This is a short story about AIs that have to land a plane after a malfunction. I'm pretty sure one of them is called the NTSB AI. They run at super speed and are in a conference that lasts a fraction of a second running simulations to get the plane safely down. One AI says it has a risky strategy to save all the passengers while the others are more conservative. Pretty sure it is a recent story, less than 5 years old.


This was "Legale" by Vernor Vinge. It matches in every detail and appeared as the Futures (last page science fiction story) in the August 10, 2017 of Nature. (Excellent story -- it should have gotten a Hugo!)

NTSB stopped the flight recorder: “Let's move along.” The readouts were replaced with a simulation of the airliner sliding down the runway, breaking up but somehow not cartwheeling as in all earlier simulations. “Our latest analysis shows that with proper management of the aircraft's remaining resources, everyone will survive except those trapped in rows 16 and 17.” If any federal bureaucracy could sound self-satisfied, NTSB managed the trick.

Just 5 fatalities out of 212. But one of those 5 was Bonnie Colbert. Legale took the floor: “We can save everyone.”

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  • Thanks to @Valorum for the quote! – Mark Olson Sep 2 '18 at 0:51
  • Thank you this is the story. For some reason I was convinced it was by David Brin and fruitlessly combed his website. – PMP Sep 2 '18 at 1:01

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