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Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

The self-drive car. Bare with me, this will be entertaining, but let’s first go back to just before the start of the new millennium. 1999……… At a computer expo known way back when as COMDEX, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated: "If GM had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon." In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics: 1. For no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day. 2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road, you would have to buy a new car. 3. Occasionally, executing a manoeuver such as a left-turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, and you would have to reinstall the engine. 4. When your car died on the freeway for no reason, you would just accept this, restart and drive on. 5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought 'Car95' or 'CarNT', and then added more seats. 6. Apple would make a car powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would run on only five per cent of the roads. 7. Oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single 'general car default' warning light. 8. New seats would force every-one to have the same size butt. 9. The airbag would say 'Are you sure?' before going off. 10. Occasionally, for no reason, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed the radio antenna. 11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of road maps from Rand-McNally (a subsidiary of GM), even though they neither need them nor want them. Trying to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50 per cent or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department. 12. Every time GM introduced a new model, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car. 13. You would press the 'start' button to shut off the engine. We can look back and laugh now, but the reality is that these two industries have now morphed when it comes to modern day transportation, one still provides the physical presence of mobility while the other has become the brains behind it, and now as we move towards driverless vehicles, the question is, has the human just become cargo with no further need to interact with the vehicle?

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Do Androids dream of electric sheep?

A science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. First published in 1968, the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. It was later retitled Blade Runner and hit the big Screen starring Harrison Ford in 1982.

It, along with films such as iRobot starring Will Smith many years later not only dealt with Ai (Artificial Intelligence) but also, and interestingly featured self-drive hybrid motor vehicles.

What 30, and as recently as a few years ago, seemed fantasy in science fiction writer’s imaginations is now rapidly dawning as a reality on our roads when it comes to the portrayal of these vehicles in their respective films.

The question however does not question the concept of the hybrid vehicles I mentioned which were portrayed in the respective films, but rather the core issues and themes both films presented regarding self-awareness of the manmade machine and the questionable moral decisions they must make.

Jeremy Clarkson, the man we love to hate and love all over again presented an interesting view point on the subject of emerging self-drive technology which, if you missed it, can be found here

Fundamentally Clarkson posed the scenario that if you were a passenger in one of these new self-drive vehicles, and were heading for a collision with a vehicle ahead crossing your path, what would the vehicle do? Veer left and head towards 2 pedestrians standing waiting to walk across the intersection or plough into the oncoming vehicle?

While delivered in Clarkson’s comical style, the scenario is one that raised many a question.

What am I rambling on about?

Bill Gates was right, so were the respondents from GM, and the 2 movies pre-empted reality with fantasy, nothing is inconceivable however to conceive and create an infallible replacement for the human cognitive process is a tough task. I personally don’t think we will totally ever replace these human capabilities nor erase their importance when humans exist within an environment where total mechanisation is the controlling factor.

The only reason we set foot on the moon was because Armstrong grabbed the controls to counter a radar landing malfunction on Eagle, and the only reason there was a miracle on the Hudson was because Sully weighed up the risks and made the right call when all computer modelling suggested a safe probable return to the nearest landing strip.

Even while writing this piece, I had several annoying windows 10 bugs disturb the writing process, technology has a lot of catching up to do on human evolution

Happy, motoring ;)

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