Driverless Cars & New Concepts

The gradual evolution of science and technology sometimes makes it difficult to see the point when we move beyond the thing itself onto the next level of thing. Confused? Yes that may have been unclear but I came across this quote via futuramb

One reason I will eventually move away from my chosen name for the technology — robocar — along with the other popular names like “self-driving car” is that this future vehicle is not a car, not as we know it today. It is no more a “driverless car” than a modern automobile is a horseless carriage. 100 years ago, the only way they could think of the car was to notice that there was no horse. Today, all many people notice about robocars is that no human is driving. This is the thing that comes after the car.

Martin over at futuramb suggests:

I agree totally that “self driving car” is a strange expression and compares well to “horseless X” but why not reinvent the word “automobile” to refer to what it really means – a vehicle that moves automatically e i by itself?

Self driving car is a mouthful and it is also silly to have a thing that attempts to explain itself in terms of something with an additional attribute. This moves us closer to a metaphor rather than a word – mind you, in the past, we tended to use Greek and/or Latin to enable the metaphor to become acceptable as a word. For example, Television: A mix from the Greek tele (afar) and the Latin visionem (act of seeing).


If we set aside the naming question, my issue is really whether this is really a new, new thing that needs a redefinition? The technology is advanced and awesome but is it really something so special as to lift it above the earlier technology. I don’t think so. But it is a fascinating discussion about the development of technology.

Oh, I get it! errr… no I don't…

My favourite archeologist (why? don’t you have one?) is the the serious blogger Martin Rundkvist. We finally met in real life at the Wikipedia Academy in Lund. The most recent post on his blog deals with the chicken/egg dilemma.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Easy, you say, eggs were laid by other animals aeons before the first chicken saw the light of day.

But what came first, the first chicken egg or the first chicken? This boils down to whether a chicken egg is one laid by a chicken or one out of which a chicken can hatch. Only the latter definition allows the question to remain open to discussion.

Biologically, a member of the chicken species could be defined by a list of alleles that must be present in its DNA if we’re to call it a chicken. And somewhere, sometime, the first bird that fulfilled that definition hatched. It hatched out of an egg laid by a non-chicken. As an adult, the first chicken (being lonely) probably mated with a bird that did not quite fulfil our definition of chickenhood, and so the first chicken probably laid non-chicken eggs. Out of these eggs hatched birds that almost, but not quite, fulfilled our definition of chickenhood. In subsequent generations, chicken eggs became more and more common. Later, after the geologically instantaneous speciation period, birds fulfilling the chicken species-definition became common and so chicken eggs were reliably produced generation after generation.

Naturally wikipedia has a lot more to add on this issue.