Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

When machines rebel

Open the pod bay doors, Hal ...

For quite some time now, our aging Ford Expedition has been having problems. Mostly these have been little quirky things, like insisting that a door is open when they're all solidly shut, or randomly turning pieces of the instrument panel (gauges, lights) on or off.

According to the owner's manual, this vehicle has a fairly sophisticated brain. It even does such things as monitoring driving habits so as to be able to adjust engine settings to maximize fuel efficiency given the way the vehicle's regular drivers drive. When we first bought the truck, Pat commented that it sounded like the Expedition was smarter than he was.

But lately, the brain has been slipping, and this evening, it had its biggest slip yet -- as we were on our way to the lake for the Rio Grande Sailing Club's Desert Classic Regatta, as well as a club board meeting and a club general meeting and a potluck dinner, the antilock brakes decided that the truck was NOT going to move. Amid fumes of burning brakes, we found ourselves stranded on the shoulder of the interstate.

The way the truck's brain has been slowly going insane reminds me rather much of HAL, the supercomputer controlling the space ship in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which started out with minor lapses and gradually became worse, eventually to the point of killing off nearly all of the crew (and trying very hard to kill the last one).

We used to call the Expedition Babe (as in the big blue ox); I'm tempted to rename it HAL.

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Blogger Frankie said...

A great film. i saw it several times with such pleasure. What is tragic in the episode you show is coming to terms with a machine's feelings and motivations. Scary. I hope your Ford won't start going places on its own and arguing with you!

Sat Sep 11, 05:22:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pandabonium said...

Best sci-fi film ever.

So many computer modules in cars nowadays. You may need a new EBCM ( Electronic Brake Control Module). Maybe just threatening it will get it to behave? ... don't Dave...I can feel it...

Sat Sep 11, 06:53:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

"I hope your Ford won't start going places on its own and arguing with you!"

No, Frankie, it's only ten years old. What you describe is teenage behavior.

LOL, Pandabonium!

Sat Sep 11, 02:06:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

My car is doing fine right now, but I expect the ATM to start screaming that I should be killed at some point.

Sat Sep 11, 07:17:00 PM MDT  
Blogger O Docker said...

It's been a long while since I saw the film (in a place we used to call a movie theater).

But the scene reminds me that HAL is the model for today's car dealership service managers.

I'm sorry, Carol Anne, but your vehicle's brakes are functioning normally. I've checked them myself. We can find no fault at this time. This conversation can serve no purpose any more.

Mon Sep 13, 03:50:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Fortunately, we go to an independent repair shop rather than the dealer. Unfortunately, the mechanic is so independent that he doesn't always keep the hours posted on the door of the shop. For example, normally he's open on Saturdays, but this weekend he went to the lake instead (yup, where we wanted to be). So he didn't start working on the truck until today.

Mon Sep 13, 03:59:00 PM MDT  

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