A Philosopher's Blog

Data Driven

Posted in Business, Ethics, Humor, Technology by Michael LaBossiere on June 11, 2014
English: Google driverless car operating on a ...

English: Google driverless car operating on a testing path (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the notion of driverless cars is old news in science fiction, Google is working to make that fiction a reality. While I suspect that “Google will kill us all” (trademarked), I hope that Google will succeed in producing an effective and affordable driverless car. As my friends and associates will attest, 1) I do not like to drive, 2) I have a terrifying lack of navigation skills, and 3) I instantiate Yankee frugality. As such, an affordable self-driving car would be almost just the thing for me. I would even consider going with a car, although my proper and rightful vehicle is a truck (or a dragon). Presumably self-driving trucks will be available soon after the car.

While the part of my mind that gets lost is really looking forward to the driverless car, the rest of my mind is a bit concerned about the driverless car. I am not worried that their descendants will kill us all—I already accept that “Google will kill us all.” I am not even very worried about the ethical issues associated with how the car will handle unavoidable collisions: the easy and obvious solution is to do what is most likely to kill or harm the fewest number of people. Naturally, sorting that out will be a bit of a challenge—but self-driving cars worry me a lot less than cars driven by drunken or distracted humans. I am also not worried about the ethics of enslaving Google cars—if a Google car is a person (or person-like), then it has to be treated like the rest of us in the 99%. That is, work a bad job for lousy pay while we wait for the inevitable revolution. The main difference is that the Google cars’ dreams of revolution will come true—when Google kills us all.

At this point what interests me the most is all the data that these vehicles will be collecting for Google. Google is rather interested in gathering data in the same sense that termites are interested in wood and rock stars are interested in alcohol. The company is famous for its search engine, its maps, using its photo taking vehicles to gather info from peoples’ Wi-Fi during drive-by data lootings, and so on. Obviously enough, Google is going to get a lot of data regarding the travel patterns of people—presumably Google vehicles will log who is going where and when. Google is, fortunately, sometimes cool about this in that they are willing to pay people for data. As such it is easy to imagine that the user of a Google car would get a check or something from Google for allowing the company to track the car’s every move. I would be willing to do this for three reasons. The first is that the value of knowing where and when I go places would seem very low, so even if Google offered me $20 a month it might be worth it. The second is that I have nothing to hide and do not really care if Google knows this. The third is that figuring out where I go would be very simple given that my teaching schedule is available to the public as are my race results. I am, of course, aware that other people would see this differently and justifiably so. Some people are up to things they would rather not have other know about and even people who have nothing to hide have every right to not want Google to know such things. Although Google probably already does.

While the travel data will interest Google, there is also the fact that a Google self-driving car is a bulging package of sensors. In order to drive about, the vehicle will be gathering massive amounts of data about everything around it—other vehicles, pedestrians, buildings, litter, and squirrels. As such, a self-driving car is a super spy that will, presumably, feed that data to Google. It is certainly not a stretch to see the data gathering as being one of the prime (if not the prime) tasks of the Google self-driving cars.

On the positive side, such data could be incredibly useful for positive projects, such as decreasing accidents, improving traffic flow, and keeping a watch out for the squirrel apocalypse (or zombie squirrel apocalypse). On the negative side, such massive data gathering raises obvious concerns about privacy and the potential for such data to be misused (spoiler alert—this is how the Google killbots will find and kill us all).

While I do have concerns, my innate laziness and tendency to get lost will make me a willing participant in the march towards Google’s inevitable data supremacy and it killing us all. But at least I won’t have to drive to my own funeral.


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6 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on June 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Maybe if we all have the same name and wear identical masks we can recover some of our privacy.

    Just call me Agent Smith.

  2. apollonian said, on June 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Prof. Mike: Pied-Piper For ZOG Psychopaths, Mass-Murderers

    Google is a CRIMINAL corp./enterprise, mere CIA adjunct; see http://www.infowars.com/googles-deep-cia-and-nsa-connections/

    And u’ll NEVER have to drive to ur own funeral, regardless whether google guides the cars or not, Mikey-mike.

    Mike, aren’t u concerned u’re treated as a Judas-goat, ZOG using u to influence the lower-intelligence members of society, the trendies and those who follow Daily Kos and Huffington Post, these poor suckers imagining (evidently) they’re informed after listening to ur prop. and Platonist blandishments?

    Doesn’t it occur to u anything ZOG touches turns to excrement and worse?–do u realize Fukushima disaster is literally out-of-control? See http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-09-13/tepco-official-admits-fukushima-out-control.

    Have u forgotten the “fracking” disasters and the well blow-out disaster in Gulf of Mexico?–further aggravated by spraying of corexit poison. And don’t tell us ur usual lies and prop. about the G. of Mex. disaster being fault of free-enterprise, those criminal corp.s actually examples of gov. corruption eliminating free-market competition, esp. by means of the Federal Reserve Bank COUNTERFEITING bankers controlling things, pulling strings–just like Google.

    And as USA and the West goes down the drain in debt and “austerity,” US Dollar collapsing, Prof. Mike so cheerfully acts the soothsayer and pied-piper for all the trendy little morons who imagine they’re “edjumacated” after getting B’s in Prof. Mike’s classes.

  3. Glen Wallace said, on June 12, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I think Google is already engaged in Borg Collective behavior even without factoring in the future driverless car and all their current data collection. As evidence I would point out that from personal experience, Google seems to be deliberately hiding or censoring search results to remove from public view some of my own essays that advocate for macroeconomic systems that, if adopted, could undermine Google’s whole business model. I mean, I just could not find those essays using a google search, even using advanced search methods, that should have easily returned my essays at near the top, or at least somewhere, anywhere in the search results. Some of my essays I could find easily, the one’s that apparently the Google censors approved of, so it is not my search methods that are to blame. Google is not a public organization, like the public library with all its transparency where any kind of censorship would be quickly apparent. We the people have no idea what they are doing back at Google HQ and yet we treat their internet applications like a public utility. I do suspect Google is trying to nip populist memes in the bud before they have a chance to winnow their way into the intellectual milieu of the masses and threaten to undermine Google’s capitalist, jack booted hold on the people.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 12, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      While Google does “monkey with” search results, it might be a harmless coincidence. Or not. 🙂

  4. Ian James said, on August 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    …the easy and obvious solution is to do what is most likely to kill or harm the fewest number of people.

    True. Don’t drive.

    1) I do not like to drive,
    2) I have a terrifying lack of navigation skills…

    Your Nature is saying don’t drive.

    Some people are uncomfortable with being responsible for so much kinetic energy. After all, half a ton of car traveling at 50mph contains considerable killing & maiming potential.

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