The Future Is Already Here, It Just Hasn’t Been Approved Yet

Whether or not William Gibson actually said – either exactly, or approximately – “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet” – it’s undoubtedly the case that many of the technologies that will come to influence our lives in the near future have already been invented, they just haven’t been fully tested, regulated, insured against or officially approved yet.

So to get an idea about what’s upcoming, one thing we can do is track the regulators and testing agencies, as well as new offerings from the insurers, such as the Driverless Car Insurance from Adrian Flux:

Our new driverless policy will cover you against:

  • Loss or damage to your car caused by hacking or attempted hacking of its operating system or other software
  • Updates and patches to your car’s operating system, firewall, and mapping and navigation systems that have not been successfully installed within 24 hours of you being notified by the manufacturer
  • Satellite failure or outages that affect your car’s navigation systems
  • Failure of the manufacturer’s software or failure of any other authorised in-car software
  • Loss or damage caused by failing when able to use manual override to avoid an accident in the event of a software or mechanical failure

Getting on for fifteen years ago now, approximately, the UK Health and Safety Executive commissioned a report on The future health and safety implications of global positioning satellite and machine automation, looking at the health and safety implications of automated machinery particularly in a quarrying context, the sort of thing introduced by Rio Tinto’s “Mine of the Future” in 2008. (The HSE also have a report from 2004 that, among other things, considers risks associated with autonomous underwater vehicles: Risk implications in site characterisation and analysis for offshore engineering and design. Which reminds me, when does the Unmanned Warrior exercise take place?)

Another place we might look to are registers of clinical trials. So for example, how are robots are being tested in UK Clinical Trials?


We could also run a similar search on the US register, or the ISRCTN Registry.

Or how about software related clinical trials?


Hmm.. thinks.. I wonder: is “software” being prescribed in the UK? If so, it should be recorded in the GP prescribing opendata… But as what, I wonder?!

PS One for the librarians out there – where else should I be looking? Tracking legislation and government codes of practice is one source (eg as per Regulating Autonomous Vehicles: Land, Sea and Air…). But what other sources are there?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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