I remember watching The Jetsons on TV as a kid and thinking how futuristic it was. I could hardly imagine a society with autonomous vehicles or cars that could fly. But manufacturers like Tesla are making this and much more possible through technological innovations like we’ve never seen.
Cars can unlock themselves and start themselves with the push of a button on a car key remote. Electric vehicles are paving the way for us to no longer rely on oil production and gasoline to get around. And now, we’re seeing vehicles that are basically able to drive themselves too.
As I was driving down the road the other day, I started really thinking about what the world, or America at least, would be like if people no longer had to drive their cars. If cars just drove themselves. It sounds crazy, in a good way, but if you dig deep, it’s not without disadvantages and danger.
My first question, when thinking about this issue, is why would we want autonomous vehicle technology in the first place. Do we not trust our human ability to make logical, smart decisions when driving a car? Is that why stoplights and traffic signs and speed limits were created? Because we don’t trust ourselves to operate a motor vehicle without Big Brother looking over our shoulder?
Essentially, if that’s true, what we’re saying is that machines know more than men. Which brings me to the definition of transhumanism—the belief that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. It’s basically the merging of man with machine to create a race of “greater” individuals. And that, to me, is the really scary thought.
Autonomous vehicle technology is an example of transhumanism. When we are no longer required or allowed to operate a car on our own, we have given power over to the vehicle itself. And what happens when it fails? Inevitably, it will.
I remember being in high school and driving a white Honda Civic with mechanical seat belts. The mechanism on the driver’s side seat belt broke, so that when I opened the car door to get in, it would move forward to get out of my way, and once I got in and closed the door, it would fail to move back across my shoulder as it should have.I drove around listening to an incessant beep in my ear until I could get it fixed, because my seat belt was not in the right place.
Now, we no longer see cars with mechanical seat belts. Obviously, it was a safety hazard when the technology failed, and rather than trying to repair the technology, we got rid of mechanical seat belts altogether. Instead, we as humans have to manually grab the belt, pull it across our shoulder and lap and buckle ourselves in. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it for our safety.
I wonder what will happen when we start to really put all our faith on driverless cars and autonomous machines and cease manual operation. How many people’s lives will be risked for this transhumanist “evolution.” I put evolution in quotes, because I don’t believe it to be step forward at all. I believe it to be a step backward.
The Washington Street Journal published an article today debating who would be responsible when a driverless car crashes. Tesla’s solution to such liability concerns is to require the driver to operate a turn signal to activate the feature that will allow the car to pass other cars without driver intervention. Only, if the driver has to use a turn signal, he’s still intervening to some degree, right? This tells me that we are not entirely ready to put all of our trust into technology and that we still must have some faith in humanity’s ability to make decisions. So, it would seem there is hope…
What do you think about Tesla, transhumanism and technology’s ability to govern humanity? Do you believe we’re moving into dangerous territory, or do you think we’ll be safer in autonomous vehicles? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts.