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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
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Self-Driving Issues
If most people turn into murderers all of a sudden, we'll need to push out a firmware update or something.
Title text: If most people turn into murderers all of a sudden, we'll need to push out a firmware update or something.


Cueball explains being worried about self-driving cars, noting that it may be possible to fool the sensory systems of the vehicles. This is a common concern with AIs; since they think analytically and have little to no capability for abstract thought, they can be fooled by things a human would immediately realize is deceptive.

However, Cueball quickly assumes that his argument actually doesn't hold up when comparing AI drivers to human drivers, as both rely on the same guidance framework. Human drivers follow signs and road markings, and must obey the laws of the road just as an AI must. Therefore, an attack on the road infrastructure could impact both AIs and humans. However, humans and AIs are not equally vulnerable. For example, a fake sign or a fake child could appear to a human as an obvious fake but fool an AI. A creative attacker could put up a sign with CAPTCHA-like text that would be readable by humans but not by an AI.

Cueball further wonders why, in this case, nobody tries to fool human drivers as they might try to fool an AI, but White Hat and Megan point out the most obvious answer: most road safety systems benefit from humans not actively trying to maliciously sabotage them simply to cause accidents.

The title text continues the line of reasoning, noting that if most people did suddenly become murderers, the AI might be needed to be upgraded in order to deal with the presumable increase in people trying to cause car crashes by fooling the AI - a somewhat narrowly-focused solution given that a world full of murderers would probably have many more problems than that. As Megan sees humans as a 'component' of the road safety system, it might also be suggesting a firmware update for the buggy people who have all become murderers, one that would fix their murderous ways. We are not currently at a point where we can create and apply instantaneous firmware updates for large populations; even combining all the behavioral modification tools at our disposal -- psychiatry, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, mind-altering drugs, prison, CRISPR, etc. -- is not enough to perform such a massive undertaking.


[Cueball is speaking while standing alone in a slim panel.]
Cueball: I worry about self-driving car safety features.
[In a frame-less panel it turns out that Cueball is standing between White Hat and Megan, holding his arms out towards each of them, while he continues to speak.]
Cueball: What's to stop someone from painting fake lines on the road, or dropping a cutout of a pedestrian onto a highway, to make cars swerve and crash?
[Zoom in on Cueball's head as he continues to contemplate the situation holding a hand to his chin, while looking in White Hat's direction. Megan replies from off-panel behind him.]
Cueball: Except... those things would also work on human drivers. What's stopping people now?
Megan (off-panel): Yeah, causing car crashes isn't hard.
[Zoom back out to show all three of them again.]
White Hat: I guess it's just that most people aren't murderers?
Cueball: Oh, right. I always forget.
Megan: An underappreciated component of our road safety system.


The title text was published with a typo: "murderers" was misspelled as "muderers."

The theme of human fear and overreaction to the advent of more or less autonomous robots also features in 1955: Robots.

Self-driving cars is a recurring subject on xkcd.

A variation on the idea that humans are mentally "buggy" is suggested in 258: Conspiracy Theories, though in that case divine intervention is requested to implement the "firmware upgrade".

This comic appeared one day after the Electronic Frontier Foundation co-released a report titled The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation. The report cites subversions and mitigations of AI such as ones used in self-driving cars. However, the report tends toward overly technical means of subversion. Randall spoofs the tenor of the report through his mundane subversions and over-the-top mitigations.

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