Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Killer Technology Developed

There have been studies done that prove that texting while driving is extremely unsafe.  And it's - luckily - been quite easy to spot a texting driver.  Yet they still do it, because I've watched dozens in the last month or two, swerving ever so slightly, eyes downcast and some even hoisting the phone up to dash level to text, not really realising or caring that they can't focus on the close-up screen and the distant road conditions at the same time.  It's a law of optics.  

Then too it's been shown that even just having a conversation while driving can impair driving skill by as much as a good session at the local pub.  And it's a bit harder to spot a driver with a bluetooth in their ear, but they still do that, too.  And again, if you look for the telltale lapses of attention, you can usually tell which drivers are doing it.

Even pedestrians are not safe, with news suggesting that maybe having your music player's earpieces in and drowning out ambient noises makes you more prone to having accidents.  While walking.  For chrissakes.  This isn't obvious to the people wearing their music?

Let's face it - people who multitask are actually very bad at it.  We're not yet built to multitask.  But that of course doesn't stop people doing it in droves, does it?

It's also becoming more and more difficult to spot the once obvious signs - drivers with their cellphone up at eye level or up to their ear are now able to use speech to text, inbuilt handsfree systems, and any number of other technological advances to enable them to become a little bit more unsafe.  More power to them, as long as they take each other out and not me.

Or they can take out:

The pedestrians, who once upon a time you could tell were attention-impaired because they were hauling a boom box on their shoulders.  Then they had reasonably visible headphones, and now they are a great deal harder to spot except for the white wires and their tendency to be found under buses, trains, and other vehicles with texting drivers...

Now there's a game changer.  A technology that will make it less necessary to spot the distracted.  Because they will be the "old school of distracted," and several orders of magnitude better than the people wearing this technology, which you won't be able to spot at all...

Look - I know I'm a bit of an evangelist for Augmentation, and I will always be.  The more we develop, the more we are finding that augmentation is convenient and in some cases (artificial hearts, kidneys, etc) even vital.

I think people have an amazing capacity to assimilate this kind of augmentation into their daily lives, as witnessed by - well, as witnessed by the number of people who safely manage to integrate hands-free calls, car music systems, iPods, and making calls while walking, into their daily lives.  

Yes - for every dickhead out there putting everyone's life and limb at risk, there are a few dozen that either choose an appropriate time to perform such attention-sapping behaviours, or else have managed to train themselves to perform multiple functions without significant deterioration of their survival skillsets.

It's easy enough to train people to integrate multiple information streams at once, and manage to coordinate their actions at the same time.  It's a matter of teaching them how to assign attention to every stream, assign priorities, and then act on the highest priority inputs first.

The Defense forces are able to train soldiers to do that, generally by brute force repetition, but more and more by giving training designed to reinforce the attention/priority/action cycles.  And they've been doing a smashingly good job at it, too - they can keep a soldier alive on the battlefield while listening to orders, watching the situation, doing quite complex tasks with their weapons and equipment, and even managing to breathe...

So I'm suggesting that perhaps rather than making it illegal to use a phone while driving or walking, let's make it a licensed activity.  As part of the driver training, teach new drivers to deal with distractions, assign priorities, and carry out the relevant actions.  Teach pedestrians how to maintain watchfulness while using the technology.  Then make it one of the things they must be tested on if they want their license to include that activity.

You can't eliminate the technology, and pretending that by legislating you can make it go away is just fairy dust.  This kind of stuff should be being taught at school level, and reinforced at every level-up people go through.  Learning to drive a train?  Then dealing with cellphones and text messages should be an integral part of that training.

Because no matter what, you already know that in two - three years you'll have the first people walking around with these contacts in and playing augmented real life pacman among the traffic...

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