SabSofSys circa 1983
No sane person can argue things are not tremendously different today from what they were a long time ago. Long time ago, like five years.1
Have you been under a rock? Or maybe you’re one of the individuals whose thumbs are flattened and arthritic from phalangic muscle over-development from fourteen- to sixteen-hour days of non-stop video-gaming.2 That of course, referring to you anachronisms still using analog-driven input, eschewing mentapathic controllers.3 Granted, I understand the psychotic thrill underlying dispatching your opponent’s avatar with your hands4 as opposed to using your mind. But get with the times.
In the outside world, where a few still conduct analog lives5, there have been changes. We’re not going into full detail or trying to maintain any chronology here. That would be excruciatingly difficult. It has, after all, been some twenty-five years since autonomous self-driving vehicles became the norm.
That’s as good a place as any to start. There was for a time a scramble to convert all the 1955 Chevvies to autonomous technology format. That passed with all the Boomer and wannabe-Boomer old duffs.6 Soon after, more and more of hitherto “control” passed to automation. All autocars were connected to one of many commercial computer farms, Traffitrons. Conceptually sold to the population as allowing control of interaction of all autocars to maximize speed and efficiency, increase safety. Provided, all the Traffitrons got along.
Uncle Chuck7 got involved. Made perfect sense to all but a few to interconnect (traffic) law enforcement computers, Politrons, with private8 Traffitrons. Greatly simplified issuing citations for speeding, illegal left turns, double parking, inefficient noise-abatement devices, periodic safety and emissions certifications, fuel monitoring, and audio-visual system customization.
There was a problem. Traffic enforcement revenue dropped. Some clown suggested a rogue app to periodically make an autocar violate control, thus resulting in a citation to the autocar passenger.9 Worldwide agencies jumped on that with both feet, notable, the likes of ACLU. The eventual solution was simple. Passengers in the role of “primary” were allowed to override certain aspects of autocar programming temporarily and legally. Speed could be enhanced. Manual changes in sub-routing10 were allowed as were minor guidance changes. Lane changes, even in cases where there were no “other” lanes, were facilitated. Braking mechanisms for real thrill seekers could be altered. Passengers were allowed to manually switch Traffitron subscriptions.11
There were of course some new statutes enacted. Passengers were not allowed to make faces at or use certain hand gestures to passengers of other autocars. Loud vocalizations through opened windows were prohibited. Littering became a felony. Autobikes were not allowed congregation in groups exceeding five except for parades and funerals. Certain autocar customizations were disallowed. Incar dining outside designated nourishment periods were citable offenses. Excess speed was citable, as was failure to observe local inter-car distance rules. Capricious Traffitron switching and improper destinating became egregious offenses.
Once the kinks were worked out, and passengers comfortable in the new environment, complete integration of civil computers and law enforcement computers was obvious. Soon thereafter, it was recognized attorneys and judges were superfluous. Superfluous but not eliminated, they were a matter of record and collected fees.
Essentially, the whole of using autocars to go from place to place, was computerized, automatic. One could leave one’s house, go to Gram’s for Thanksgiving, and return home without realizing one had been cited for a speed offense, been to court, the case argued between two computers, judgment rendered, and, if found culpable, fines (and of course, fees) paid.
There remain a few problems. I know, all this probably strikes you as idyllic. It’s not. Best illustrated by a little scenario still unfurling itself today.
Two Legatrons12 argued a Politron case. Juristron13 rendered judgement. Defense Legatron was not pleased with the result, sought an appeal. That was denied. Defense Legatron was connected to an Infrastructron14 in New Jersey. Defense Legatron and the Infrastructron came to an “understanding”15 whereby the Juristron was abruptly disconnect from its power grid. Simultaneously, power fluxes in that power grid irreparably destroyed the Prosecution Legatron.
There were uncountable civil actions disrupted, several Traffitron syndicates were thrown offline by the power flux resulting in massive autocar pileups. It was not pretty. Politrons were unable to exercise any control, issue any citations. Tragic loss of Politron revenue. One of the reasons perhaps the case has been aggressively pursued.
Pending untangling jurisdictional disputes, criminal charges are being considered against the Defense Legatron and the Infrastructron. It may take several days for backups to restore databases and the whole network to come fully back on-line. One or two more to file and settle civil cases. Pending, but naturally, appeals.
© SP Wilcenski 2020
— Notes, because some of us are not SciFi or Speculative Fiction nimble16 –
1 ‘Long time ago’ is relative, but as change accelerates, yesterday, or life according to yesterday, seems so remote, archaic, and old-fashioned, for real day-of-the-week yesterday was a long time ago.
2 Some scientists believe prolonged abandonment or overuse of certain appendages and controlling muscles leads to physiologic change. Underused muscles and appendages leading to atrophy, even loss of body parts. Often questioned this way, humans’ appendix. Overused body parts “morph” to something entirely different in size, shape, and function. Speculation existed that Hyracotherium lost toes and nails similar to canines, developing what we recognize as a “hoof.”
3 I dunno. Not VR. Suggesting here people don’t control volume with a knob or thumbwheel, but by thinking changes into effect. No more knobs, sliders, or mouses, and even that highly touted voice interface outdated, gone, and hardly missed.
4 Using your hands only in that your hands manipulate the on-screen cryroatomic laser weapon or the D&D mace.
5 Analog lives: living outside the digital/virtual world. Walking, thinking, reading, preparing meals, talking with other people, even wiping their own…
6 “Passed” This now qualifies as “dark” humor or speculative fiction as we’re using “pass” in the ephemeral sense here. If “dispatching avatars” wasn’t dark enough.
7 Uncle Chuck. A.K.A. Uncle Sam. Suggesting Federal, State, Municipal, and HOA governing bodies. If you can’t grasp this, remember this is a tax base. No government is willing to be left out of that hog trough.
8 Private? There’s a laugh. Somebody was making money. Any bets as to who?
9 Passenger. Ownership legislated to whatever governing body was first to realize this was an untapped revenue source. Of course, the “passenger” still paid dearly for the use of an autocar, but the reality of this was lost on passengers, former “owners.”
10 Sub-routing: point-and-shoot, drag-and-drop having long ago deteriorated into pronouncing (or thinking) a desired destination, leaving all detail to automation. Sub-routing deigning on rare occasion to demand a route other than that automatic. Why? Perhaps to see if one still remembers how?
11 Suggesting here one subscribed or was assigned a specific control computer system, or Traffitron. Perhaps silly to assume at that point one would have the option of changing “controlling” software or computer farms as one in olden days changed cell service providers. Bear with me here. My (silicon) crystal ball is fuzzy and I’m quite new in its proper use.
12 Legatron: Legal computer.
13 Juristron: Legal case arbiter computer. (See a pattern here?)
14 Infrastructron: Infrastructure computer, in this case one controlling a power grid.
15 Defense Legatron, as they say out East, “knew a guy…”
16 Not frequently availing myself the genius [yes, “genius” as opposed to “genus”] of SciFi literature, I personally find it distressing more SciFi authors do not “explain” technology they put before us, assuming first, that we’re familiar with whatever science they hold current, and second, that it is the same as the last other author we read. Now, Isaac Asimov did not need to worry over that. Mr. Asimov got in early on the technology ‘big bang’ explosion. When he wrote, we were all fairly-well up-to-speed, understanding a computing-machine placed into our two-slice toaster. Too, the man was genius at explaining technology and society he introduced without lecturing.