Life as we blow it: A little too auto

Posted by Scott Harrell on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 4:07 AM

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Driverless cars.

Driverless cars!

The future is here! Safety! Fuel efficiency! Environmental friendliness! It’s the single greatest technological development in the history of humanity!

Oh, wait — no, it’s not. It’s the dumbest thing we’ve done yet.

Why not take the single most destructive threat to the communal fabric of society, and make it even more disaffecting and entitling? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

It’s like our culture is run by 13-year-olds who just found Dad’s copy of Total Recall.

Independent automotive transportation is the worst thing people have managed to come up with in a long, sad, cyclical narrative of hubris and shortsightedness. Cars separate people. They make people feel a completely unearned sense of power and autonomy. Their sudden and explosive ubiquity gave everybody the misguided notion that they deserved and, worse, could actually operate one — though most of us would agree that almost nobody really knows how to drive.

Automobiles are, in short, responsible for The Decline of Western Civilization.

And we’re about to make them much, much worse.

Driverless automobiles will not suddenly do away with vehicular accidents. All driverless automobiles will do is make motorists feel even less accountable for what happens while they’re on the road. Cars are already mobile metal Skinner boxes designed to turn people into self-absorbed egomaniacs. That’s why we call car crashes “accidents,” as if no one was at fault and that shit just sort of happened — we’ve already removed ourselves a great distance from responsibility, even though we’re still at the wheel.

How much worse do you think driverless cars are going make things? People with power — real, influential governmental power — are currently arguing about whether or not to let people GO TO SLEEP BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A DRIVERLESS CAR.

Why not just gas ’em when they get in the car and start it up? A nice little forced nap along the way, so you awake at your destination refreshed and helpless and befuddled and down about seven IQ points?

As Americans, we will relinquish absolutely anything in the name of convenience.

Responsibility.

Personal information.

A terrifying amount of money.

Intelligence.

Anything at all, just to make things a little bit quicker, easier, less thought-intensive.

It’s pretty obvious that the ultimate goal is to get back to the womb. Warm, sleepy, fed by a tube, and utterly without all that tricky business that comes along with making decisions. After the driverless car, of course, comes the automatic grownup-sized carriage-slash-bed that swaddles us in clean linens and drops a couple of nipples right in our faces after we tell it where we want it to take us. And after that, naturally, comes no destination at all — just a numb, carefree, soothing, directionless trip into oblivion.

We won’t even know it when we hit the wall. 

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