The real threat from AI

A Friday Silly Short on a machine that nags me

I have two cars, a small one and a big one. My small car is a 900 kg golf-cart that sways unnervingly on windy sea-link. My big car’s like a refined Tata 407. I could survive getting sideswiped by a water lorry. Yet, I love my small car and viscerally hate the big one. Because one lets me be, while the other nags the crap out of me.

My small car is missing a rear view mirror (fine, I misjudged a barricade). Mr Murphy ensured that its working wiper is on the passenger side. It smells strange. Aircon gives up in summer. Remote keyless entry is no longer remote or keyless. When I finally get around to filling up tyres, at least one is at half of where it started off. I once traumatised my 6-year old by driving 5 km with zero bars on the fuel gauge (I had to let him know why I turned off A/C). Yet, my little one never complains (car, not kid). It indulges me like a grandparent.

My big car’s too smart for its own good. Literally. I’ve barely put it in gear when the reverse-camera sternly admonishes me to pay attention to complete surroundings. Then it circles through a series of fault-finding messages: check key batteries, rear left indicator, low fuel, tyre pressure. It nags with great specificity, telling me that rear left tyre pressure is 160. My first reaction is “How the f&$k did it get from 32 to 160”. I have to spend an hour on the internet understanding finer points of kilo-pascal vs pounds-per-square-inch. With two bars left on the fuel gauge (or as I call it, half full), it starts flashing a warning that looks like an exclamation point inside a circle, as if aliens got interrupted midway through their crop circle by an angry farmer with a shotgun. Even for someone with top-decile passive aggressive skills, this is a gruelling test. It makes me feel as inadequate as a state-board kid on the first day of IIT coaching. It snatches away one of life’s greatest joys - letting little problems fester.

In a realistic sequel to Terminator, Skynet won’t nuke us to death. It will nag us to death.