The Impact of Self-Driving Cars

GoogleCar-selfdriving

Copyright Ed and Eddie (Creative Commons)

While many of us would like self-driving cars to relieve us of the hassles and complaints about driving, have you thought about what impact self-driving cars would have on society?

Here are just a few of the things that could theoretically come out of wide spread adoption of self-driving cars:

  • Loss of city revenue.  Many larger cities rely upon traffic tickets to bolster city coffers.  There is a small town in the US where over 90% of its revenue is as a result of traffic tickets for people that speed through its jurisdiction.  Self-driving cars could drive at the speed limit and take away that revenue.
  • Fewer automotive repair shops.  If self-driving cars are safer, and there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t be, there would be fewer accidents.  With fewer accidents there would be fewer repair shops around to fix the accidents.
  • Fewer large automobile manufacturers.  If self-driving cars don’t get into accidents there would be fewer reasons to buy a new car.  You thought the automotive manufacturers were having a problem a number of years ago?  Just wait as boutique car manufacturers become all the rage.  If you are going to own a single car for a decade you want it to be what you want so the mass produced car will fade away as boutique manufacturers build custom ordered cars.
  • Automobile cooperatives.  Uber, but for families and other groups.  If my car will self-drive, it could drop me off at work and go home to take my wife shopping.  Or perhaps a group of people share the expense of a car and they book time with their own vehicle using a tool like Uber.
  • Taxi companies go under.  If you have a self-driving car, why not just add it to the CarPool and other people can use it while you are at work, or sleeping.  Much like Uber, but completely automated.
  • Long haul truckers go under. The companies that do long haul trucking will not go under, but who needs a human that has to rest every ten hours when you can automate the driving and get goods delivered faster and cheaper.

If you think about it a self-driving car is just more than an automobile that doesn’t require a human to go from point A to point B, it is a fundamental shift in how North American society has oriented itself around the car.  It is theoretically, one of the biggest shifts in society that we have ever experienced, or will ever experience.


What is a browser?

web browsers

Copyright Sean MacEntee (Creative Commons)

Ask yourself this question:  what is a browser?

And now watch this video from April 30, 2009 where very few people understood the difference between a browser and a search engine.  Do you think that this would change if the same question was asked today?  Another video from 2009 answers the question of what is a browser.

To be honest, while I think the number of people who could answer that question properly would probably go up, I’m not sure that it is as high as it should be.  (OK, the guy that uses AOL is never going to get it so let’s not go there.)

As a society there is a tendency for us to use technology without actually understanding technology.  And, I guess in some respects that isn’t all that bad.  People don’t know how a car actually works, but they can drive one.  They may not know how an FM radio works, but they can still listen to music / sports / talk.  At some point the technology becomes so familiar and commonplace that how it works fades into the background.

People photocopy things all the time but probably never realize the technology that goes into the end product.  A smartphone contains technology which would have cost millions 25 years ago and yet people carry it around in their pocket, or purse on their belt.  They don’t need to know how the technology works, just how to use it.

Unfortunately, I think that is a detriment in the IT business.  The people who know to build things the best have a deep understanding of the technology so that they know the ramifications of their decisions.  They know the trade offs that need to be made in order for the correct decision to rise to the top.

When I went to school we learned how a mainframe worked so that when we developed applications for the mainframe we knew the impact of our choices.  Developing for the PC?  I built a number of computers from the ground up, understanding what pieces were required for each task so that I knew how my choices would affect the overall system.  Based upon that knowledge I knew how different application designs would behave.  Building for the web?  The same deal.  If you know how things work you can build better applications.

Why do we sleep?

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Copyright RelaxingMusic (Creative Commons)

Have you ever wondered why you sleep?  Or why you need more or less sleep than those around you?  The concept that you need eight hours of sleep is, well, inherently faulty.  Everyone is different.  Everyone needs a different amount of sleep.  As a general rule when you are going through huge transitions in your life (physical – being a teenager, or mental – getting married) then you are going to need more sleep.  But beyond that, a stipulation that you need a certain amount of sleep just doesn’t work.

So, what is sleep?  Why do we sleep?  I know that I feel much better when I’ve had “enough” sleep (which for me right now is around 7 – 7.5 hours) but, so what?

The whole reason around why people sleep is still, to be honest, an unknown.  Oh, sure, there are guesses as to why we sleep, but all we really know at the moment are the impacts of enough sleep and not enough sleep.

Enough Sleep.  If you have enough sleep studies show that you seem to heal better/faster than when you are tired.  Your immune system function better and you are less susceptible to colds, flus and other minor ailments.  People who get enough sleep seem to have an adjusted metabolism so that it is more difficult for them to gain weight.  Indeed grabbing a power nap in the middle of the day seems to help with remembering things, particularly non-related items.

Indeed, if you need to remember something, grab a nap, not a coffee, at least that is a study done for the National Institute of Health in the U.S. concluded.  Studies have shown that a 10 minute nap seems to be optimal if you are trying to recover from a sleep deprived night.  But if you need some serious extra juice for an exam or something like that, then you need some REM sleep, but that takes some serious time to get set up, so, when in doubt, grab a 10 minute nap.

Not Enough Sleep.  For the most part, kind of the opposite of enough sleep:  higher propensity for obesity, depression, diabetes, lack of energy, grogginess, short term memory lapses.  After a while, we start to hallucinate.   Truckers have a term – “seeing the black dog” – that talks about how if you see a black dog on the road, it’s time to pull over and take a nap.

Sleep deprivation also causes stress hormones to increase.  Adrenaline flows through the system and cortisol increases, your blood pressure rises, and you generally go a little bit “off”.  Fatal Familial Insomnia is a genetic issue that can cause people to start suffering worse and worse bouts of insomnia which, unfortunately, inevitably lead to hallucinations, delusions and death.  Yes, not enough sleep leads to death.

The longest time to stay awake?  The current documented record is 11 days 24 minutes.   Randy Gardner was a 17 year old student at the time.

But throughout all of the studies, all of the experiments that have occurred, they still haven’t really come across the reasons why we sleep and more importantly why sleeping actually helps.  I mean, the brain is still functioning, so why does sleeping help?  Are we mentally defragging our hard drive?