Waymo Do You See Me?

I recently moved back to San Francisco after a too long time away. My neighborhood has one the oldest historic blocks in the City.  It was certainly built for foot traffic.

A lifelong preference for walking has brought me discoveries and insights that aren't likely to have happened while driving.  Curious turns and anomalies on foot build a sense of all the others who've traced this same path through time.

Pedestrian sensations also give me a comparison to how I feel when driving a vehicle, a machine made to be insulating, controlling, powerful - and even a potential weapon. The walker in me knows the vulnerability of having to trust in the goodwill of random vehicular traffic.

It's up to pedestrians to make safety checks. Look both ways before stepping into a crosswalk.  Make no assumptions about the driver's attention/intentions. Get confirmation that you've been seen.

Living in the AI whirlwinds of San Francisco is an immersive preview of unintended consequences.  Trust may be the most common issue raised in discussions around Artificial Intelligence.  Responses usually involve assurances that misleading "hallucinations" will eventually disappear. But little has been said of how an eroding sense of trust increases alienation in general. I got a flash of that erosion while walking in my historic neighborhood. 

Late at night, alone on Jackson Street near Hotaling Place, I stepping into an intersection as an empty self-driving car turned and came toward me. My immediate reaction was to trust in a fundamental human act of mutual acknowledgment. 

With the wave of my hand, a wave of absolute "aloneness" washed over me.  There was no one to respond when I signaled, "Waymo, do you see me?"

The vehicle did stop but I felt an impact just the same...the meaninglessness of my own human training data.