First there was this:

Then there was this:

(and its possibly more scary sequel).

And now, we hear that Google has developed cars that can drive themselves. I just wanna think about that for a minute…

The thing about these three inventions is that they all demonstrate technology that I didn’t really think was around yet: the capability for automatons to read their environments in real time and make appropriate physical responses. Those quadrotors (in the second video): they see a flying hoop, and in a fraction of a second they work out how to fly through it and they bloody well do it, right there and then! Big Dog gets kicked and while in the act of falling over works out exactly how it needs to stick out its weirdly human leg(s) to catch itself and carry on walking. But the cars are the scariest. To drive in traffic (as you know), you need to be looking out and anticipating things and planning your actions all the time. These things have driven thousands of miles without human intervention: they are really good at assessing their environments and knowing what to do about them to achieve specific goals.

This is going to be amazing and terrifying. While our kids grow up (I’m talking to people my own age here; sorry if you’re, you know, older), it will become commonplace to have automatons wandering about among us, doing their thing. It is not inconceivable (but certainly beyond the scope of this post) that at some point during our lives they will become sufficiently smart to start asking for rights. It’s gonna be wicked awesome, especially for fans of Isaac Asimov.

Oh and finally, The Awl has been covering this stuff continually. I would like to give them special credit for referencing both of James Cameron’s 1980s sci-fi action masterpieces within one headline.

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