VIDEO: Unintended Consequences of the Driverless Revolutions: Organ Shortage Edition

Our amazing, inevitable driverless future, where people and things move around seamlessly, is not without downsides. There will be an avalanche of jobs eliminated, industries upended, and uncertainty about proper governance.

There will be other problems created, like, Is there going to be a resurgence of teen binge drinking now that the scourge of drunk driving is gone? (Unfortunately, yes.) Will there be a modern-day Luddite Revolution, where people start attacking robocars out of fear of rapid cultural change? (Probably!)

One dilemma I had not considered is that a driving fatality can save lives via organ donation. There are over 35,000 fatalities a year in car accidents. In the driverless future, accidents will be drastically reduced. Consequently, the number of organs available will drastically reduced. In other words, driverless technology will save drivers’ lives but cost the lives of some patients awaiting an organ transplant.

Solutions to the impending organ shortage, least effective to most:

  • Eliminate all driving laws.  No more speed limits, or seat belt laws, or drinking and driving laws. This is unlikely.
  • Ban driverless technology.  If net lives saved is the metric this won’t happen.
  • Create a regulated market for organ transactions.  As the video suggests, this is far too controversial a subject. Selling your kidney for money doesn’t pass the sniff test, unfortunately.
  • Organ transplant chains. Yes! This is the elegant solution that passes the sniff test. Suppose you need a kidney and your brother is willing to donate one of his to you. If you two are a match, great! It works out. You and your brother both live happily ever after. If your brother is not a match, it still works out if you utilize a transplant chain. Your brother still donates his kidney to someone (+1 kidney), and because he donates his kidney, you move to the top of the organ recipient list. You and your brother both live happily ever after.

For our wonderful driverless future, that’s one problem down, 999 to go.


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