Black crowned night heron © Robert Sommers 2023

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The "Oh Shit" factor

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Asimov's three laws of robotics

This morning I was ruminating about the guy who was killed watching the Harry Potter movie in his Tesla while operating the car in full autonomous mode.

I myself don't even like cruise control, I like to be in full control and maintain as much awareness as I can at all times in my vehicle. Full auto pilot would certainly be a leap of faith for me.

I used to think that the toughest thing to teach a robot or artificial intelligence would be humor, an essentially human element which is said to spring from pain on some level.

Not sure how many jokesters there are in the animal kingdom, probably even less among the machine set.

And while that may be so, I think it would be equally difficult to plug in the human emotion of fear.

According to Tesla’s account of the crash, the car’s sensor system, against a bright spring sky, failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway.

Tesla said the self-driving car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S." Probably didn't slow down a smidge.

I am sure that the self driving vehicle went merrily to its doom, the self preservation gene not yet wired into its resistor or component package. Tremendous motivator, fear.

My favorite writer, the late Roger Zelazny, saw this phenomenon coming years ago. He wrote two short stories that I can think of off the top of my head that dealt with the issue, Last of the Wild Ones and My lady of the diodes. You can find them both in the compendium Unicorn Variations.

In the first Zelazny deals with a renegade car, a female with a strong taste for revenge. She morphs into a computer in the latter story. Shared another human attribute that is apparently also a favorite of our robot brethren, betrayal. When the AI starts developing a bitchy mean streak, all bets are off.

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