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Are Self-Driving Cars a Motion-Sickness Nightmare Waiting to Happen?
Scientists are conflicted about what causes car sickness, which may make a workaround difficult.
At first glance, the driverless car sounds great. In 2013 alone, there were 1.25 million car crash deaths worldwide. So self-driving cars, if they are as safe as we’re told, should save a lot of lives per year. There are other benefits. Drunk driving won’t be the scourge it once was. A long commute in one study, was found to damage relationships. But perhaps if one doesn’t have to drive, they can Skype with their sweetheart, instead. Commuters can avoid traffic-related stress, study, get some work done, have a cocktail, or find interesting ways to steam up the windows with a fellow passenger.
There is one evident drawback, thus far. This is yet another instance of mechanization swallowing jobs. Cab drivers and long-haul truckers better have a backup plan. Their days are numbered. As are those of Uber drivers. The problem with widespread adoption of new technology is, there are always unforeseen ramifications.
Advances in rocketry for instance, brought us missiles and the space race, Teflon, Velcro, the microwave, and even Tang. It also brought us the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, though far less considerable now than it once was. Ponder if you will, all the changes the internet has brought us, both good and bad.
So what might be the unforeseen consequences of driverless cars? That’s a thorny question you’ll never get to the bottom to, until such cars are prevalent. Nevertheless, scientists, journalists, futurists, and others, are scrambling to understand all the possible implications. But one thing is becoming uncomfortably clear, if you’re prone to motion sickness, you’d better hope your health insurer covers Dramamine.
The driverless car is set to usher in a new model of transportation. But certain concerns loom.
A study from the University of Michigan last year, warned of a significant increase in the number of people experiencing car sickness, over 27% more that before. 6-10% of passengers are expected to regularly experience queasiness over the course of the ride. Rather than a tablet, you might be holding a sick bag.
Researchers at U-M’s Transportation Research Institute say that there are features inherent in driverless cars that make the risk of car sickness more likely. Not keeping one’s eyes on the area of motion, and being unable to anticipate which way the car will go, increases the likelihood of motion sickness.
The fact that you won’t be engaged in driving the car, makes you more likely to have your stomach turn, researchers found. Those who are prone know that keeping their eyes on the road is less likely to cause symptoms. But reading, playing games, or becoming immersed in one’s smart phone, makes one more prone.
Some technological fixes, such as panoramic views or larger windows have been suggested as a workaround. Another idea is having windows as part of the electronic display, and having screens move with the motion of the vehicle. Critics argue that such bells and whistles are unlikely to lower risk. The likely end result is that we won’t be multi-tasking like crazy, but we won’t have to drive either.
Things get more complicated, as they tend to do with a paradigm shift. There is still much debate on how motion sickness actually comes about. A recent study published in Human Molecular Genetics, shows evidence supporting a hereditary predisposition.
Another theory states that motion sickness is a conflict between what’s registering in the eyes with the vestibular system of the inner ear—responsible for balance. When what you see doesn’t match up with the motion your body is feeling, your stomach turns.
A conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ear registers could cause motion sickness.
Say you are watching a scene where an out-of-control train is careening off of a cliff. Though your eyes say you’re going down with it, your feet are planted firmly on the ground. It’s this conflict that’s said to cause queasiness. Here, screens which follow the pace and direction of movement might help. So your tablet would be projected onto the windshield and would bob and flow with the motion of the vehicle.
Kinesiology professor Tom Stoffregen of the University of Minnesota, says that rather than a conflict between the input of the eye and the calculations of the inner ear, motion sickness has to do with postural stability. The body itself is never completely settled. Stand perfectly still and you’ll soon realize there are a series of muscles supporting you. A smidgen of movement keeps you aloft. Prof. Stoffregen calls this sway. It’s hardly noticeable. But it’s there.
When your body moves in a way you don’t tell it too, you begin to feel ill. Stoffregen calls it a conflict between, “postural movement and postural outcome.” The genetic findings support both hypotheses, unfortunately. What further confuses the issue is that certain people are prone to motion sickness, while others aren’t.
In terms of driverless cars, no one knows for sure if more people are going to get car sick, due to their proliferation. But all indicators point to it being likely. Even so, sooner or later, adjustments will lower this risk. Such a concern is unlikely to stop the advent of the driverless car, particularly since it offers so many benefits.
To learn more about motion sickness, click here:
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.