Autonomous cars and voice-activated devices are becoming part of our daily lives. How many times have you asked Siri or Google for the answer to a question, rather than typing it out on a smart phone? Even Windows 10 offer a voice activated assistant named Cortana to activate programs, type emails and make our lives a little bit easier.
As more and more of these devices are being incorporated into everyday items like cars and appliances, there is prominent question. Are these devices truly helpful, or in some situations, can they become dangerous? We’ve taken a look at some of the most common full-control devices and weighed the pros and cons of each.
Autonomous vehicles and cars like, Tesla’s with an autopilot feature, are still in their infancy. However, there are more and more of them on the road than ever before. These new cars keep making the news, and not always for the best reasons. Most of the time, if an autonomous car makes the news, it because it has been in a car accident.
Google’s self-driving car crashed into a bus when it misjudged the reaction of the other drivers on the road. And a couple of Tesla autopilot accidents may have been caused by the car’s self driving feature. However, Tesla’s official statement almost always places the blame on user error.
In theory, driverless cars could potentially make the roads safer by removing the element of human error. We would need to have a higher concentration of driverless cars on the road than cars that actually have drivers.
The other major problem revolves around the concept of moral intuition. The ability of a human to choose right from wrong. In situations that are both wrong, how to choose the lesser of two evils.
For example, if you’re driving a car and someone steps in front of you, what is your first instinct? For most of us, hitting the brakes, swerving or both is probably the immediate answer. Now add another variable: Swerving the car to avoid the single pedestrian means you’re going to crash into a group of school children. What do you do?
Moral intuition lets you chose the lesser of two evils in this case. The problem with most autonomous car programming is that it lacks human quality. The bit of moral intuition that would choose hitting a single pedestrian over hitting a large group of children.
I’ll admit, they’re a great advance in driver safety and security. But autonomous vehicles just aren’t where they need to be yet, so we’ll classify them as dangerous but with potential.
Voice to Text
Voice to Text is a big part of most of our daily lives. Siri takes care of things for iPhone users, Cortana carries the torch for Window’s users, and good old Google handles things for Android users. Most people use voice to text behind the wheel. They’re able to respond to messages without having to stare at their phones, leading to distracted driving.
A study, sponsored by the Southwest Region University Transportation Center, discovered that there was no benefit to using text to speech when driving. Drivers are just as slow and spend just as much time looking away from the road compared to traditional texting methods.
While voice to text does give the illusion of safety, it isn’t hands free enough just yet to be considered actually useful, so we’ll go ahead and classify this tool as moderately dangerous.
Voice Activation and IoT
Internet of things (IoT) is a movement to incorporate features like Wi-Fi connectivity and voice activation into everyday items. Security cameras you can access from your computer or smart phone, appliances you can program with the push of a button and other even more random items make up a growing number of IoT-style gadgets. What benefits could these possibly have?
In a word: accessibility.
You might take simple things, like turning on a light bulb or changing the channel on the TV, for granted. But they are not as easy as they might be for people who have difficulties with movement or other disabilities.
That is enough for us to label voice activation in IoT enabled devices as useful and even potentially life changing.
IBM’s Watson is one of the first nearly successful forays into artificial intelligence. While it is not a true sentient intelligence, it is one of the most amazing steps toward a cognitive AI we’ve seen in recent years.
This cognitive programming allows Watson to sift through millions of pieces of unsorted and uncollected data to make leaps in minutes or hours. It would take the average humans weeks or months to complete. In 2013, Watson even dipped its virtual toes into the medical field. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer center opted to use the Watson system as part of their decision-making process for lung cancer treatments.
While it doesn’t make the final decisions for healthcare treatment options, it is used as a “clinical support system” for medical professionals in that and many other fields.
Cognitive API’s like Watson give us something that as basic carbon-based life forms we couldn’t achieve biologically. The ability to think like a super computer. It has some amazing applications and could potentially change the medical field. However, it is still too new to really make a determination as to whether or not it’s dangerous. As long as it doesn’t make the final decisions, it’s a great way to augment a variety of fields. So we’ll go ahead and name Watson and the idea of artificial intelligence and cognitive API’s as neutral territory.
Allowing our devices to have full control over various aspects of our lives might seem like a dream come true. After all, who doesn’t want to grab an extra nap while you’re sitting in rush hour traffic or program your kitchen to have a meal ready when you get home from work?
Full control devices are really in their infancy. There are still many areas of our lives where it’s not safe to give up full control just yet. If these devices continue progressing the way they have been, in 10 years our opinions might be totally different. For now, we’re going to stick to our “dumb” appliances and cars that require a driver to be on the safe side.