Sunday, May 8, 2016

SELF-DRIVING CARS – And Other Collisions With Consciousness

I don't know about you, but I’ve never been able to read a book outdoors. It’s like, okay, here I am, worshiping in the sacred temple of deep woods. So I think I’ll just tune that out, escape to Manhattan and engage in some sexy shenanigans with Eva and Gidean.


      These days folks walk around with their 
      thoughts as far away from the here and now 
      as a gasp of wonder is from a yawn.

The advent of iPads and smart phones has not helped. These days folks walk around—not just in the woods or mountains, at the beach or on the water, but anywhere at all—with their heads down, their thoughts as far away from the here and now as a gasp of wonder is from a yawn.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Luddite. Technology is amazing. The irony that I'm here every day, urging moderation in the use of the very same media I employ to air that message is not lost on me.

But the key word there is moderation. It’s one thing to break up a long road trip by letting the kids play a video game or watch a movie in the back seat; it’s another to let them arrive at your destination utterly clueless as to the characters, landscapes and happenings they’ve passed along the way—not to mention the goings-on inside the car.

So, back to the progression of technology at the expense of consciousness. We are now very close to seeing the mass marketing of a driver-less car. Aside from the obvious concerns about safety, how might this hasten the already-alarming atrophy of human awareness, curiosity and wonder? Could it further deepen our separation from Nature?

I’ve discussed this with my wife, who’s a fierce advocate of technology. She points out that with no need for drivers or passengers to keep their eyes on the road, the robotic car might actually increase one's ability to enjoy the scenery. But I’m not buyin’ it. My money's on most folks turning to their iToys or laptops, or even—now here’s a quaint notion—reading the newspaper.

    Anyone else find it sad that the only way this 
    new concept of transportation will transport 
    you is from point A to point B?

I was going to say we’ll know I’m right when car makers start touting the obsolescence of windows. But that evidence is already old news. In the May 15, 2015 issue of the Atlantic, the article “Why Driverless Cars Don’t Need Windows” (excerpted from author Peter Waymer’s book Future Ride) paints what seems to me a grim, dystopian picture:
 “Daimler doesn't seem to think the passengers will spend much time actually looking out (of windows). Photos from the company emphasize the way that four passengers can sit facing each other, talking, working or playing games, all while ignoring the outside world.” (Anyone else find it sad that the only way this new concept of transportation will transport you is from point A to point B?)

“Daimler sees the car of the future as a ‘digital living space’ that provides ‘a perfect symbiosis of the virtual and the real world.’” (And what part of this would you describe as the “real world?”)
 “The sentimental among us may still choose windows out of nostalgia, but... accountants will flinch at extra costs and almost certainly grow to see windows as an extra expense that breaks too easily and adds too much to the air-conditioning bill.” (I'll tell you what breaks too easily: the human spirit when we allow others to decide what is and what isn't worth looking at.)

     Call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to fight 
     for the right to look the real world.


Might those bean counters someday reach the same visionless conclusion about other vehicles? Trains? Airplanes? How about our homes?

And might we human beings, besides our already-predicted evolution toward bigger eyes, wider butts and longer fingers, eventually transform into so many forward-slumping, nearsighted moles, incapable, any more, of looking up or out
at anything?

What do you think? Are you ready for a windowless world? Not me! Call me old-fashioned, but I’m going to fight for the right to look up and out—whether I’m walking or riding or flying...or just sitting in those deep woods—at the genuine, perfectly beautiful, first-hand miracles of the real world.


jean said...

I am totally with you on this one, Jeff----no driverless cars with or without windows for me! In the first place, I would never really trust them to drive carefully and respond to all of the things a human can respond to and in the second place, who knows where they would take me!? :) I can see lots of uses for criminal activity here, much like the virus problem in computers! No thanks! Windows for me every time!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks, Jean. Glad to hear from a fellow observer of life -- one who truly enjoys not just getting there, but enjoying the scenery along the way!

DJS said...

Technology usurping conciousness...grim scenario indeed. One nice thing about being in Cuba was the lack of people´s noses buried in their phones. I imagine that will change as internet becomes more acessible, but for now I enjoyed my monthlong technology diet.

Jeffrey Willius said...

I think you're right, Donna; change is on the way. ONe of my favorite, though also foreboding, images of La Habana Vieja was the glow of small screens all around the major hotels every night. (Folks picking up the free -- except for the card they have to buy -- wi-fi signal)

Jukka Wilce said...

Hello! Trying to contact Jeff Willius. FOrgive the urgent/ pestering nature of these messages. If you can help me ask Jeff for permission to use this image, I'd be so grateful!

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