AutoDriver in the house
Today, driving to Santa Barbara Honda for a repair, I realized: I'm not driving the car. My conditioning is. Call it AutoDriver.
AutoDriver is probably a good thing because I don't think that I'll ever be competent to drive a car without some automation that can handle the myriad details. But still. It's not me. It's AutoDriver. A conditioned agent.
I'm never going to get rid of conditioning. It's necessary. But I do want to spend more time awake, and not entirely on autopilot.
Since I'm well conditioned to stay on autopilot, my challenge is waking up at least enough to realize that I'm on autopilot, then to either stay awake and watch the conditioned autopilot at work, or better, to find a way to improve my conditioning. If I could condition myself to wake up more regularly, that would be pretty sweet. In the meantime, I cope.
This morning, I started doing something that I've been doing from time-to time recently. Improving AutoDriver. And then I spent some time improving my conditioned writer, while writing this. Back to AutoDriver.
My AutoDriver, like everyone's conditioned driver, started out incompetent, as all conditioned agents do. Over time it improved. I probably made most of the improvements when I was in my late teens and early 20's, learning how to drive, then learning how to drive under increasingly more demanding circumstances: on unfamiliar roads, on snow and ice, while tired, and so on. My demanding circumstances never qualified me to write an essay like PJ O'Rourke's "How to Drive Fast on Drugs, While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed, and Not Spill Your Drink," but in those risk-taking years I challenged myself so that I was able to drive very fast under one or more of O'Rourke's forms of cognitive impairment. I'm not saying which.
I's probably overstating things to say "I made improvements to AutoDriver." It's more likely that another agent, say AutoOptimizer, made most of the improvements to my AutoDriver. But improvements are largely over because the brain is lazy. Once a performance standard is set the brain does the minimum needed to meet the standard. As you get older the driving standard drops. I no longer have to get anywhere super-fast. So I slow down because that's easier than being alert, and much preferable to getting in an accident. I don't think I'm unusual. Old people are inclined to gradually slow down, rather than drive themselves to improve their skills in the face of hardware decline. And thank goodness for that!
I do make adjustments. Each time something unusual happens -- a threat because of someone else's driving, or a mistake due to my own deteriorating skills, or just due to chance -- I'll wake up enough to make a small correction, and go back to sleep. If the Optimizer is on the job maybe I don't need to wake up at all. Aging has resulted in an increasing number of such errors due to CPU degradation, IO faults, and the like. I still drive well enough to not scare myself or my wife, my co/pilot and usual passenger. At least one of my daughters has told me that driving with me is a scary experience for them, but maybe that's because they're wusses, and not because of my bad driving.
On the trip that I'm on right now (I mean physically, across the country, not metaphorically, through life) I've been deliberately practicing one of my driving skills: staying in lane. I don't know how good I used to be at staying in lane, but my wife started remarking whenever I seemed to be drifting to one edge of the lane or the other -- not far enough to trigger the noise-making devices that many highway departments have installed to warn drivers of lane change, but close enough. So I've started spot-checking my lane position more precisely, by noting where the left line marker intersects my field of view -- ideally just a bit to the right of the point where the bottom of the windshield intersects the frame of the car. Over the course of the trip I've gotten better, both by my own measurement and by a somewhat reduced number of remarks from my co-pilot/passenger.
Meanwhile I continue to work on the knotty problem of deeply entrenched conditioning. Trying to be conscious and aware of what is going on, not just doing stuff.
I think it's one of the more worthwhile things that I can do.
But it's not easy.
Written by me, but with lots of assistance from MikeSim. Or more likely written by MikeSim, with occasional tweaks by me.