I had been trying to tease apart the distinction between a transducer and an agent to which we have delegated, arguing that we need both classes of component in computerized systems. Using the “gas pedal” as an example, I wrote:
Iâ€™m certain that Ernst would not argue that we â€œdelegateâ€ control of acceleration to the foot pedal in our car â€“ the â€œfoot-pedal-associated-componentsâ€ constitute the transducer that conveys our intentions to engine control systems.
Ernst's response puts the whole discussion into stark relief:
I agree with your analysis. And yes, it is difficult.
Ten years ago the car of a well known Dutch opera singer caused a fatal accident while driving on the parking deck of the Amsterdam Arena. The singer, who was behind the wheel, successfully claimed that the accident was caused by his carâ€™s cruise control, rather than his consumption of alcohol that night. I donâ€™t make this up. Reality dovetails nicely with your examples.
Whether we use an innocent transducer or a possibly disobedient agent determines the deniability of the resulting actions.