Years ago I tried to talk some sense about what I feel are overblown fears of scary AI enslaving humanity. In that, I pointed out The Economist pointing out that we’ve been here before. They mention that "government bureaucracies, markets and armies" have supernatural power over ordinary humans and must be handled with care. A new article expands on that theme nicely; the short version is entirely captured by the title, "AI Has Already Taken Over, It’s Called the Corporation".

In my aforementioned post I proposed my own idea that AI wouldn’t be much of a concern because if it was truly intelligent, it wouldn’t care about humans one bit. Sort of like we don’t go around worrying about diatoms even though they’re pretty awesome and vastly outnumber us.

If escaping from the scary menace of SkyNet AI involves, essentially, obscurity, maybe the same is true with the ominous spectre of corporations. For example, USC §271(a) says pretty clearly that, "…whoever … makes, [or] uses … any patented invention… infringes the patent."

Let’s say I’m pursuing a research agenda to accelerate autonomous car technology. If I work for a big company, patents provide a guide to what must be treated as forbidden. If I avoid such entanglements and work by myself, patents can be stolen as expedient with complete disregard to the law. Probably. So I got that goin for me, which is nice.

And with all that in mind, let’s turn now to autonomous car news of the weird. This article in Wired talks about some random engineer dude with an interest in autonomous car company lawsuits. Sort of like me but, apparently, with a bit more disposable cash. If you’ll recall, I wrote about the extremely bizarre testimony in the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit here and here.

This random engineer guy, Eric Swildens, was watching the circus too and he started to get the feeling that the whole case Waymo was presenting was kind of weak for no other reason than the putative infringed upon patent was kind of stupid. Sure enough, he does some minor digging and finds out that there’s prior art and yadayada Waymo’s case is embarrassing and Uber’s defense oversight maybe more so. If any of that sounds interesting, do check out the whole article which is surreal.

But here’s the thing… In those depositions, Waymo seemed pretty pissed off at their man switching teams and taking some tech (and enough bonus pay to start a cult). I thought the technology involved was trade secret stuff. There was all this talk about what was checked out of the version control and who had what hard drive where, etc. But am I to understand that all of this was really about a specific patent which can be accessed by anybody with a web browser (made easy by Google no less)? Something doesn’t make sense.

Whatever. Thanks to the magic of the Streisand effect, I am cheerfully reading through all Waymo’s patents.