Of the myriad End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It scenarios that have gripped the popular imagination in recent years, two are perennial chart toppers: the zombie apocalypse and/or the robot uprising. Whether hailing from the supernatural or science fiction, both find humanity spending the End Times cowering from what are essentially roving bands of drones interested in either eating our brains or enslaving us or perhaps both.
While driving around Oakland yesterday, I saw the future and now know how it’s going to end. And it won’t be from the menace of melting too, too solid flesh. Instead we will be menaced by two tons of autonomously roving steel. At the corner of College and Claremont I happened to pass a Google “self-driving car.” Or, more accurately, a robot in the shape of an SUV, so, basically, a Decepticon in its upright and locked position. It was marked with a cutesy car logo, which I surmise was meant to make me feel better that there was NOBODY DRIVING THE FRICKIN’ CAR!
Let’s see, I could say that the Google car “puts the ‘auto’ in automaton” or even “the ‘Christ!’ in ‘Christine’” but what it really does is put the Invisible Man in the driver’s seat. At least that’s what it feels like when you pull up alongside one of these things. Haven’t they heard of “emergence” or the Singularity? Everyone always assumed an AI would kick into sentience in a lab, not the freeway!
The above notwithstanding, I have to admit that the safest way to drive around Oakland is probably to make like the Google Car and not do it yourself, or, frankly, even be in the car. But, I ask, where was it going? Why was it parking at Noodle Theory? Was it on a robot ramen run and if so, when can I get one to do that for me? And for how much? Or should I say at what cost to humanity?