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Would you step into an autonomous plane?

That’s a good question to ask this week, now that UBS has announced the results of a survey that says only 17 percent of us would fly in a pilotless aircraft. It is a frightening scenario … until you realize planes are highly automated already.

What’s the issue here?

Even those who have accepted that the future of technology will be heavily dictated by artificial intelligence routines, there’s always a slow adjustment. AI is like the old analogy of a frog that’s set in a boiling pot of water: It jumps out immediately. Yet, start with a cold pot and turn it up slowly and the frog feels perfectly fine, even toasty warm. Whether you believe AI will show up someday and hit the off switch on humans or not, there is going to be a transition period as we adjust to autonomous everything.


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And it is fine. We’re all fine. Someday — maybe by 2035 — we’ll look back at passenger jets and scoff at those antiquated, stone tablet-wielding, horse-and-buggy humans who demanded that a pilot greet them at the cabin door, even in 2017 when autopilot is fully operational on every flight. How quaint that is. We need to feel like humans are in control. We need to feel like technology is not marching toward an inevitable future where it knows way more than we do.

So let’s get this out of the way: In 2025, you will fly in a plane that is not piloted by humans. You may not have a choice. The savings from letting autopilot do everything will be astronomical. Flights will be safer, because honestly flights already are safer. Humans might still serve us coffee, though. Hopefully it’s from Starbucks.

Thanks for reading,
John Brandon
VentureBeat Editor

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