Driverless cars, robots and other technology that shouldn't work
You may not have heard about it when it happened a couple months ago but I instantly recognized it as one of the funniest news stories of the millennium. Here's the headline for you (slightly doctored by me because I was for years, after all, a professional newspaper man and headline writer):
"Fancy-pants robot run over by driverless car in Las Vegas."
For a Neanderthal like me, who doesn't even like phones and computers, it doesn't get much better than that.
Hell, I don't even get along with old-school technology, like the automobile, the cotton gin and the steam engine — so there's no way I'm gonna make peace with driverless cars and robots.
The primary reason for my deep distrust of technological advances, of course, is my sincere belief that, given even half a chance, most mechanical or high-tech devices sooner or later will fail to work.
Unlike the scientist, the tinkerer or the IT person, who always say, "That's funny, it SHOULD work," I cannot help but think (and usually manage to blurt out loud), "Actually, I'm amazed it ever worked at all."
To me, failure is the natural state of things.
So, naturally, it was no surprise to this skeptical observer that the driverless Tesla Model S traveling on Paradise Road in Las Vegas Jan. 9 crashed into the robot built by a company named Promobot designed to give out information at the Consumer Electronics Show.
I was also quite amused to hear that Oleg Kivokurtsev, Promobot development director, had no explanation for why the robot was in the road in the first place.
Of COURSE it was in the road. It's a stupid robot.
And of COURSE the driverless car ran over it (and yes, I understand there was behind the wheel a human being, who was probably texting his girlfriend or eating a sandwich or something) — it was a freakin' driverless car!
I know, I know — take a pill, Kelly. I hear myself. But I do find the events swirling around my little softball-size head overwhelming most of the time.
For example, I find it curious that everybody is changing their lives around so they can do almost everything with their phones. Paying for coffee, turning the heat on at home, even turning the lights in their house off and on.
"You know, you can get your phone to turn that overhead light on and off for you," they'll say. To which I invariably reply, "Or, I can just flip this switch right here on the wall."
I don't bother to tell them that I kinda hate my phone and that I resent always having to have it with me. Oh, sure, I admit, it's not only a telephone, but also a little computer that allows me to do so many, many convenient things, like ask it how to get to a friend's house, order things from the worldwide web or make it tell me how tall Winston Churchill was (5-foot-6, if you're wondering).
But people are such sheep! Everybody everywhere is walking around with their necks bent down, staring at their devices. And what's the practical result of that? They walk off subway platforms, into fountains and off of cliffs.
And now I hear they're on the verge of reintroducing the killer scooters to downtown Portland. Remember them last summer? You couldn't walk a block without almost getting creamed by one of those scooter operators who was just a few minutes shy of being actually checked out on the pesky devices.
Never mind that they aren't supposed to be on the sidewalk, where we human beings are trying to walk — and usually the scooterist is not wearing a helmet, which seems like a minimum of protection if you're going to navigate the actual streets, where driverless cars are constantly cruising, looking for their next helpless prey.
Mikel Kelly, who was a major misfit before he retired three-plus years ago, is now even less in step with the world around him. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, eating and yelling at people such things as "Slow down!", "Use your turn signal!" and "Get off my lawn!"