Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When I Finally Hang Up My Life Coach Shoes, I'll Become a Futurist

Second only to life coaching, being a professional futurist is the biggest crock of crap there is. That's why I want to get in on the action in both fields.

Here's an article with much speculation regarding the future of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The writer identifies three problems that he thinks aren't being addressed. One is the potential for terrorism, one is the potential for hacking, and one is the problem of deployment scale.

The terrorism concern, that AVs greatly increase a potential terrorist's capabilities, I say is unfounded. An AV is going to be lousy with privacy-invasion devices. The government will know in real time who is using which vehicle and for what. The camera in the trunk will notify police when you load the explosives and the government kill switch will disable the vehicle before it reaches its destination. Civil liberties 0, imagined risks neutralized 1.

The hacking concern is legitimate, and along the lines of ransomware will probably be the actual method in which terrorists use the vehicles. "Give me your PIN or your car drives off a bridge" will be an effective fundraising technique.

The scale problems are unknown. When you have the only AV on the road, is the advantage worth the cost? A lot of the projected gains of AVs don't show up until most (all?) cars are AVs. But not all. I'd be fine with the exact same speed of traffic if it allowed me to do something else while in the car. So I think that even a slow arrival of "peak benefit" will not dissuade users from adopting AV technology.

I agree with the economic analysis that lowering the marginal cost of a mile driven will increase the number of miles driven. I don't know enough about the AV predictions being criticized here to know why they don't predict such an increase. But remember that, while AVs make exurbs more accessible, they also make urban land more plentiful by allowing for road and parking repurposing. What's the overall change? I don't know; I'm not a professional futurist, you know? But I know that three hours in the car watching TV is still three hours in the car. How do my kids respond to long car trips? After all, that's what we're talking about: living life like our kids do. You have a Kindle, a DVD player, your phone, a Sudoku book, but you still get antsy after an hour or so. Even adults will be asking, "Are we there yet?"

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