The Famous Tullock Spikes Thought Experiment Pertains To AI Autonomous Cars  

 The Famous Tullock Spikes Thought Experiment Pertains To AI Autonomous Cars  

By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider   

One of the most fascinating thought experiments about the safety of how we all drive our cars is the legendary “Tullock spike” idea. 

Here’s how it goes.   

Imagine that on the steering wheel of every car there was a steel spike protruding toward the driver. Upon sitting down in the driver’s seat, you would be within a fraction of an inch of the endpoint of the spike. While driving such an equipped car, you would be continually under the threat of piercing your own chest by any driving action that caused you to lurch forward in the driver’s seat.   

This is a crafty and yet quite simple device that would get your attention, and presumably remind you to drive safely. 

That is the underlying crux of the thought experiment dreamed-up by Professor Gordon Tullock of George Mason University sometime in the early 1960s. It’s mentioned in his 1962 book Calculus of Consent co-authored with James Buchanan, but others attribute the idea to Armen Alchian of UCLA. In any case, the popularity of the steel spike notion has garnered Tullock’s name. 

Would you be a safer driver if you had a steel dagger threatening your existence? It seems patently obvious that you would be.   

All of us would drive as though our lives depended upon it. Indeed, the beauty, or perhaps the ugliness of the spike concept is that you would be more conscious of the dangers involved in driving a car. The act of driving a car carries grave risks all the time, yet we enormously downplay those risks. 

Driving recklessly is easy to do.   

There is a huge mental gap between thinking about how to safely drive and the potential result of driving poorly. Those drivers that zip along on the freeway, weaving in and out of lanes, do not make a mental connection between their speed and their chaotic driving actions. While inside the bubble of a car, the outside world at times appears to be a simulation as though you are playing at driving while inside a video game or maybe inside The Matrix. 

The spike would reset that way of thinking.   

Acting as a front-and-center reminder of the dangers of driving, the abstract elements of driving safely would become exceedingly tangible. Tapping the brakes with any sudden movement would likely cause your chest to take a sharp nick from the tip of the dagger. Fortunately, not enough of a bleeder to do full harm. Nonetheless, those occasional cuts and pokes would add to the reminder of what happens when you aren’t driving safely.   

On the surface, this steel spike seems quite telling.   

Though if you try to carry this thought experiment to further mental reaches, the whole thing begins to somewhat unravel. Suppose you are a really safe driver and another car careens out of nowhere and rams into your car. There was nothing


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