The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Look Ma! No Hands!

Google has built a prototype of an automobile which has no steering wheel or brake pedal. Everyone in the car will be merely a passenger. You get in, enter your destination, and it just goes there... at a maximum speed of 25 MPH.

It's an ugly little thing.Like a Smart Car but without the bells and whistles.  The principle behind it is to take control of the vehicle away from  humans, who are fallible, as we know ("To Err Is Human") and place our faith in technology and programmers. But wait... aren't programmers human?

Why, yes, they are. All too human. I say this from experience with a GPS unit and from using the various mapping offerings on the internet. My Garmin has sent me to more than  one hotel that didn't exist and given me highly questionable directions from time to time (not to mention the ubiquitous "Recalculating" squawks when I fail to follow the little dictator). I do not fault the technology (which reminds me that an update is available/needed but then has no update when I seek it). Still, I find my Garmin and access to Google Maps to be quite useful. But I trust them to be just a bit more accurate than the random bystander; not perfect.

When I was a mischievous lad in my mid-teens, I would often give incorrect, or circuitous, directions to tourists who were silly enough to ask how to get to some hotel, motel, or point of interest. I don't recall ever sending them into a dangerous area or getting them so lost they could run out of gas before reaching civilization again. And, sometimes, I gave less mischievous but still erroneous directions because I am human after all.

But what will happen when one of these little beasts gets into an accident? Will we sue the non-existent driver? The owner? The car-maker? The programmers? Currently, the law assumes the driver has control of the vehicle; that will have to change.

I tended not to rely on the kindness of strangers once I began driving but studied maps instead. I was a pretty good land navigator, if I do say so myself. If I was going to a town I was unfamiliar with, I would grab a map for it or, as soon as I got in the are, would study a map that that was posted at a gas station. Those maps, once a staple of every service station, have disappeared.


Tal Hartsfeld said...

Too bad people don't use maps anymore.
When I was hitchhiking all over the country I eventually wound up not only having 95% of the Interstate routes memorized, but to this day can also find my way around a number of cities and towns (in numerous states) by memory alone.

Douglas said...

I have felt, for the longest time, that it is easier to criss-cross the country on the interstates than to find one's way around a town or city. After all, the interstates have rules (odd numbers north-south, even numbers are east-west, and triple digits mean loop or off-shoot. You know where you are and signs tell you where you are going. Maps are essential in towns and cities and the GPS has replaced them... like the calculator has replaced the times-tables.