“I was in love with KITT from Knight Rider when I was younger,” says Wazina Zondon, a sexuality educator and trainer based in New York City.
In the 1980s, Knight Rider was the quintessential nostalgic look at how we perceived artificial intelligence if it was something other than a computer or a robot.
THE SEX OF YOUR CAR
“I never really knew what sex KITT was,” Zondon adds. “To me it wasn’t a man or a woman. It just was. And I loved it.”
The abbreviation KITT stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand and was embodied within a 1982 Pontiac Trans- Am. The show starred David Hasselhoff who drove (occasionally) and was KITT’s crime-fighting partner.
“Artificial intelligence’s sexual identity could easily be said to be a transgender non-binary,” Zondon explains. “That’s what I assume KITT’s was.” Non-binary is also known as genderqueer and is a catch-all category for gender identities that are neither all masculine nor all feminine.
“In order to know the sex of AI it is important to note its imprint. Who did it primarily learn from?” says Clive Pearson, the CEO of Qualex Consulting Services in Miami, Florida. “AI doesn’t necessarily have to become a mirror of its creator. So if the developer is a man, it doesn’t have to act like one. AI would take on the sexual identity or identities of the data that feeds it.”
Why try to identify the sexual identity of AI?
Pearson explains: “Would customers respond better to the sexuality of a bot or AI?
“Does it increase engagement? Does prejudice come into play?”
To know how an AI identifies itself allows one to predict its future behaviour.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
If your autonomous car while driving encounters children suddenly running across the road just before you enter a tunnel, would your car swerve to protect the children and hit the side of the tunnel to potentially kill you? Or would it hit them?
What would a man do if he was driving and this happened? Would it be any different if a woman was driving?
The future of car selling autonomous cars will be fixated on this dilemma. The autonomous car salesman and saleswoman will be selling the ‘bond’ between you and car more than its features, looks and speed. It would be more akin to matchmaking.
The gender attachment to a physical car would have a place in the act of autonomous car sales. Test driving a car would be like having a date with a car. Does it get you? Does gender identity resonate with you?
More than auto repair shops, there might also arise a time when autonomous vehicle ‘attitude adjustment’ shops pop up to tweak the ‘bond’ between the owner and passengers of the car.
Of course, these will null and void insurance policies if discovered and these illegal data science shops would increase the correlation of decision- making towards those on the inside of the car than those on the outside.
Those that get caught could face potential blacklisting as future autonomous car customers.
This is similar to currently buying a cutting-edge smartphone say in the USA and having a hacker ‘crack it’ to be used in Asia. It null and voids the warranty and occasionally ‘bricks’ the phone from being useful.
SUPERSTAR CARS NEVER KILLED ANYONE
Er, um, with the exception of Stephen King’s Christine because she was jealous.
As a child, my favourite Disney movie featured Herbie the Love Bug.
Herbie was a 1969 Volkswagen Bug or Beetle that would ‘bond’ with his owner, sometimes even getting jealous of potential new cars, and remarkably even for being a Volkswagen Bug be able to win car races—including the Monte Carlo Rally. Herbie was an autonomous car that loved to improvise. In the original movie, Herbie was cut in two and won first and third place in the same race.
But never in the series of films did Herbie have to make a decision to keep the driver alive or safe over others.
In the future, if an accident happens that kills or injures a passenger or driver, it might ‘psychologically’ block that owner from purchasing that brand again.
In contrast, to win over new owners or extended family members, the AI in autonomous vehicles might learn new tricks or learn patterns that appease humans. For example, the AI could offer a babysitting mode to watch young kids as their parent goes into a store to pick something up, or a pet-sitting mode that would allow the car to regulate its temperature and soothe nervous canines.
Keys would not be needed. The car would identify the driver approaching it and just open its doors.
Or just like in Knight Rider, or by booking a ride-share on your mobile, you talk into your Apple Watch and it comes to fetch you. Or if you are in danger, your car comes to save the day.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Which brings up another dilemma—how long would the ‘life’ of a car last? If you have tweaked the AI engine of your autonomous vehicle to know your perfect car temperature, to know your favourite type of music, the best driving routes, and have complete trust in it keeping you and your family safe against all others, would you want to buy another car with another AI soul and start all over again?
What about used cars? Would you trust them if their AI was trained by other families? Would you always be sceptical of why the car still has its old AI soul in it? Maybe like a rescue dog or cat, its owners dropped it off because they couldn’t deal with it anymore.
As drivers and passengers are different from household to household, will some choose to keep the existing ‘soul’ or reboot with a ‘newborn’?
Is it cheaper to keep the existing one?
Autonomous cars and their ‘deep-learning souls’ could be passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation much like the family name. Autonomous cars could be the keepers of family histories. For example, discussing while on autopilot to captive children the trips their parents took before they were born.
This trait of automatic protection is both motherly and fatherly at the same time. It’s an automatic sparing mechanism used to save you from a situation.
In Knight Rider, KITT was not the only autonomous vehicle. There had been one prior called KARR, Knight Automated Roving Robot, but had been deactivated and put into storage because its primary objective was nefarious: self-preservation.
Eventually, for a season finale, Michael Knight and KITT were forced to battle KARR to survive.
After KITT deflected a laser bolt from KARR, both cars hit turbo boost and ignited in a mid-air explosion. When the smoke cleared, KITT survived.
All that was left of KARR were burning remnants of a bumper and a tyre.
To quote Isaac Asimov in his short story, Runaround, the three Rules of Robotics state that:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
KITT reaffirmed the primary objectives above and saved the life of Michael Knight.
That’s one of the million and one reasons why a non-binary transgender AI is a man’s/woman’s best friend.
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