Saturday, September 22, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 4

Welcome back to another weekend of Football Counter-Programming, my seasonal attempt to "disrupt" your social media feeds with non-football content.

This week, I'm talking about the problem with automated cars . . .

If we accept that automated cars are the future, then you have to admit that our relationship with cars and the daily experience of travel must in the future be different. So, in order to get in your car to go to the grocery store, you will need to have a negotiation with your car. Do you know the specific address of the Kroger that you are aiming for? You can't simply get in the car and drive. Those days are over. You need to type in an address--often with a touchscreen keyboard or some other clunky interface. Or if you don't want to do that, you will need to speak to your car to tell it where to go. Given your experience with Siri, do you think that saying Hey Vinnie the Van . . . I want to go to the neighborhood Kroger store. is going to work? We all know that text-to-speech recognition is not very good. It's a very good chance that Vinnie will respond "OKAY. I HAVE FOUND RESULTS FOR WINNIE THE POOH AT THE NIGHTENGALE YOGURT STORE FOR YOU."

If we accept automated cars, then where is the freedom of just getting in a car to . . . go? This takes  the freedom that the car originally gave to us. Now you have willingly enslaved yourself to the robot that tells you what to do. Is this not the opposite of progress?

Progress is often couched in terms of increased efficiency. But if ruthless efficiency is the only goal for which we strive, then where is the spirit of invention? Where is that unplanned moment of chaotic discovery?

Star Trek always portrayed the future of the human race as perfected in such a way to allow everyone the freedom to do whatever they wanted with their own set of unique skills and talents and desires. The automated mobile future that we are aiming for would take a small piece of our individual right to choose to ramble and remove it from our grasp.

My brother used to tell stories about when he would get in his car and just drive around the back roads of our hometown--going nowhere in particular, but finding out how all those nowheres connected to each other and where they returned home again.. I always thought that was an  interesting vision, imagining him driving on the dirt roads of Tift County, headed nowhere in particular. Maybe I’ve not had that same level of adventure in my own life, but robot cars are conspiring to take that away my future improvements.

Until next week, please remember . . . the buses that bring your football team to the stadium might run on natural gas. But that is still not as efficient as solar power.

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