Monday, 13 November 2017

wildlife crossing

With our yard overwhelmed once a year with toads creeping to the pond to spawn, this selection of speculative articles on how artificial intelligence and driverless vehicles might be programmed or one day on their own come to hold Nature in deference or reverence really resonated with us.  We will volunteer with others of course to help ferry them across but there is still an awful lot of carnage in the single lane road that separates the woody hills from the valley.
What if autonomous cars and lorries meant not only a sharp decline in the number of human deaths but also meant the end of roadkill? We imagine, given the relatively neat and tame environment of the streets, that learning to recognise erratic and wild animals—and surely this feature is already figured into the algorithms with stray pets as potential hazards—would present a big challenge but perhaps the machines will out-perform their operators. Though dodging deer and boar and livestock won’t necessarily restore the balance of the natural world that we’ve thrown into disarray and there’s even the potential for more suffering with more creatures crowded into less habitat, the idea that cars might respect animal right-of-way by taking different routes to avoid migratory or breeding paths was quite intriguing. Like the trolley problem of computer ethics, future vehicles might need the hint, the protocol that maxmising the number of lives saved outweighs human convenience or profit but once taught this directive, the lesson is not prone to being countermanded by greed or laziness.