36 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. @david
    Yes, I agree there’s a certain benefit to Brandis remaining in his position as long as his incompetence prevents him from doing any significant harm. That seems to have been more-or-less the case so far.

    Re: ‘defenestrated’ – yes, the word literally means ‘thrown out of a window’. It can also colloquially mean dismissing someone from political office, but with regard to Brandis either meaning suits.

  2. @Tim Macknay

    Re: ‘defenestrated’

    One of Arthur C Clarke’s best short stories: ‘The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch’ from the collection titled ‘Tales From the White Hart’.

  3. A recently paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Pedestrians, Autonomous Vehicles, and Cities by Adam Millard-Ball, makes an interesting point about driverless cars using game theory.

    Currently, pedestrians play a game of chicken with cars that includes severe personal injury in the trade-offs. Pedestrians push drivers to slow down for them and drivers push back with near-misses and hits. We can be reasonably sure that driverless cars won’t have the onboard algorithms to take the outa-my-way-scum approach to pedestrians. This shifts the right of way game in favour of pedestrians. In a mixed environment, human drivers would be forced toward the same norms.

    It should result in cities that are more pedestrian-oriented, which is arguably a good thing. It could also make vehicle travel slower and perhaps even unworkable with some imperious pedestrian populations. It might eventually result in jaywalking laws being dusted off and revamped.

  4. @GrueBleen

    One of Arthur C Clarke’s best short stories: ‘The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch’ from the collection titled ‘Tales From the White Hart’.

    I’ll look it up. It’s a very Philip K. Dick-esque title for an Arthur C. Clarke story.

  5. @Jim Birch

    This shifts the right of way game in favour of pedestrians.

    Only if, in fact, the “self drive” software is capable of understanding the vagaries of human pedestrians, and there’s no indication that it is so far, or ever likely to be.

  6. @GrueBleen

    (fiction, ad) Little old lady bangs on the front of a car, setting off the airbags. I suspect that like those systems, self-driving cars will tend to err on the side of caution. And counter to your point, we already hear of people “testing” the various pedestrian-avoidance systems and getting injured.

  7. @GrueBleen

    To me that suggests that (some) pedestrians already consider the self-driving cars safe enough to stand in front of. Remember that cars are already insanely dangerous and one of the leading causes of death. But people love them. So not only is there a very low bar to clear, in this area “understand pedestrians” amounts to “don’t kill too many of them”, rather than the philosophical “completely understand the vagaries of pedestrians” (AFAIK that’s an impossible standard – no humans meets it, for example).

  8. GrueBleen,

    Computers relentlessly improve. I don’t see how anyone can believe otherwise. In 1970 analysing a second of speech took an hour on a mainframe computer now, and your phone does it pretty well in real time. Your phone might be like twice as powerful as a CRAY-2 but there has been sequential improvements in algorithms that are the key difference. The story is repeated across every problem that gets tackled. Computer haven’t reached HAL 9000 capabilities (yet) but this is not required.

    Drawing arbitrary lines and saying technology won’t cross them – especially technology like computing that that has minimal hard physical constraints – seems wildly parochial to me. Given what we know about the human decision-making process it seems to me quite possible that the car will end up knowing what the pedestrian will do better than the pedestrian themselves. And the car doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be better than the median bad driver.

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