Riffing on Books and Life – Arts & Sciences Literary Blog by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey

26Dec/15

Self Driving Cars: the Emperor’s New Clothes Tale of Early 21st Century?

Image Self Driving Car

Self Driving Car

Yes, I am going out on a limb here. And if my words find any traction beyond my little corner of the Internet, surely there will be many people coming down hard on me. For there is BIG money behind this self driving car movement. Google is getting the most publicity for their efforts, but there are dozens of other companies staking their venture money (Tesla, Uber . . .) and their future reputations (Apple) in this zone.

Why am I dubious? Everyone KNOWS that Google and Apple and all the other Silicon Valley brainiacs can pull off just about anything, right? Who am I to doubt?

Well, I guess I’d say who I am is a woman who has a little more historical experience than some of the 20 and 30-something wunderkinds of San Fran, also a person who seems to have a bit more of a handle on the grey areas between the 1s and 0s logic of computer circuits. For starters.

Let me begin with something I tweeted recently (@TerryMediabench). It was in response to a tweet I read about how the Tesla Company was “discovering” (via accidents, I think it was) that human drivers cannot be counted on to be alert in all self-driving car emergencies when human intervention is called for.

Elon Musk Admits Humans Can’t Be Trusted with Tesla’s Autopilot Feature: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/543241/elon-musk-admits-humans-cant-be-trusted-with-teslas-autopilot-feature/

Here is what I responded on Twitter:

Triple A warned YEARS ago that speed control too dangerous due to drivers' attn lapses. I suggest you read history #Tesla #Musk & #Google

I remembered the AAA warning vividly because it was sent to me by a friend who knew that I trekked up to San Francisco (hometown) from Los Angeles (climate of choice) on a regular basis and made frequent use of my car’s cruise control on the straight and boring Highway 5 that connects the two metropolitan areas. I took the warning seriously and have not used cruise control since.

If humans can’t be counted on to take back their car’s speed control in an emergency, while they are still doing the steering and managing every other automobile function, how can they possibly be expected to pay the necessary attention in any other car emergency situation after the car has taken over ALL driving functions? Let’s get real here.

And now let’s add the element of time to this scenario:

Emergency, in most cases, refers to something that is occurring in the space of very limited time. Like milliseconds. So try to imagine this driver having time to take back car control after putting down her/his phone, video game, nail file, harmonica, _______________ (fill in your preferred human auto-car personal activity), when the car suddenly cries out “Alert! human intervention needed. Now!”

Clearly, the auto-car coders were not aware of the Triple A cruise control warning history. What other history and human illogic are they missing-ignoring as they push forward with total confidence that they can not only pull off fully self driving cars, but do it in the next few years, as so many are touting?

I’m just getting started here.

Back later.

Share
10Dec/15

Trumbo and Hollywood’s Romance With An All Male Mythology

Poster of Movie Trumbo 2015

Poster of Movie Trumbo 2015

It can be difficult for a feminist woman to look back at the sexism and gender inequality of history. It is even more difficult when one observes that history being told through the lens of a sexist and still unequal present. Trumbo throws us back to the days when the movie industry was dominated by men, the good women - like Trumbo's wife Cleo - were mere obedient and martyred sidekicks, and the bad women, like Helen Mirrin's portrayed Hedda Hopper, were shrews.

But times have changed, right? No, not much it seems. As the credits rolled, I read one male credit after another: writer, director, production designer, cinematographer, editor, composer, casting . . . . Yes, in 2015, just as in Trumbo's 1950s, and for most of history since, all the lead people who made this film were men. I found it particularly interesting that even the couple of filmmaking roles often reserved for women (casting and costumes) in this movie were done by men.

It goes deeper. In 2015, as in so many of the movies and plays of US history, the roles for women were still the obedient wife (Cleo) and evil witch (Hedda Hopper). You might ask, "Wasn't it just reflecting history?" As a matter of fact, one critic even referred to this movie as "educational." But, no, this movie did not reflect history, it is a Hollywood male rewrite of history. While Hedda Hopper udoubtedly played a role in the ambushing of Hollywood creatives by the Sen. Eugene McCarthy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's communist witch hunt of the 1940s-60s, it was a minor role; those who are "educated" by this movie will come away believing that gossip columnist Hopper spearheaded the entire movement. Ultimately Trumbo serves to perpetuate the heroic male, witchy woman and martyred ingenue mythology that our society has managed to make a reality; feminist historians, anthropologists, and sociologists take note.

Share