Self-driving Cars

Consciousness is what permits intelligent responses to unpredictable and unknown situations. A truly safe and functioning self-driving car would have to be conscious. At the moment computers regard a car filled with water, suspended 20 feet in the air on the end of two prongs of an earth moving machine as “parked.” It can’t tell the difference between a statue and a person. Snow and other weather conditions that obscure the sides of the road mean it grinds to a halt.

George Dyson, the science historian, son of Freeman Dyson, in an interview with Sam Harris pointed out, in response to Harris’ concern that if AGI is ever created it needs to be “controlled,” that, by definition, AGI will not be controllable. It will have a mind of its own. If we ever did develop an intelligence capable of safely driving cars in the actually variable conditions encountered in real life, i.e., outside the bland environment of southern California, there is no reason for thinking it would be our slave and drive our cars for us. More likely, we would be its slaves and drive cars for it.

5 thoughts on “Self-driving Cars

  1. AGI if it ever develops won’t be a car. It would be a large computer used to interpret or intercept data. The amount of tech needed for a thinking car or even a human sized robot is far beyond our capacity. It’s like faster than light travel. Might be possible but not by us.

  2. “A truly safe and functioning self-driving car would have to be conscious.”

    I don’t see why. Current cars, driven by conscious beings (ourselves) have a poor safety record, with nearly 100 deaths per day on US roads alone. I would have thought that consciousness is actually the cause of many accidents, as it’s the thing responsible for us being so easily distracted and being unable to focus on more than one thing at once. A self-driving car algorithm can’t be distracted by kids in the back seat, and can monitor many more elements than can a human driver, such as being able to see in several directions at once.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, swordfish. The fact that computers don’t get distracted or bored or drunk is good. I wonder if that could compensate for their inability to cope with the unexpected, or heavy rain, or snow. A rule driven mechanism in a non-rule driven world is a liability – but then so too is the imperfect human attention.


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