You know what really bugs me about the whole self-driving car thing?
Everyone’s talking and talking about this “renaissance in technology” (heard on NPR this morning) and all of the extra special gadgets and artificial intelligence being developed at a fantastic pace, as if the lifestyle of the Jetsons is about to magically manifest itself in our lives.
But who’s talking about how the car industry is already excited about the potential to lower CAFE standards under the incoming Trump administration?
Who’s talking about the carbon footprint of manufacturing a new car? Is anyone thinking about how when a driver dumps their old car to buy a fancy new one, they are buying ores dug out of the ground, minerals extracted, parts made, petroleum to transport all the raw materials and to make the tires, plastic parts, paint, etc., the assembly… all of which takes fossil fuels that emit between 6 and 35 tons of CO2?
Who’s talking about the jobs being lost as a result of automation of almost every aspect of car manufacturing, except of course the job of mining metals for use in the car parts and batteries and computers that run our new fancy cars, jobs which are often filled by children as young as seven years old?
Who’s talking about how the shipping industry managed to get themselves excluded (along with the aviation industry) from the IPCC INDC’s that were so lauded in December 2015? Those big ships that carry all the fancy cars we’re building all around the world?
And who’s talking about how those fancy self-driving cars are going to decide if the life of the driver or the life of the pedestrian the car is about to hit is worth saving?
We are a species enthralled by technology. We think technology will save us, not realizing that with every new technology “renaissance” we learn to value life and the ecosystem just a little bit less. We think building vast solar and wind farms will solve our energy crisis, not realizing that all that technology infrastructure requires vast amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture, transport, install, clean, and maintain. We think self-driving cars will make driving safer and more fun — and perhaps they will — but we don’t think about all the downsides of a new technology infrastructure until it is far far too late, when that technology has become an integrated and essential part of our lives.
In some ways the push for new technology has a life of its own. We have no choice but to participate because if we don’t we are left behind; we must participate in the system (to make money to buy food and stuff) — i.e., the matrix — in order to survive.
Technology is a tool. Every tool can be used for good, and can be used for bad. Every technology has a big price to pay. And with every new technology, we lose our humanity just a little bit more.