Whether it’s real or not

I know a lot of cynics will say it’s a political ploy, but this is a pretty powerful message: https://www.good.is/articles/lifelong-gop-likes-aca

Regardless of whether this guy is telling the truth, or if it’s a clever bit of political marketing, I know that the ACA helped a good friend of ours – perhaps even saved her life. Before, her pre-existing condition prevented her from getting insurance and the surgery she needed, and she was pretty much wasting away. It’s definitely not perfect, and our system’s still basically screwed up, but it’s a little less screwed up now that people who need help can get it.
What we need now is not a repeal, but a strengthening of the law, improvements in the ways insurance raise premiums, in the way data can and must be shared among providers, and in the way that states provide Medicaid expansion.

Driverless Cars

I was listening to this story on NPR today on my drive home from work, and the reporter said something like 30,000 deaths [a year, I assume] are from car accidents, 95% of which are attributable at least in part to driver error, and wouldn’t it be nice if driverless car technology could help reduce or eliminate all those deaths. Now, I don’t know how fuzzy his statistics are, but in general I agree.

But that’s where it gets interesting – this goes from solving a technological problem to more of an existential question about what freedoms and responsibilities we are willing to relinquish. Ideally, driverless cars would create a traffic network free of congestion or collision. However we know that machines are only as error-free as the people who program them, and that sometimes they are simply unreliable. That would mean that even in a world where computers control all traffic, some percentage of deaths would still occur. The question is – what is our threshold for computer-related deaths? From our 30,000 deaths per year baseline, would we accept 5,000 computer-fault deaths a year? 10,000? 20,000?

I think there is something in our nature that abhors a reality in which all of our personal responsibility and ability to react is taken away from us, even if lives can be saved. It could be argued that given the choice between driver and driverless, if the driverless option on average produced just one less death a year, then it would be preferable.

And then there’s the issue of car insurance. How would that work?