Sunday, March 19, 2017

Containment Structure

This is not ritual magick in the usual sense, but it still is pretty amusing. Artist James Bridle came up with this design for a "magic circle" designed to trap self-driving cars. The dotted line on the outside of the circle means the car can drive in, but the solid line on the inside means that it can't drive out. So it's sort of like a roach motel for these vehicles. Essentially, the car behaves like a spirit conjured into a containments structure.

In a picture posted to Flickr by artist James Bridle—known for coining the term, "New Aesthetic"—a car is sitting in the middle of a parking lot has been surrounded by a magic salt circle. In the language of road markings, the dotted white lines on the outside say, "Come On In," but the solid white line on the inside says, "Do Not Cross." To the car's built-in cameras, these are indomitable laws of magic: Petrificus Totalus for autonomous automobiles.

Captioned simply, "Autonomous Trap 001," the scene evokes a world of narratives involving the much-hyped technology of self-driving cars. It could be mischievous hackers disrupting a friend's self-driving ride home; the police seizing a dissident's getaway vehicle; highway robbers trapping their prey; witches exorcizing a demon from their hatchback.

Self-driving cars aren't there yet, but the artist-philosopher-programmer's thought-provoking photo is a reminder that we'll have to start thinking about these things soon. If a self-driving car is designed to read the road, what happens when the language of the road is abused by those with nefarious intent?

The answer to this is actually quite simple. Never build a car that a person does not have the option of driving. I'm thinking self-driving cars like they had in the I, Robot movie - the car can drive on its own, but you can also can drive it yourself. I would never buy a car I wasn't able to drive at all, and it's not just because of circles like this.

Where I live, far from the always-warm weather of Silicon Valley, we have these things called "Snow Emergencies." In order to allow plowing, we have to move our cars around to different streets, or the other side of streets. If you can't just get in the car and drive it, that's kind a of a pain to do with software. The same is true of a lot of short trips, like from the driveway to your street, or for that matter, to move the car so it's on the other side of the driveway.

And all of these issues are avoided if you can just drive the damn car, even if it has a self-driving mode. The "trap" then becomes trivial. The software doesn't even have to figure it out, because all you have to do is grab the wheel and drive off. It really is the best solution all around.

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