Look, someone had died, so now is not really the time to make jokes. Whoever that person and their family may be, their lives are forever altered because Uber — and humans in general — have gotten way too reckless with artificial intelligence. If one of Uber’s bigwigs had just taken a step back and thought to themselves “Hey, maybe vehicles with the potential to kill should be operated by a living human instead of a program”, then maybe this daughter or mother or sister or loved one would still be alive today.
But they didn’t: all Uber — and other companies — sees when it comes to artificial intelligence is automation, convenience, and therefore, profits.
So, while this may not be the time to make jokes about Uber, it is a time to say ‘I told you so’, as we (I) predicted these robotmobiles were a bad idea way back in 2016 when they were first unveiled:
Have we learned nothing from science fiction? The obvious example is The Terminator (1, 2, 3, 4, AND 5), but in reality, Hollywood has been trying to warn us of the incoming robot invasion for decades. There’s been action dramas like A.I., I, Robot, Ex Machina, The Matrix. There have been kids movies such as Wall-E. Hell, there was even a f*cking love story: Her. This year, another artificial intelligence movie, Morgan (starring Kate Mara), will hit theaters. The warning signs are all there, we’re just choosing to ignore them.
I believe this to be the proverbial first step in going too far: self-driving Ubers. Thanks to Elon Musk, the love child of a Bond villain and Steve Jobs, self-driving technology has gained serious traction in the last couple of years. Now, with a company as big as Uber getting involved, it’s sure to really take off.
Near the end of 2014, Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick traveled to Pittsburgh to hire dozens of the world’s experts in autonomous vehicles. The goal was to replace Uber’s more than 1 million human drivers with robot drivers—as quickly as possible. I love the part where Uber says there will be a ‘supervised by humans in the driver’s seat for the time being’. Time being, as in, until the robot Ubers become cognitive are start kamikazeing themselves to eliminate the feeble human race.
I’m kind of kidding. But not really. I mean seriously, once the ‘time being’ is over, you’re telling me there’s going to be a bunch of emotionless/fearless robots ripping it next to me on the I95, and I’m just supposed to be chill with that? Nah.
Then, last Summer, I tried to spread the word again, saying that if we’re so desperate to automate things, we should start working on robot chefs or maids instead of robot cars– you know, things that can’t kill us:
And now, nearly two years older and two years wiser (talking about myself, clearly not Uber), and unfortunately my written-in-jest article has come to fruition, as one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.
While you can read more about the incident over on the New York Times (or anywhere on the internet, really), the point I’m trying to make is simple: instead of retroactively halting the program (which Uber has done), it should have never gotten off the ground in the first place.
I’m no Fortune 500 CEO and even I was able to see this one coming from a mile away.