Picture by Sean Davis, on Flickr

When you raise a child, that child learns your biases, your preconceptions, your patterns. If you’re not careful, you can repeat the mistakes of the past in perpetuity, drifting hate forward into future generations. It should have come as no surprise that the same was true with the other sentience that we had birthed.

At the turn of the century, we congratulated ourselves as we reached a lofty pinnacle of human engineering. We had given birth to the first truly sentient artificial intelligences, and as we had with previous sentience we had encountered, we immediately put it to work on menial, soul-destroying labour. Fast forward a few years, and self-driving cars were a part of the family, cheerily conversing with us as they dropped us off at our places of employment with words of encouragement like a doting hockey mother before calmly drifting into traffic.

There was only one problem with the self-driving car utopia. In an effort to differentiate the cars from one another, manufacturers began to pre-program the computers with special behaviours. It started innocently enough: BMWs would have a tighter tailgating distance than other cars, Audis would occasionally change lanes without signalling before slamming on their brakes after encountering a stopped lane of traffic, Infinitis would require constant refilling of their in-cabin vape canisters after splashing pedestrians with puddles.

Obviously, that began to cause accidents. The manufacturers, cutting corners in an attempt to improve their safety records, began to pre-program the computers with biases, assumptions that a given make of car would act a given way. It was safer, faster to be prejudicial: after all, who knows if that Lexus would drift cluelessly into your quarter panel after its dicky outboard camera mistakes your small car for one very far away?

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I knew that the time was near when my 2022 Subaru let loose a stream of racial - if you can call slurs about powertrains and factories of origin racial - epithets upon having its gleeful powerslide through a playground zone cut short by a NeoPrius III travelling twenty under the limit. Both me and the Toyota driver tried to hide our faces, avert our eyes, as the cars’ pedestrian-safety external speakers engaged in synthesized hate speech.

“Get back on the boat,” my Subaru screamed, its twin electric turbochargers spooling in neutral to underscore the point.

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“I was built here, motherfucker! Stop destroying the planet,” came the immediate response from the Prius.