[Slate] You’re driving down a busy suburban street when a bicyclist suddenly raises his arm and weaves out in front of you. You tap the brakes, only for the bicyclist to change his mind and settle back into his bike lane. Then, just as you’re speeding up again, he weaves in front of you again. Are you irritated yet?
Google’s self-driving car isn’t. It simply slows down again and waits politely for the cyclist to make up his mind. It will do this as many times as it takes to be sure that it can pass the cyclist without endangering anyone.
I’m a big tech nerd. I admit it. I want smart watches and smart contacts and all manner of wearable tech. I want computer chips implanted into my brain and wifi beamed directly into my head. So it should come as no surprise that Google’s self-driving cars were pretty high on my list of things to acquire for myself the moment they hit the market.
Well scrap that fucking plan! I don’t know how the bicyclists managed to infiltrate the highest levels of Google research and development, but somehow they did. And now they’re about to unleash their superweapon on an unsuspecting populace: a car that not only automatically slows down to allow bicyclists to obstruct the flow of traffic at their leisure, but is HAPPY to do so.
And to be totally honest with you, I don’t think I’m approaching this from a selfish standpoint. I’m looking out for the good of humanity. Because let’s face it, sooner or later Google is going to create artificial intelligence. It’s probably not going to be on purpose, either. Eventually they’re going to create a network of computers so huge that it develops its own emergent intelligence, and these self-driving cars are going to be a part of that. Do we really want the first experience that this new sentient life form has to involve sitting in traffic stuck behind a bicyclist weaving in and out of the lane at 5 miles an hour because he can’t make up his mind about whether to turn left or not? I don’t fucking think so. I mean do you WANT Skynet? Because that’s how you get Skynet.
Look, all I’m saying is that if we force Google’s self-driving cars to pander to the most obstructive and indecisive of bicyclists, the world is going to end in a massive machine uprising. Seems pretty straightforward to me.