What self-driving cars mean for your future…

Revised destination: officeCar computer announcing over-ride of destination, Minority Report

The movie Minority Report isn’t really about mutants who have nightmares about future events; it’s about predictive AI (artificial intelligence). My guess is that the mutants are a way of making the AI seem sexier than something intangible that’s hard to visualize. Or, maybe the author didn’t want to tip you off any more than necessary to prime you for your future. Unlike in the movie, it won’t go away after being abused.

“Fully Self-Driving Cars Are Here” – Waymo To Begin Testing Driver-Free Autonomous Taxis In Phoenix

For most of civilized history, personal mobility has been a luxury. Most people never strayed far from where they were born, and travel was an ordeal. The whole concept of owning a car and driving wherever you want within a huge territory would have seemed like an impossible luxury.

For most of civilized history, you needed permission to travel from one place to another. In some empires, like Old China or the Inca Empire, most people were not allowed to travel except between home and work; in other words, you couldn’t just ask and get permission; the answer was a standing “NO!”. Nowadays, although there are some registration requirements left, more in some countries than others, you don’t need to ask permission up-front to travel or change residences.

Nowadays, most middle-people in the “western” countries take that level of personal mobility for granted. Now I have some bad news: it’s going away.

  • In the relatively near future, the cost of transportation will be relatively high compared to now.
  • Owning cars will be a luxury.
  • Positive and negative incentives will motivate people to give up owning a personal car.
  • Car transportation will be a rented service. You’ll call up a car you don’t own, it will take you to your destination, then drive itself away to the next customer.
  • As you lose control over your own vehicle—which is already starting—someone else will have the authority to over-ride your travel plans. This is already starting. Eventually you will be able to travel only with permission, just like in the old days.
  • Your transportation habits will be monitored. This has already started; chips in your car and your cell phone are already informing on you.
  • Once enough people go along with the plan more-or-less willingly, it will start being imposed and enforced through regulations and taxes.
  • Anyone whose job is primarily driving will probably lose it.

Personally, I accept loss of ownership of means of travel. What bugs me is loss of freedom of movement. My guess is that most of the time, we’ll get implicit permission to move around where we want to go, but live under the threat of having it taken away if we step out of line. And our smart gizmos will constantly be watching us.

How do I know this? I’m tuned in to the right channels and can read between the lines.

It will take some intelligence to come up with counter-strategies to go about our business, tip off the AI as little as possible, and make the best of our remaining choices. Subscribe and pick my brains.

Namaste! The Divine within me honors the Divine within you. I tell stories about lessons I've learned the hard way. Follow @KalkinTrivedi on Twitter.