We talk about technology for most of the day. About AI, specifically. We talk about all the things that are coming that we can’t control. About robots and automation and the singularity.
Someone brings up self-driving cars.
The issue with self-driving cars is the trolley problem, he says.
Yes! says someone else.
I say, What’s the trolley problem?
You know, he says, if there’s a train trolley out of control and two tracks with people lying across them and you have a lever that changes the trolley’s course so you can hit one person or five people. Which do you choose?
Oh yep, I say, I’ve seen that on TV.
He says, And then there’s the whole thing of how old are the people? Have they lived a good life already? Or is it a pregnant mum with a toddler? How can a car make that choice?
The woman next to me says, But with a self-driving car, it’s actually most likely that the least damage is to kill the driver. That’s the choice it will make. It won’t hit any other cars, it won’t endanger anyone else. For minimum damage, it’ll veer hard off the road and kill you.
At the end of the day I get an Uber home. I book the car from my phone and it arrives. It feels somehow spooky.
Have you just finished work? the driver asks me.
Yeah, I say.
What do you do?
I was at a rehearsal, a workshop for a play.
And now it’s home time, he says.
Lots of people getting Uber in this weather, he says.
I bet, I say. It’s freezing.
We’re lucky, he says. You know, sometimes I think about the first settlers here. What they had to deal with. Now look at us. We have electricity, cars, homes, everything.
Yeah, I say, that’s true.
Yeah, we’ve got everything, he says. And then – as though he’s read my mind – he says, What’s coming next?
I’m primed for this question. This question is the exact right question to ask me at this exact moment.
Robots, I say. That’s what’s coming next.
True, he says. And self-driving cars.
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