley, typing a title to her post as fast as she could. “I’m sure you tried very hard but it just isn’t possible. The Sun is just too far away.”

“I know, Mumma,” said Sam. “You said.”  She turned the remaining blue brick in her tiny soft left hand. “But could you help me please Mumma?”

“Fine,” Ashley said. Come to think of it she was too tired to write anyway. She would blog later.

Placing her phone in her pocket, Ashley lifted herself off the couch. Stretching her arms, then her legs, she cracked her neck.  Then, finally, she looked up at her daughter’s creation. For the first time that morning, she saw.

A winding, mish mashed tower of blocks, thin in some areas and thick in others, was balanced just so against the living room wall. The ladder stretched ever onward to the ceiling ending just below the Sun-patterned border at the top of the wall.

“You were right Sam,” said Ashley with a whisper, kneeling down to kiss the top of her daughter’s head. “You really are close.”

Ashley reached in her pocket and for a moment considered taking a picture, but instead walked to the kitchen and placed her phone in the top drawer. The junk drawer.  “Why don’t we finish this up and then get out the play-doh,” she said, dabbing away the tear from the corner of her eye.  “Would that be fun?”

“Yes!” replied Sam, clapping her hands.  “I’m gonna make a car that can fly to the Moon.”

“That sounds brilliant,” answered Ashley.

Worth a look via Smithsonian: When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites

Another interesting article on automation and how workers responded in the past, and how things might play out in our future.

What happens then? If this vision is even halfway correct, it’ll be a vertiginous pace of change, upending work as we know it. As the last election amply illustrated, a big chunk of Americans already hotly blame foreigners and immigrants for taking their jobs. How will Americans react to robots and computers taking even more?

One clue might lie in the early 19th century. That’s when the first generation of workers had the experience of being suddenly thrown out of their jobs by automation. But rather than accept it, they fought back—calling themselves the “Luddites,” and staging an audacious attack against the machines.

Source: When Robots Take All of Our Jobs, Remember the Luddites | Innovation | Smithsonian

What the Robots Are Doing to the Middle Class…

So we’ve been told that the election of Voldemort in the most recent US election is a reaction to people losing their jobs and being scared for their future. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I thought this might be of interest.

The simplistic response to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on employment is that we’ve experienced this before, during the Industrial Revolution and beyond, and that the “market” will eventually provide plenty of jobs. The reality is that tens of millions of Americans will have to accept food service and retail and personal care jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

Source: What the Robots Are Doing to the Middle Class | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

And this…

At a time when robots crowd factory lines, algorithms steer cars and smart screens litter the checkout aisles, automation is the new spectre. The robots, they say, are coming for our jobs.Let them, reply the luxury communists.

Source: Fully automated luxury communism | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

I don’t know what the answer is/will be, but it would be nice if we had a united government that would seriously look at the issue and comes up with a solution that will help us all. That is probably the most far-fetched idea in this entire scenario, but hey it’s 2017 and we might as well hope.