On philosophy

principles are rock, ideas are scissors and reality is paper.

Principles are rock.

A principle can ruin an idea. In this case self driving cars which by all current stats are a great idea (we all agree that they are way safer for most population than the flaky inattentive humans) can be crushed by the weight of the principle of do no harm.

Is there way to program a software that interacts with humans’ lives with do no harm as a basis? Of course not! If do no harm is the basic principle the car will not leave the driveway. It will not start the engine. Actually it will simply erase itself after boot.

Reality is paper.

It can envelope the principle and simply make it disappear. Self driving cars are here to stay. Unless we get hit by space cataclysm, or the civilization collapses because of whatever reason, this is the place we’re headed to. The reality is that as cars will shift to being electric, as urban areas will have huge amounts of technology available on every square meter — from broadband to advanced signaling and radar, to cameras that can process spatial data by triangulation or whatever, the risk of the principle will become simply irrelevant.

Trains must have raised similar issues. The fact they ran at devastating speeds considering their mass was a serious problem. But the reality enveloped the principles. High speed reliable transportation is so much of a need that any principles are made invisible in the decision making at global level. The plane transportation is the safest by number of accidents but when the accident happens people die in huge groups. Yet we are thinking of suborbital flights because supersonic Paris-NY in 30 minutes is not enough.

Ideas are scissors.

That’s what we do with our creativity, we simply cut out reality in bits we can handle, in shapes we like. Ideas beat reality. It doesn’t matter that we love cars or that driving is a hobby, a passion. We came up with technology that can make it orders of magnitude safer, more reliable, faster, sustainable — a smart car will optimize the hell out of consumption for example, the more electric smart they will be the more reusable they become (unless Apple makes them with soldered rubber on wheels and you’ll need to change your car for a flat).

So the trolley problem while valid will probably be statistically enveloped in the argument of long term benefit while the reality of having your life decided by algorithms will be cut and modeled by ideas like intelligent roads with tech that reduce the possibility of fucking up, with self driving systems as add-on subsystems for non smart cars, and so on.