The Swerve Test

There is a road that begins, in my heart. with the general disdain I feel for most specimens of homo sapiens, and ends, in my spleen, with the blackest hate that one man can feel for another, the kind of hate most people, including myself, are fortunate enough never to experience, the kind reserved for a villain who has destroyed a loved one and witnessed by actions of murderous revenge. Arrayed along this road, like Burma-Shave ads on the highway to Abilene, are signposts, behaviors, that mark the boundaries between the states of disdain and dislike, dislike and loathing, loathing and hate.

It is somewhere around Wichita Falls, by my reckoning, that the countries of true hate begin. In mapping these infernal regions, I have found it useful to apply what I call "the sweve test," which is really a pair of tests: Driving along, I mount a rise to discover the person of my enemy, standing in the road a short distance ahead, and put to myself the question, "Do I swerve to avoid him?" If the answer is yes, then he has not yet passed into the territory of loathing; if no, then the second test must be applied: Mounting a second rise, I discover the person of my enemy standing beside the road a short distance ahead, and put to myself the question, "Do I swerve to hit him?" If no, he is loathed; if yes, hated.

The swerve test has much to recommend it. First, it is accurate: In the best tradition of Skinner, it avoids murky subjectivity by addressing only behavior. While my own estimation of the extent of my distaste for a particular person may vary with the weather, the proximity of my next meal or the quality of my last, or whether or not I remembered to take my medication that morning, the volition to actually effect his destruction, either passively or actively, is much less mutable.

Second, the swerve test is precise: We may imagine the swerve as a kind of behavioristic quantum--the smallest act measurable as evidence of intent. Here is a heavy mass, moving with great speed, having tremendous inertia, and by a small motion of my hand I can deflect its course and thereby choose to spare or destroy my enemy. In the first test, I must expend this minimum effort to save him, and in the second, to destroy him. The two outcomes differ only by a quantum.

Third and finally, the results of the test are easy to interpet: At the end of the day, the subject of the swerve test, like Schrodinger's cat, is either alive or dead.


Virtual Earth 2.0

I'm imagining a portable device that integrates a global-positioning system (GPS) receiver with a short range (say 25m) LIDAR (laser imaging detection and ranging) system that could be used to map the street-level topography of the earth--buildings, rooms, trees, streetsigns--as the user moves through it. I'm imagining a built-in-panoramic video camera that can be used to map textures onto all the surfaces. I'm imagining an internal hard-drive and/or cellular modem so that all this mapping information can be uploaded, sooner or later, to a central server that compiles location-mapping correlation data from multiple users to create an immersive 3D simulation of the real surface of the earth. I'm imagining stores and businesses and schools having sales, conducting meetings, and teaching classes at virtual locations inside the virtual earth at the same time they happen in the real earth, or even in lieu thereof. I'm imagining mappers competing to be the first to scan the inside of Kitum cave, or the top of Mt. Everest, or the basement of the Pentagon. I'm imagining that we'll see it happen within 15 years. I'm imagining that the first people to make it work are going to be very, very rich.