Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The End of Driving; picking a winner was difficult, however in the end, we selected Anikó Tóth’s post:
Repeatedly through history, we’ve built machines that do what we do, better. Today, we’ve progressed from labor-saving to IQ-saving devices: machines that think and act so that we don’t have to ourselves. Do I believe that driverless cars would eventually make transportation safer? Absolutely. They will follow the rules, react lightning-fast, and simultaneously integrate input from multiple sensors. We still face challenges, of course. You know when that schmuck in the BMW is about to cut you off…but how to teach such intuition to a machine? Then there’s the cyber battle, crucial for the security of these devices. As we accept driverless cars, we must understand that many will inevitably become helpless without them—and this, not the engineering, is our chief peril. I know people who couldn’t drive a manual to save their lives, or get lost en route to the supermarket without a gps. Where does it end?
We asked Anikó what inspired her, she wrote:
My answer actually had nothing to do with my research (I’m a paleontologist/macroecologist phd student). It stemmed from a personal and family philosophy that is equal parts old-fashioned and progressive. As a scientist who comes from a family of mathematicians, engineers, and scientists I believe deeply in the power of technology to change the world. I also believe it is vitally important to understand and remember the things that made us human (Who do you know that can build a fire? Cook/bake from scratch? Read a map? Wire up a radio? Defend themselves physically? Have a meaningful conversation with a stranger? Sew? Do maths? First aid? Change a flat tire? the list goes on). Of course, making forward progress while keeping in touch with your roots is challenging, but challenges bring out the best in us, do they not?