Scenes from the class war

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“I’ve worked in fast-food for 15 years, and I can’t even afford my own rent payments. We just want fairness and to be able to provide for our families. No one who works every day should be forced to be homeless.”

In 1968 we saw fit to pay our poorest workers $3.50 more an hour than we do today, and that says quite a bit about where we’ve gone in the last nearly half century.”

“Many people are asking whether the companies can afford to do this. But the more urgent question is, can the workers afford the status quo?

This is not the way to provide care in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.”

“Poor? Get a job. Work full-time but can’t make ends meet? Be grateful you have a job. Can’t get a better job? You’re being picky. Ah, the bounty of American insults for the less fortunate.”

“In context, ‘Human beings will adjust’ appears to be a remarkable euphemism for ‘We’re going to let poor, sick Americans die on the streets.'”

“What is interesting, however, is the assumption on the parts of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, all of whom praised Kutcher’s comments, that his remarks are indicative of a conservative political philosophy.”

“The benefit of tax deductions is almost four times higher for high-income earners than lower-income ones.”

Get rid of the deductions that don’t affect me.”

“A West Virginia woman says that she lost everything except two pieces of furniture and a mirror because a bank provided a wrong address to a repossession company while apparently trying to foreclose on a house.”

They screw up someone’s finances and shrug. On the other hand, if we missed a mortgage payment and shrugged, they’d laugh at us and foreclose.”

“Indictments for reality TV stars who accused of defrauding banks in order to obtain approximately $2.4 million in loans: 2. Indictments of bankers who falsified millions of loan documents, defrauded homeowners and investors, evaded local property sales taxes, and committed multiple other frauds large and small: 0.”

“The fund managers get fees, some of the fees get turned into campaign contributions, and everyone wins. Everyone, that is, except for taxpayers who ultimately need to make good on pension promises out of their own pockets if the funds’ investments don’t perform.”

“In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information.”

Taking the word of a business whose main goal is to make money is a risky venture. ”

“Who isn’t in this room, and how does their absence limit our capacity to answer questions about poverty and violence?”

Closing the gender gap is part of the journey to end hunger.”

 

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  • Carstonio

    It probably hasn’t occured to Palin and Limbaugh and the others that someone like Kutcher can talk about the value of hard work without using racist dog whistles. They’re not assuming that he has a conservative political philosophy, they assume that he shares their beliefs behind the dog whistles.

  • Carstonio

    OT: Anyone reading Sunday with the Christianists at Wonkette? It’s a deconstruction of the US history textbooks put out by BJU and A Beka. No surprise at the degree of pro-Confederate revisionism. But the series could use some of Fred’s perspective about white evangelicalism.

    http://wonkette.com/527917/sundays-with-the-christianists-american-history-textbooks-for-homeschoolers-marching-through-georgia

  • Asha

    *twitch* If you happen to live in the South, don’t read the comments. Please.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Good lord, reading that link? The textbook makes me feel like I’m drowing in maple syrup, it’s that sappy a portrayal of the ~brave South~.

  • Asha

    I agree with the article. The comments insult all Southerners as being ignorant jackasses. I kinda resent that, and it insults all the fucking growth I’ve had to do as a person.

  • Persia

    That’s disappointing, but not surprising for Wonkette.

  • trogon

    Not a comment on any of these specific stories, but very much in the same vein, the Washington Post this week is running a series of articles – good old-fashioned investigative journalism – about the city’s policy of selling liens on property to investors. So someone who has been in his home for fifty years, but has a couple hundred bucks in unpaid property taxes, winds up losing his home, after the private investors buy the lien, sock him with thousands in legal fees, and then foreclose. As if that wasn’t bad enough, today’s revelation is that many of these sales were in error – the loans are actually fully paid. But once the thousands in legal fees got tacked on, the homeowners couldn’t afford the new bill, and are still out on the streets.

    Part 1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2013/09/08/left-with-nothing/?hpid=z2

    Part 2: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2013/09/09/suspicious-bidding/?hpid=z2

    Part 3: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2013/09/10/mistakes-put-homes-in-peril/?hpid=z2

  • Anton_Mates

    Re: capuchins, it’s worth noting that other studies have tried to replicate that experiment and found results better explained by a frustration effect (I can see the greater reward, so I don’t want the lesser one) than by inequity aversion (I can see another monkey receive the greater reward, so I don’t want the lesser one.) The original study’s authors then reanalyzed their data and still maintain that it’s better explained by inequity aversion.

    So I’d say it’s still up in the air whether capuchins do demand equal pay. They might just demand the best stuff they can see around them at the moment. Or their demands may depend on lab, experimenter and testing protocol.

  • aunursa

    “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground.” -Ashton Kutcher

    Best line of Kutcher’s speech: “I’ve never had a job that was beneath me.”
    -Iowahawk

    .
    Conservatives didn’t praise Kutcher because they think he’s a conservative. Conservatives praised Kutcher because he gave young people a message that they (the conservatives) find positive and uplifting, a rarely spoken message from a so-called Hollywood liberal. But it’s fascinating that you choose to attack conservatives rather than simply acknowledge their praise of him and the ideas he put forth.

  • Carstonio

    Palin and Limbaugh and the others are praising Kutcher for the wrong reasons. They don’t really believe in the value of hard work at Kutcher describes it. What they espouse is actually the opposite, the idea that anyone who’s wealthy or successful must have gotten there through their own hard work. No recognition of the roles of circumstance or outside assistance, just the accusation that unsuccessful people must be indolent. When these folks aren’t pandering to white resentment specifically, they’re pandering to a more generalized resentment from people who wrongly believe in an inherently just world.

  • Jenny Islander

    I think you have it right. The makework I had to do in my dad’s second largest corporate holding’s mailroom before I got access to my trust fund qualifies as “hard work.” The guy on the other side of town who can’t get his teeth fixed because his two jobs combined barely cover rent, food, and transportation, on the other hand, is “lazy.” If he wasn’t lazy, he’d just get off his butt and go to college to get a degree, like me!

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Conservatives praised Kutcher because he gave young people a message that they (the conservatives) find positive and uplifting, a rarely spoken message from a so-called Hollywood liberal.

    It’s fascinating that you choose to post such an obvious falsehood in your fevered attack on liberals in defense of Rush Limbaugh. Not surprising, mind you. But fascinating.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    … who got rich by being the personification of the word pander.

  • Oswald Carnes

    Not to mention defending half-term quitter Sarah Palin. When did she ever have to work at anything?

  • Jim Roberts

    From listening to her speeches, she’s had to work pretty hard at that down-homey accent.

  • Asha

    Why are you making fun of someone’s accent? That’s kinda… well, silly. If you’re going to make fun of something, pick on her hair!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Seriously though, it’s like Dubya Bush working on that down-home Texas accent to sound like he’s a good ole boy.

    I bet he didn’t sound like that back in the 1960s.

  • Asha

    I just strongly dislike it when people are teased for an accent. The artifice is annoying but it is part of creating a credible ethos for a lot of people. There’s a lot of classism involved in shaming a person for his or her accent and that bugs the shit out of me.

  • Jim Roberts

    Eh, I don’t really care about her aesthetics THAT much, Faking a voice to make it seem like you’re a part of a group of people you actually aren’t a part of? That annoys me.

  • Asha

    Hm. When I was in sales, making your accent and syntax match the group you were talking to was something I did on instinct. It makes rhetorical sense to try to find as much in common as possible with a person even if you didn’t know him or her. Even if it as simple as an accent. If you’ve ever had someone get on to you for your accent, having someone try to meet you mid-way feels very gratifying.

  • Jim Roberts

    I do that as well – my parents from Southern Ontario stay for more than a week, my Canadian accent comes back, when I spend a lot of time with my wife’s grandad, I start getting a New England accent. This is the voice she puts on when she’s talking to all of America. It’s not about meeting people halfway, it’s about performance.

  • caryjamesbond

    No one is making fun of down home accents. They’re making fun of people who FAKE down home accents. Just the same as making fun of the person who comes home from two weeks in France and keeps saying “Oui!” instead of “yes” isn’t making fun of the french- it’s making fun of the artifice.

  • Oswald Carnes

    She grifts hard for the money.

  • Lori

    a rarely spoken message from a so-called Hollywood liberal.

    Ah yes, the ever-popular “contrasting with the straw liberal.” Once again you clearly reveal how totally full of shit you and the people you support are.

  • Jim Roberts

    Yes, all those Hollywood liberals who never talk about the value of hard work, like Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Mimi Rogers, Sean Penn . . . just because you don’t hear them say it (and it’s very easy to ignore it since most of the magazines just want to give you pretty pictures) doesn’t mean they don’t say it.
    Sean Penn may be an arrogant blowhard pinko, but you will have to a long way before you find an arrogant blowhard with a stronger work ethic.

  • Shaenon K. Garrity

    You’re so right. I’m sick of those typical Hollywood liberals and their praise of laziness and sloth. Every time I turn on the TV, there’s Barbra Streisand encouraging young people to spend more time playing Call of Duty.

  • J_Enigma32

    The shorter version: “I suffered for my faith in Capitalism, and now you have to, too!”

  • malpollyon

    You really don’t give a shit about the truth do you?

  • esmerelda_ogg

    A real-world example of why Cuccinelli’s policy* is going to kill people:

    Early this summer, my elderly mother wound up in the emergency room twice in a month, with very similar symptoms both times. After X-rays and ultrasounds and blood tests, her hospital determined that one episode was a horribly painful but not dangerous flare-up of arthritis. The other was a blood infection that would have killed her without treatment.

    Let me emphasize: tests that required hospital level equipment (they couldn’t be done in the doctor’s office we took her to at first) were needed to identify the infection.

    If the right wing has its way, how many people who are too young to qualify for Medicare will die of illnesses that can be easily cured?

    * Cuccinelli’s plan: Only people with life-threatening problems should go to emergency rooms; the Reagan-era law that requires ERs to treat folks with no insurance should be drastically modified

  • Omnicrom

    If the right wing has its way, how many people who are too young to
    qualify for Medicare will die of illnesses that can be easily cured?

    I’m cynical enough to think that this question is getting at a feature, not a bug. What better way to solve medicare’s budget issue than by killing people before they qualify?

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Point. I’d rather think that many on the right are so hyperfocused on their fear that most other people are lazy and wasteful that they don’t see the suffering these policies cause* – but some of the leaders have said things that fit right into your explanation.

    * Yes, my optimistic interpretation of the right is pretty bad in itself.

  • LL

    Yes, it is. Here’s the thing: Republican politicians don’t necessarily think that the poor are lazy. They just don’t want to pay for them. What the various states that prefer policies that punish or ignore poor people want is for the poor people to move to states with better benefits. So they demonize the ones who don’t or can’t. So that nobody feels sorry for them. They’re lazy. They don’t deserve help. Therefore, nobody need feel bad for not helping them.

    It isn’t fear. It’s a very calculated strategy that leverages people’s inherent selfishness by trying to turn it into the virtues of “independence” and “hard work.” Just like in the “Gilded Age” and Social Darwinism. If you’re poor, it’s because you deserve to be. That’s why they’re always yapping about all the jobs that go unfilled because of lazy-ass Americans who don’t want to work. And express sympathy for the poor, misunderstood industries that benefit richly from low pay (corporate farming and the fast food places).

    There’s little risk to Republicans (that doesn’t exist already). They know many poor people don’t vote and those that do probably vote Democrat. So they play to their strengths: affluent white people who hate paying taxes. The ones who are still mostly in charge. The ones who make sure they vote in every election. The ones who put Ted Cruz in the Senate.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Oh, no argument on your analysis of Republican politicians. The people I meant were the ones who vote Republicans into office even though, from a leftward point of view, it’s hard to see how the rightward voters (many of whom aren’t all that affluent) can see any appeal in Republican policies.

    If you’re hanging on to semi-solvency by your fingernails, there can be a whistling-past-the-graveyard appeal to letting yourself believe politicians who tell you that everyone who’s doing worse than you is a lazy-ass American who doesn’t want to work.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Almost all ethical systems ever invented are 5% “Don’t be a dick” and 95% “Here’s how to justify it to yourself if you decide you really want to be a dick anyway.”

  • Original Lee

    Even then, patient dumping is totes OK by him. I know of 3 people who died due to seriously deliberate negligence at a particular hospital within the past year or so, yet Cuccinelli made sure to give the hospital a Teflon coating.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    And the sad part is that I’m not even surprised.

  • LL

    Leave it to Republicans to ruin an endorsement of work. Once again, they act as if they invented something (labor) and rush to take credit for the recognition that achieving things requires effort. Throw in another tiresome aside about how Obama wants us all to be lazy welfare queens and we have yet another reason to add to the lengthy list of why Republican politicians are insufferable assholes.

    And why am I not surprised Cruz is one of them? He’s been a senator for less than a year and is already one of the party’s star idiots, spewing out fresh idiocy on practically a daily basis.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    PORTER: U.S. inequality data is sobering. “The
    United States remains among the richest countries in the world. National
    income per person trails only that of Norway, Luxembourg, Singapore,
    Switzerland and Hong Kong. Yet despite its riches, in many areas the
    United States looks surprisingly, depressingly backward…The gap between
    the top American scorers — at the 90th percentile of the distribution —
    and those in the middle is about as big as the gap between the average
    score in the United States and Azerbaijan.” Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

    So nothing’s changed, then, not in 20 years: the USA still comes in dead last in international comparisons across the advanced Western countries.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    About robotic cars ( http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/07/the-surprising-ethics-of-robot-cars/ ):

    One of the most popular examples is the school-bus variant of the classic trolley problem in philosophy: On a narrow road, your robotic car detects an imminent head-on crash with a non-robotic vehicle — a school bus full of kids, or perhaps a carload of teenagers bent on playing “chicken” with you, knowing that your car is programmed to avoid crashes. Your car, naturally, swerves to avoid the crash, sending it into a ditch or a tree and killing you in the process.

    Do ethicists really think engineers don’t think about these kinds of things? That’s what manual overrides are for in automated systems: when you need to cut in human judgement that, while subjective, responds in a more optimal fashion than the computer’s.

    Set the brake pedal as the “human override” switch akin to the way pressing the brake pedal cuts out the cruise control on modern cars.

    Problem solved.

  • Eric Boersma

    Holy crap that’s a load of masturbatory “ethical” word salad that seems to have zero correlation with society. Suggesting that it’s an ethical problem if we make a change and that causes a different (smaller) set of people to die than if we’d made no change doesn’t fit within any ethical framework I’ve ever seen.

    Also, your points about engineers.

  • Lori

    Problem probably not exactly solved. Humans tend to have trouble mentally “shifting gears” under stress. A person in a self-driving car is essentially a passenger and will fall into paying passenger-level attention, which is to say, not much. In order for the “human override” switch to be effective the human has to engage driver-level attention, correctly assess the problem and then react to it. That reaction will require the step of engaging the “human override” switch, in addition to carrying out the appropriate evasive driving maneuver. That takes time and one of the reasons car accidents happen is that at driving speeds time tends to be in short supply.

    ETA: Eric’s point about the essential pointlessness of this ethical “dilemma” is a good one and the fact that an override would have limits, no matter how well engineered, doesn’t change that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That said, a common instinct is to hit the brake pedal when one is about to get in a collision or bad situation so it’s a good “disengage” switch to use.

  • Lori

    True. The problem of course being that hitting the brake is often not actually the best thing to do. Most people will do it any way, so it makes sense as a disengage.

  • Michael Pullmann

    I’ll trust machines to drive a car when engineers make completely error-proof machines. In other words, never.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So do you trust machines to operate metro rail systems? Or perhaps airplanes (including fully loaded 747s)?

    In short, your statement is absurd on the face of it* and you should really rethink how many automated control systems already exist that you’re not even aware of.


    *This is what “prima facie absurd” means, if anyone here is a Latin nut.

  • J_Enigma32

    Really? I’d trust a machine before I’d trust a human. Having seen people texting while driving, eating while driving, putting their make-up on while driving, getting dressed while driving, I’m pretty sure that throwing machines in the equation won’t make it anymore dangerous.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Ah, you’ve watched Canada’s Worst Driver!

    (I’d post a link, but it probably wouldn’t work outside of Canada.)

  • Fusina

    I dunno if Canada has a lock on the worst drivers–there was an accident yesterday in my neck of the woods–a 25 year old was texting while driving and ended up running into a tree. She survived to text again–unless she made the connection. There was an accident I saw the aftermath of on Monday that was a kicker too. Three cars, four smashed bumpers. In a 30 MPH zone, to boot. The scene belonged in a book, “Why it is stupid to follow too closely”.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Oh, I’m sure we don’t. An American friend opined that if they tried to air a similar show in the States, they’d have to do it state-by-state rather than nationwide.

  • Fusina

    And, sadly, each state has its own quirks. Although Virginia and Maryland share one, the “talk on the phone while tailgating because I am a moron”. Just got followed by one of those this evening–and to make himself even more irritating, he honked when I stopped at a stop sign. Grrr!!!!!!!

  • Tapetum

    The most impressive accident scene I’ve ever seen involved a semi and a road-cleaning crew. The crew was working by the side of the road with their van parked behind them, and the safety truck about 50 yards behind that. The safety truck has the giant arrow, and is a big heavy vehicle, basically designed so that if it’s hit, it won’t move much, and the accident won’t get as far as the workers.

    The semi came over the hill going about 75, and apparently not paying good attention. Saw the arrow and safety truck, managed to shift lanes in time to avoid it, and then in an astounding feat of driving control and shitty reflexes, managed to shift back into his original lane in time to hit the second truck dead on, plowing it into the poor road crew. Killed all involved.

  • Fusina

    Mmm, I don’t think they enforce the “only drive for x hours then don’t drive for x hours” rule, which is supposed to eliminate the most egregious driver errors. I was at a red light, it turned green my way, I went across the highway, and a semi ran the red light behind me, blowing his air-horn–I guess he wanted me to hear him before he ran me down–or he couldn’t stop for some reason and was warning the drivers behind me. The kicker? The semi was going uphill.

  • TheBrett

    Agreed.

    It’s one of the reasons why I think we’ll see a shift in societal consensus against manned driving once we have full-auto cars on the road en masse. It would start with insurers demanding higher payments if you turn off the auto-drive to drive it yourself.

    That could be a few years, though. I’m thinking we’ll get there by increasing automation, to the point where we have tons of “manually”-controlled cars on the road that are self-driving 95% of the time before tons of full-auto cars.

  • Alix

    I have also seen some pretty terrifying instances of road rage, and many many more of people deciding to play highway hotshot. The whole reason I refuse to drive at the moment is because humans are behind the wheel of those cars.

  • J_Enigma32

    I see the highway hotshot all the time. I drive a white 99 Monte Carlo, so it’s not a big vehicle. I’ve damn near been run off the road several times by other drivers; the most memorable of them nearly ran me into a telephone pole because they weren’t paying attention and had their music up so loud it was not only vibrating my innards and rattling my car, they couldn’t hear my horn.

  • Alix

    :/ My dad and my grandmother pull the highway-hotshot thing, in my dad’s case along with a heaping helping of road rage. The other reason I don’t drive is I don’t trust my own reactions.

    And then there are people like my brother, who are a) chronically thoughtless (in the literally-not-thinking sense) and b) cursed. He has wrecked all sixteen cars he has ever driven, most totaled, half not even actually owned by him, and only three accidents were actually his fault. On the other hand, he caused those three accidents by, respectively: drinking from a liter bottle of fruit punch while trying to turn, trying to catch his cell phone after accidentally throwing it out the window while in traffic, and turning around to grab something from the back seat while accelerating – without checking to see that the car in front of him was actually moving. (One of the most memorable not-his-fault accidents? He was driving and pulled the gearshift off. That … is something that should not come off.)

    …Yeah, in his case, automation would definitely help. It is really hard to conceive of a computer driving worse than my brother.

  • Ross Thompson

    And presumably, you’ll trust humans to drive a car when they make a completely error-proof human?

    Personally, I’ll trust machines to drive cars when they’re less prone to making errors than humans are; to do otherwise is to insist that the number of errors remains artificially high, and I don’t imagine that’s what you’re really advocating, is it?

  • Eric Boersma

    Google’s self-driving cars have logged tens of thousands of hours of road time.

    They’ve been in one accident (total). That accident was when a car driven by a human driver backed into a self-driving car in a parking lot.

    Self-driving cars are really safe. Massively safer than human drivers. Until you can see everything around you all the time in multiple wavelengths in addition to processing hundreds of billions of changing variables per second, you’re never going to be close to operating cars in the real world as well as a computer.

  • dpolicar

    Are you sure “completely error-proof” is actually good enough?

    I mean, even with a completely error-proof machine driver driving a completely error-proof machine car, human passengers might still be injured… due to strokes, for example, or heart attacks. They might even die.

    Of course, passengers suffer and die from those things today as well, and one might say it’s unfair to demand a level of safety from machines that we don’t demand from the people those machines replace… but clearly you don’t believe that.

    So what makes a completely error-proof machine good enough?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Right, those engineers will never make machines that are completely 100% error-proof, the way humans are.

    Wait, what?

    Like I said the last time this came up: do I believe that a computer-controlled car could ever be perfectly error proof? No. But a computer controlled car is never going to crash because it was texting while driving, because it spilled coffee in its lap, because the kid woke it up at three in the morning, because a spider dropped down in front of it and it panicked, or because it’s a hormone-crazed seventeen year old who thinks he’s both invincible and Richard Petty.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    My roommate just turned bright red and now wants to know what state the spider incident was in, if that refers to a specific incident. XD

  • J_Enigma32

    Why on God’s Green Earth would we have automated cars sharing the road with non-automated vehicles? If it’s on that road, it should be automated.

    But even then, it’s clear ethicists know nothing at all about robotic vision. Behold, a neural network:

    http://www.texample.net/media/tikz/examples/PNG/neural-network.png

    I took a class in neural networking and machine learning; ergo, I’m an expert (because that’s how things work on the Internet). In seriousness, this is how I understand them working: this is a simple neural network, like designed to give an IF-THEN function (if X then Y). It evaluates your possible answers on a truth table depending upon the way you weight the variables, and then determines whether the answer is true or false based on those evaluations that it preforms.

    When a machine is seeing something, it goes pixel-by-pixel to evaluate what it’s seeing. The Neural Network processes this, and through a design similar to the one below, decides what happens using similar Mathematical Reasoning.

    http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/cerf/Images/neural.jpg

    Each input circle connects to a different input circle in the hidden layer; this output is then sent to the output layer, where the neural network decides what it is that it’s seeing and what action it needs to take.

    So it receives a picture of a school bus. Pixel-by-pixel, the neural network determines “hey, this is the front of a school bus” and, because ethicists helpfully pointed out that this was a very real problem, accesses a predetermined solution (swerve out of the way into the nearest tree) and will promptly do so.

    Or, if you’d rather your neural network function properly, move into the opposite lane, since I’m pretty sure if it can identify a bus, it can identify a damn tree, too.

  • J_Enigma32

    Oh, here’s some a lecture on youtube about this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxwdG2kxp-U

  • Eric Boersma

    The whole “what if a carload of teenagers plays chicken with you because they know your car will swerve!?” question is idiotic anyway, because automated cars can react much more quickly than human beings can, and the result would likely be that the car just stops (and sends messages to the cars around it that’s it’s stopping, avoiding a pileup).

    The “chicken” question supposes a world that doesn’t exist, where people like to play chicken with oncoming traffic at a distance that’s too close for any human reaction time to matter. It also presupposes that a human is going to be better at driving on non-standard terrain and not going into a tree than a human being is, which is obviously ridiculous.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    “because automated cars can react much more quickly than human beings can,”

    Where have you proof of this?

    If it’s true, why aren’t we already using this technology for air traffic control or airline pilots?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Tongue in cheek: My proof – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nxjjztQKtY

  • AnonaMiss

    I really hope you’re being sarcastic, because we are.

    Pilots are there in case of emergency; for the most part, planes fly themselves.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    You kinda make my point.

    When it comes to EMERGENCIES, humans handle it better than a computer could.

  • AnonaMiss

    When it comes to emergencies, humans handle it better than computerized systems designed in the past few decades, without access to many modern developments in electronic sensors, image/pattern recognition, miniaturization, wireless communication, etc. would.

    Planes mostly fly themselves using technology from decades ago. The fact that pilots haven’t been completely phased out yet doesn’t mean that they can’t be completely phased out.

    (FWIW, while I think automated highway driving will be included in cars marketed to the average consumer before 2030 barring legislative bans, I suspect that residential and city driving will take another 50 years or so, because of the importance of reading pedestrian body language.)

  • dpolicar

    I generally expect that when self-driving cars (highway or otherwise) become sufficiently common (say, 2% of the cars on the road, just to be precise) there will be some horrible dramatic accident caused by some glitch in their programming that causes them to behave in ways no human being ever would that turns out to have catastrophic results in some obscure edge case we didn’t test for, and the U.S. will be so horrified by this that it will ban self-driving cars for a generation.

    The fact that, even taking that accident into consideration, the statistics will demonstrate conclusively that far fewer people are injured due to self-driven cars than due to human-driven cars, and that banning self-driven cars will therefore increase the number of injured people in the country, will not in any way change this reaction.

    And I will shake my head and bemoan foolishness.

    But I would love to be wrong.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    At least until the computer itself fucks up. Or encounters something it’s not ready for.

    Me, I think wrapping the ‘pilot’ and ‘chief flight attendant’ roles together might be a good idea, so you have one person in charge of all operations on the plane, who can also fly it if needs be – at least long enough for the problem to be resolved. Which is pretty much a ship captain’s role, even since before we could navigate those by computer…

  • Ross Thompson

    I’m pretty sure the pilots are just there to make the passengers feel better.

  • caryjamesbond

    Actually, especially in Emergencies, the first thing that pilots do, 90% of the time, is open a book with a careful checklist, and follow it to the letter.

    The “landing on the Hudson” type emergencies are so mind-bogglingly rare they can be completely ignored as a problem, any more than you’d take out meteor insurance on your house. Pilots are largely there because people wouldn’t feel safe otherwise.

    Simply put- machines are better than us in situations that require- a. quick reflexes, b. lack of fear, c. automated, repetitive tasks. Every part of driving ever could be described thusly. Especially, since most accidents happen because either of something the driver can’t detect- black ice, for example, or because one driver made an error in judgement-crossing into the wrong lane while sleepy.

    Both of these are errors machines are designed to compensate for. The incredible few accidents that AREN’T like that…..well, its like those accidents where people are saved because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Yes, it could happen, but statistically- buckle up.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    To wit, within a month one way or the other of the Miracle on the Hudson, there was a very similar incident in Italy. That pilot panicked. Everyone died. (There were some not very nice people who were crowing about this, because apparently the cockpit recorder revealed that the pilot said prayers during his panic, thus, said the not very nice people, proving that religion sucks.)

  • David S.

    We are; haven’t you heard of airborne collision avoidance systems? Reaction time isn’t nearly as important in a plane which doesn’t swerve then a car that can make much faster course changes. Also, airplane pilots are much better trained then the average driver, and a car that fails mechanically can almost always be brought to a safe stop, which is a lot harder in a plane. The tradeoffs are a lot different.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You do know I pointed out that the elevated/underground rail system here in my city is computer controlled, right? And I linked to airborne automated control systems, right?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/09/10/scenes-from-the-class-war-8/#comment-1037431553

    Proof.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    “Usually, Snider said, the driverless trains relay their location and status constantly via radio communication to a control centre, where they are monitored and sometimes controlled by human operators. If they lose communication with the control centre for too long, they remain at the station until a SkyTrain attendant arrives to operate them.”

    http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=32dbc00a-9437-4c1e-bd82-68ad550a05e3

    And bring up autopilot PROVES my point. Yes, planes fly automated, UNTIL an EMERGENCY. Then human operators take over. Now of course, automated vehicles can be equipped to allow the same, but I think if we’re going to do it, combining a high number of automated vehicles with human operated ones is a disaster in the making, so if you do automated vehicles, do it whole hog, and segregate automated vs human operated traffic, which would then prevent human operators from taking over, even in emergencies.

  • David S.

    Again, a plane is not remotely comparable to a car. We’re paranoid about planes at a level we aren’t about cars; if we were willing to settle for the death rate of car travel, I’m pretty sure we could go full automated on a plane. And an emergency on a plane is nothing like an emergency on ground. If you run out of fuel, you can generally slow down safely and pull to the side of the road. When Avianca Flight 52 ran out of fuel, 85 people died.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Computers are generally good at reacting really damn quickly and precisely. Not having to think about what you’re doing will accomplish that.

    The problem is that computers don’t think about what they’re doing, and can fuck up remarkably hard, even in a world of its own design (strictly speaking, even if its ‘not that bad of an error’ mathematically, it could have completely nonsensical consequences in the real world.) Hopefully the AI driving a car would be of a higher caliber than the AI seen running directly into a wall in (choose video game), but it’ll never be flawless. Probably react better to a sudden threat, yeah… but it also might convince itself that the road is actually *there* rather than *here* and make a course correction directly into the 7-Eleven. Or just stop working entirely. Redundant systems can help deal with this, but would, of course, drive costs up and reaction times down.

    For this reason, self driving cars should have a manual override, for those times when it decides the median is obviously where it should be turning (or ‘that kid laying in the middle of the road is a distortion, and should be ignored’) Even having a ‘pull over and stop immediately’ trigger would be better than nothing. It’s really just another kind of redundant system – a diversified one!

    Overall, though, driving is a routine activity requiring no creativity – exactly the sort computers excel at. When I was younger, I hated the idea of automated cars… but then I started driving. Seriously, it’s boring as hell and I seem to get hypnotized by the road, not to mention I could be something productive, like posting comments on blogs.

    The only real role for non-automated cars is… I don’t know, emergency vehicles/pursuit.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Why on God’s Green Earth would we have automated cars sharing the road
    with non-automated vehicles? If it’s on that road, it should be
    automated.

    Who’s gonna pay for the conversion cost for the minimum wage employee driving his/her oil burner vehicle that’s ready to crap out if you look at it wrong?

    And don’t say, “They should take an automated bus.”

  • dpolicar

    Can you clarify the problem with “[automated] bus”, actually?

    For my own part, I’d be happy for my taxes to support a robust [automated] public transport system that makes it unnecessary for people to maintain their own cars in order to get to their jobs (minimum wage or otherwise), run errands, etc.

    Especially if that eliminates yet another obstacle to getting dangerous, clumsy, human-driven cars off the road in heavily congested areas, thereby saving lives and improving traffic throughput.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The political realities of public transit in the USA is that in some states and places, it is regarded as a “poor” (aka black) person’s method of getting around and as such is chronically underfunded and mismanaged.

  • J_Enigma32

    That does raise some interesting questions about infrastructure, leave off plans of implementation…

    I doubt we’ll see that implemented in the United States. Too much push back from the robophobic crowd (“Nuh Uh. I saw Terminator. I know how this ends”*), and even worse than that, the massive cost for infrastructure overhaul. We’re not even willing to pay to keep up the infrastructure we already have. There’s no way we’ll be willing to pay to develop something like this.

    My biggest beef with buses isn’t with buses themselves or their riders, but with the city and other drivers around buses. There’s no bus lanes in the city I live in, and idiots are always causing accidents or nearly causing accidents trying to whip out from behind buses and getting T-boned by other drivers who couldn’t stop in time.

    * “I am Legend” made me cringe and beat my head against a wall, because I know how it’ll taint people’s perceptions of viral vector cancer treatments; I hate technophobic movies, written by screenwriters whose knowledge of science ends at 3rd grade

  • Matri

    There’s no bus lanes in the city I live in, and idiots are always
    causing accidents or nearly causing accidents trying to whip out from
    behind buses and getting T-boned by other drivers who couldn’t stop in
    time.

    Count yourself lucky. In this end of the planet motorcycle lanes are for cars, No Entry signs are merely suggestions, and red lights mean “squeeze on through, it’s actually your right-of-way”.

  • J_Enigma32

    You have motorcycle lanes? That’s an awesome idea, even if it sounds like it’s only a suggestion.

    I had no idea such a thing existed. Multiple motorcycles can occupy the same lane, you don’t have to wear a helmet so most don’t (because MURKA!!! FREEDOM!!! Crying baby bald eagles dyed Red, White, and Blue!!!), and this is even applicable on the highway. You’re not supposed to have a motorcycle and a car in the same lane together side-by-side, but I’ve seen that, too.

  • Matri

    Nah. They only exist if someone had actually remembered to put it in, anywhere outside the city proper isn’t considered heavy enough traffic to require them, and all existing roadways have maximized space so you can’t put in the lanes.

    Plus, they’re actually only wide enough for single-file. Which usually means they will be riding two abreast at half the speed of everyone else, so they can chat to each other.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    This actually varies from place to place. I’m told that in California, motorcycles are allowed to do all sorts of crazy things, on account of the Highway Patrol: police motorcycles have to obey the traffic laws except in an emergency. So holding motorcycles to the same laws as card would prevent them from doing any actual patrolling, since they’d only be able to move through highway traffic during an emergency.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I doubt that. I think the police would just deal with the traffic laws applying to motorcycles the same way they deal with the ones that apply to cruisers and other vehicles: by ignoring them whenever they feel like it.

  • aim2misbehave

    Oh, California motorcycle laws…

    One of the crazier things that motorcycles are allowed to do is “lane-splitting” which means that they can move between lanes of vehicles, ie, on the dashed white lines. This isn’t really a safety issue if you’re in LA rush hour traffic or on the 405 at any hour, because at that point the traffic is going very, very slowly. But, of course, some motorcyclists do it anyways when traffic is going at full speed…

    One time I nearly got in a crash because I was making a left turn from the left-turn lane, and the lane-splitting motorcyclist to my right decided it was also a good time to make a left turn. And that he would be able to pass me (on my right) while we were both making that left turn. Since I, of course, was looking in the direction that my car was going, I didn’t see him until the last second, and I don’t know how I managed to put on the brakes before I ended up slamming into him from behind.

  • dpolicar

    Absolutely true. My reply to depizan above is relevant here as well… if we are unable to successfully advocate for a robust public transportation system, or an affordable system for integrating machine drivers into our highways, or more generally a sane approach to getting poor people access to this technology, then poor people will get shafted. Absolutely agreed.

    And this isn’t a hypothetical… it’s happened before, and it might happen here.

    Then again, sometimes the good guys win. In particular, it helps if we suit up.

  • depizan

    Ah, yes, well, an unfortunate number of people don’t want their tax money to support public transit, automated or otherwise. Which is why public transit sucks in a lot of cities.

    To put it this way… I can walk the two miles to the nearest grocery store faster than I could take the city bus. I am not secretly a speed-powered superhero.

  • dpolicar

    Sure. I agree that such people exist, of course, and are collectively powerful.

    And if the folks who want to withhold funding from public services to penalize the poor will win the relevant political fights, which they often do, then I agree completely that public transportation won’t get funded, and that we won’t subsidize poor car owners to access safer technologies, and in general that poor people will get shafted, which they often are.

    Which as far as I can see doesn’t make public transportation a bad solution to the problem Invisible Neutrino pointed out, although it does mean we might fail at implementing it.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Of course. That’s exactly what you’d say if you *were*…

  • depizan

    Shh, you’ll give away my secret identity!

  • David S.

    The problem with bus systems, in my experience, is that they aren’t quite reliable enough (though probably as good as most poor people’s cars) and they involve a lot of walking. Most of my bus rides involve a mile walk at one end or the other (or taking longer and switching buses repeatedly) and from my experience a bus-rider will have to tell their boss they’ll be late because of bus problems at least once or twice a year.

  • P J Evans

    I was late a few times every year, and I was taking the train. (Usually. Sometimes the train wasn’t coming, and then I’d take the bus.)

  • dpolicar

    Unreliable public transport that places an undue burden on commuters is a bad thing, and if we are unable to provide reliable, convenient public transportation, then commuters who rely on public transportation will get shafted, as they frequently are today. Yes.

  • Ross Thompson

    The problem with bus systems, in my experience, is that they aren’t quite reliable enough (though probably as good as most poor people’s cars) and they involve a lot of walking. Most of my bus rides involve a mile walk at one end or the other (or taking longer and switching buses repeatedly) and from my experience a bus-rider will have to tell their boss they’ll be late because of bus problems at least once or twice a year.

    That’s a problem with implementation, not something intrinsic to public transport. Go somewhere like London, where there’s a robust bus network, and these concerns are likely to evaporate.

    I commuted by bus / train / tube for about eight years, and yes, there was the occasional time that I was delayed, since I’ve moved to America and been commuting by car, I’ve been delayed more often by traffic accidents.

  • David S.

    I’ve seen how well public transport can work in Boston. I don’t live in Boston.

    London has a population density of 13,000 people per sq. mile; the city that I live in now is more like 5,000. London is a medieval city where streets aren’t big enough to handle all the traffic, discouraging drivers; I live right off a four-lane road built with four-lanes just because people might one day move into the area. London has tube and train to carry you where you need to go rapidly. We don’t, making a 1/2-hour drive across the metropolitan area a 2 hour trek by bus. And all these things compound; a bus system that few use because of convenience is hard to argue for throwing money at to make it more convenient.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    A big part of the problem with all “Just use the bus”-based solutions is that they assume that time is freer and less bounded than other resources. That it’s in some way a win for people who are already working two full time jobs to spend an extra hour every day away from their families riding the bus.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Back when people thought that the future would be THE FUTURE, the assumption was that we’d build a whole separate set of radar-controlled automated highways you’d pull onto in your car with its tail fins and bubble roof, call the tower to announce your presence, then turn your seat around and play checkers with your family. The existing manual-driven interstates would be slowly scaled back over several years the way any road is when people stop driving on it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah. Or, these days, it would self-organize on a cellular-automata type level where you invoke some simple rules that have the effect of causing a spontaneously self-organizing system:

    1. Stay X feet ahead (of whoever is behind) and Y feet behind (of whoever is ahead) such that safe braking space exists at all times, sensed via radar or otherwise.
    2. Stay Z feet to the left and right of any vehicle so that you do not leave your lane.
    3. If you do need to leave your lane, signal appropriately so that cars in the lane have their computers adjust themselves to leave you the extra space.

    The whole thing could probably be written up in a 4 page RFC if someone hasn’t done it already.

  • dpolicar

    The thing that really gets me about this sort of argument is that it so rarely seems to compare apples to apples.

    I mean, sure, robotic cars will make errors in judgment. Human-driven cars make errors in judgment all the time, too. If we primarily care about avoiding errors we should compare likely error rates and adopt the solution that has the lowest error rate. When we don’t do that, I conclude we don’t primarily care about avoiding errors.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Here’s my thoughts on this(again).

    What makes human better drivers, is our ability to respond to individual situations. Now matter how much engineers think things through, there will always be potential for them to miss possible scenarios.

    Driving is for the most part an automated enterprise. Your thoughts are not 100% on operating the vehicle, until it becomes TIME to actually operate the vehicle. Which is why driving even slightly inebriated or while handling electronics is a bad idea. It’s not that you can’t do it safely 90% of the time, it’s the 10% when your attention has to been completely focused on driving that causes the problems.

    I’ve never seen anything that can control for that type of randomness better than the human brain. When it does, I will accept robotic cars.

  • smrnda

    Do you have any actual evidence or is this just an anecdotal ‘just so’ type story? I’d like to see hard evidence in any area that people (or machines) do better. I could say “I’ve never seen anything more overconfident in its abilities than the human brain.”

    I’ve done AI research for years, and I’ve found that computers outperform people a lot of the time – not all of the time, but often, and there’s this thing called ‘research’ and ‘testing’ that goes on when people decide if an application is worth putting out there. I’ve also studied psychology, and know that there’s a lot of evidence that people over-estimate their abilities all the time.

    The idea that computers or programs are simplistic creations meant only to adjust to a few obvious scenarios is 40 or 50 years out of date. There’s been massive advances in things like machine learning, where over time programs get better by comparing their performance, and computers have the ability to look through far more scenarios than a human possibly could, and in a much shorter time, and often find cases that people neglect since they don’t fit the cognitive blinders that people have where they filter out unlikely cases.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    All of that is true, and I don’t discount that.

    At the same time, we aren’t using it yet. Human operation is still at the center of design. And they are probably very good reasons for that, in addition to the limits of the computer mind.

    In addition, for me, there is the spiritual question of what HAPPENS when everything automated???

    I know that was part of the utopian ideals of childhood, but me, personally, the Jetsons TERRIFIED me.

  • dpolicar

    Can you clarify what you fear will happen, spiritually, as more things are automated?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    The fact that I believe that a reliance on slave labor makes one less human? And that if technology achieves the capability to make decisions for us, it’s sentient, which makes forcing it do stuff for us slavery?

    (I have LOTS of 3PO and R2 FEELS, ok?)

    But to return to the Jetsons thing, why would you get a dog, just to have your robot walk it? Doesn’t that take away from the joys of HAVING A DOG?

    It just seems to me that the human ideal of technology we create to save time, sometimes has the side effect of separating us from what makes us people(and no I’m not talking those darn kids and their texting).

    Now, I don’t think DRIVING makes us human. And there are situations and scenarios where I think automated driving is plausible. But these are the considerations I think of, when I hear of automated this and automated that.

  • dpolicar

    Fair enough.

    Just to be clear, I asked because I wanted to understand your position better; I have no intention of arguing with you about it.

    For my own part, I think creating technologies to efficiently arrange our environment in accordance with our values is something human beings are uniquely good at, and that we are never more ourselves than when we are doing what we are best suited to do. So I suspect that many of the things that you feel separate us from what makes us people, I experience as a joyful and long-awaited embracing of what makes us people.

    But that’s me, and nobody is obligated to share my view of what makes humans human, or people, or more generally of what celebrates our individual and collective spirits.

    Tangentially: if the technology existed to conveniently allow my dog to go to the bathroom whenever she wished, hygienically and safely, without needing me to be involved, I would implement it and be grateful; I think that would be far more respectful to her as an agent than the current arrangement, when she needs my permission to do so. But I’ll admit, I’m a little irrational on this particular subject: I spent a few weeks requiring assistance to go to the bathroom after my stroke and it was kind of a traumatic thing for me.)

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    Having fenced yards, for me dog walking wasn’t something you did so they could go poo, but something you did for fun, to spend time with your dog, to bond. So my statement about dog walking wasn’t from the perspective of needing to do it for necessary reasons, so your observation is one I agree with.

    Of course, having fenced yards, we already have that technology, it’s called a doggie door! :^D

  • dpolicar

    I certainly agree that walking outdoors is one way to bond with a dog. It’s not one I use much with my own dog, as neither my husband nor I are really outdoors people, but she seems happy enough with her life just the same. There’s all kinds of ways for families to have fun and spend time together.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I agree, I’m just saying that the perspective on the dog NEEDING to walk wasn’t one I was thinking of when I brought up the Jetsons example with Astro.

  • dpolicar

    (nods) Understood.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    And that if technology achieves the capability to make decisions for us, it’s sentient, which makes forcing it do stuff for us slavery?

    Actually, most animals are sentient (the ability to perceive), that’d make it domestication. You’re thinking of sapient.

    That’s the problem with hardcore automation, by the time you get a computer that’s actually equivalent to a human… you no longer have automation, just a digital slave. At which point, really, you kinda deserve what you get.

  • AnonaMiss

    The fact that I believe that a reliance on slave labor makes one less human? And that if technology achieves the capability to make decisions for us, it’s sentient, which makes forcing it do stuff for us slavery?

    Ah – but at the point of robotic sentience, they are effectively creatures which have ‘evolved’ (whether due to human tinkering or actual evolutionary algorithms) to perform their tasks. Like the cow at the restaurant at the end of the world.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The main reason is simple social inertia, rather than any overarching philosophical reason.

  • smrnda

    I’m not sure human operation is at the center of design much anymore, given that we’re using machines to do damn near everything. Keep in mind that there’s more computing power in an PHONE than there was on the whole planet circa 1940.

    On automating everything, I don’t see ‘everything’ being automated, only things people are sick of doing, aren’t good at, or aren’t really safe.

    Let’s look at it this way. I may do AI programming, but I don’t own a microwave. I could ‘automate’ things in the kitchen, but I don’t want to because it doesn’t taste as good. However, automating things like web design means people with just a little bit of knowledge can make a website.

    If the concern is that we’ll end up with too little to do, I’m not sure that’s true across the board – I mean, thanks to people wanting machines to do their thinking for them I’m working quite a bit.

    The usual worry that I get is mostly the sci fi trope of us realizing that we’re dealing with stupid machines that do everything and make ridiculous mistakes and cause civilization to grind to a halt, but that’s why we do this thing called ‘testing.’

    My gripe is that the ‘gains’ of technology don’t get evenly distributed, but that’s a problem of economic policy. Our manufacturing capacity is so large that we’ve displaced many workers, and they now scramble to get enough hours at service-sector jobs. Either they need new training, or we should just accept that a person stuck doing a lousy job should only need to work 20 hours a week and should get a living wage for that, and that for people like me, if I put in 50 hours it’s still less than the 20 hours in terms of effort.

  • P J Evans

    Most people aren’t paying that much attention when they’re driving. Some of them aren’t paying enough attention to keep out of trouble.

  • dpolicar

    Yup. I don’t agree with you, but I do understand your position, which you’ve articulated well.

  • Ross Thompson

    I’ve never seen anything that can control for that type of randomness better than the human brain. When it does, I will accept robotic cars.

    Assuming that’s true, it’s still a fact that computers are better at dealing with routine situations than humans are. They don’t take their eyes off the road, they don’t get distracted by the kids fighting in the back seat, they don’t send text messages, they don’t get drunk, they don’t spill their coffee…

    The vast majority of accidents aren’t caused by sudden randomness, but by human inattention.

    If, out of every 1000 potential accident scenarios, robotic cars are better at dealing with 999, and humans are better at dealing with 1, then we’d be foolish not to put robots in charge of our driving.

  • Kirala

    The difficulty is, my driver-attention adjusts to an average level that, on average, suffices. I’m capable of daydreaming pretty intently. Worse, I’m prone to overfocusing on one perceived potential problem. I’ve been in four fender-benders in my life, and all four involved intersections where I was so focused on something happening in one direction that I missed another completely. (Though I note I’ve never had any issues from being zoned out. Does that mean I’ve correctly identified the 90% safe-time with a high rate of accuracy?)

    So if I were capable of bringing my full attention to bear on the whole situation, I could probably outperform available robots. But that’s a hypothetical that rarely applies. Frankly, I’d be happier on the roads with a bunch of 90% functional robot cars than with me. Robot cars don’t get distracted singing along to the radio, or wishing there were music on, or wondering what that is on the side of the road, or thinking about what they’re going to have for dinner. I’d want a manual override available for the situations where I DO know better, but most of the time… most of the time the world is better off without me behind the wheel.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    That’s very cogently stated, but I think you are mistaken in two ways.

    First, I do not agree that human brains are better at controlling for “that type of randomness” than machines. In the first place, what you’re describing is not for the most part “randomness” — it only seems random to a human observer because the human observer is selectively filtering input: it seems random to you because that other car “came out of nowhere”. But as it turns out, cars hardly ever “come out of nowhere” — like, twice in 1985 I think. The car came from somewhere but you weren’t polling for that input. But KITT does. KITT sees three hunded and sixty degrees around the car at all times and doesn’t have to make a snap instant decision to turn its head and refocus its eyes based on whether that motion vector at the edge of its vision is a possible threat — it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to be better than a human at making a lucky guess based on partial input — it’s so much faster than you are that it can consider all the input and work out what the best answer is

    Secondly, I do not agree that “that kind of randomness” is the major contributing factor to most accidents. Most accidents are caused by a human being doing something dumb. If you remove “human being does something dumb”, you remove the accident. Moreover, if you’re a robot and I’m a human, I‘m more likely to make the right decision in a potential-accident scenario, because I don’t have to read your mind: I don’t end up hitting you because you suddenly did something inexplicable like made a left turn from the far right lane against a light.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    My thoughts are that more accidents are AVOIDED because of human reaction capability, than are caused by human stupidity.

    That’s been my experience. I’ve had no severe accidents ever, but I’ve avoided lots. When I’ve talked to friends who have, it’s either been down to two things. Mechanical failure, and they failed to avoid the accident.

    I don’t see robotic cars solving the mechanical failure issue, and I don’t know that they’d ALWAYS be able to respond better than people could.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Do you realize that this is basically the same argument as gun-rights extremists use? That guns save thousands of lives every year, and that gun control laws can only lead to more deaths since those guns wouldn’t be there to prevent them?

  • David S.

    I’ve never been involved in an accident that a robot driver wouldn’t have avoided. The big one involved losing control and driving perpendicularly across I-35; I walked away from it without involving anyone else, but there easily could have been multiple deaths.

    Handling electronics may be a bad idea, but you set 100 drivers to drive alone from Wichita to Dallas or Salt Lake City to LA and I bet 100% will at some point adjust the radio or GPS or some other electronics while driving.

    I don’t know what the best current robot cars can do, but I bet they’re better then at least half the drivers out there, who probably cause most of the accidents. Mario Andretti can outdrive a robot car; Jane Smith who has been driving since she got her first Model-T or Tracey Jane who just got her license and wants to go cruising with her posse in the car can’t come close.

  • P J Evans

    I understand that they’ve been testing systems in Germany that, if not fully automatic, have computers doing most of the work of spacing and speed maintenance. (They do better than people.)

  • BaseDeltaZero

    If your definition of ‘better’ is ‘more consistent numbers’, then, well, yeah…

  • BaseDeltaZero

    I bet they’re not particularly better than at least half the drivers out there when they’re at their best… but you are rarely at your best when driving, because you don’t need to be. Most accidents are caused by not paying attention, i.e., by drivers at their worst.

    Robots have no trouble doing boring stuff forever, and operate at peak performance all the time. Even if their performance is worse than what you could theoretically do, it’s reliable, and you don’t need ‘optimum’, only a consistent ‘good enough’.

  • David S.

    I don’t know. Drivers at their best under safe conditions will never cause an accident. Once we start getting into unsafe conditions, the robots have been tested on that. The robots have effectively had the experience of a kid running out in front of them, or a patch of black ice or a car running a stop sign. Exceedingly few drivers can say the same.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Yeah, that’s… pretty much what I said. Crashes tend to occur when one or more drivers make a mistake, and computers are pretty darn good at consistent…

  • caryjamesbond

    Even slight inconsistancy can cause issues. I’m going 2 mph faster than the guy in front of me, so I sloooowly close the gap by five feet, so when he slams on his brakes I can’t quite stop…..

    A robot car is going EXACTLY 65.00000 mph and is EXACTLY 50.0000 feet from the car in front at all times. That alone would eliminate a LOT of accidents.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Everything in my experience tells me that when people say they care about errors, what they really care about is accountability. It’s better, they reckon, to have more errors, but we be able to blame the errors on a mistake made by a human than it is to have fewer errors, but the errors tend toward “Inexplicable unexpected result from unforseeable confluence of circumstances”

  • dpolicar

    Yeah, that’s consistent with my experience as well. “What’s important is the blame…”

  • P J Evans

    Engineer’s thinking:

    ‘But the automatic stop didn’t stop!’
    ‘So why weren’t you watching the automatic stop?’

    Cruise controls are supposed to disengage if you tap the brake.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Cruise controls are supposed to disengage if you tap the brake.

    I….. already said that?

    Set the brake pedal as the “human override” switch akin to the way pressing the brake pedal cuts out the cruise control on modern cars.

    I can confirm I did not edit my original post for the express purpose of my semisarcastic rejoinder to your apparent lack of eyeballage.

  • P J Evans

    I think I typed mine before I’d scrolled down far enough to see yours.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You replied to the exact post in which the original statement was made. See attached.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The real problem with the ethical dilemma is that if you have to
    specially contrive the situation and fill it up with “No, by fiat I
    declare that X isn’t an option”, you’ve done what ethical dilemmas
    always do: start from the answer you want, and
    fiat-contrive the scenario to make it happen. If there’s “no good
    answer” in the described scenario, you just engineer it so
    that situation never occurs
    .

    Basically, the scenario-writer is getting carloads of teenagers from the same place where the teacher was getting storms and the student was getting anchors.

  • Seraph4377

    I wonder if Kutcher is having a Chris Rock moment, where he realizes that a message that worked well for one audience is making the wrong people too happy.

  • Fusina

    We interrupt this comment line to say that I am feeling very sad presently–just found out a friend’s husband has been moved to hospice–he has cancer and it spread everywhere–they are giving him two to three weeks to live. He is a very nice person–Does landscape design for his family’s business–and is very good at it. I have a monument to Frank in my front yard, the flower beds he designed and built of stone.

  • Lori

    I’m so sorry. May he have as easy a passing as possible and may his memory be a blessing.

  • Eric Boersma

    Thoughts and prayers with you, your friends and his family during this tough time.

  • dpolicar

    I’m sorry.

  • myeck waters

    Sorry to hear that.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    How sad. My prayers for him, his family, and you.

  • themunck

    My condolences :(

  • hidden_urchin

    On #1:

    I knew someone once who had a period in his life where he worked 40 hour weeks and lived on the street because he couldn’t afford a place to stay. He ultimately lost the job because, after sleeping in the park at night, he had no energy to be the peppy employee they wanted.

    Welcome to America.

  • smrnda

    The whole ‘hard work’ deal – as long as a shitload of workers are poor, it’s total BS.

    All the evidence that I’ve seen is how hard you work is inversely proportional to your income.

    It seems that conservatives just think that a huge chunk of people should accept a life of hard drudge work that won’t even get them housing in some cases and where there’s really no way out. If that’s what they think, then they’re basically stating that they think there should be no progress. If that’s their ideology, why would anyone get on board?

    O YEAH, I forgot. It’s because pissing and shitting on people is so much fun.

  • Guest

    It’s not just Americans who use those insults, fyi.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The market will correct for everything. Often it will correct you from being a poor person to being a dead person.

  • smrnda

    The ‘market’ responds to the demands of people with money, proportional to the level of money they have. Poor people have no money so their demands (read – NEEDS) do not influence the market – they’re only things for rich people to put a $ value on. However, the market responds to every whim of a rich person, no matter how stupid or socially destructive.

  • TheBrett

    1. I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here and ask why it’s a good idea to try and force employers to make up the difference between poverty and a minimally comfortable standard of living. It’s like how we ended up with reliance on employer-provided health insurance – it represents a failure of the part of society as a whole to commit to supporting people at more than mere subsistence, and a make-shift attempt to force employers to come up with the difference to make up for that failing.

    A real commitment on the part of society in that direction would be a Guaranteed Basic Income, or matching earnings along a sliding scale for people near the bottom – or hell, a good welfare system to make up for low wages (Germany does this). But we’re not going to get that, no – heaven forbid this country engage in “tax and spend liberalism”, or the dreaded “redistribution”.

  • Original Lee

    I was so happy when I finished paying off my student loans, because that meant I could tell Wells Fargo to take a flying leap. And it felt *wonderful*.


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