Friday, March 10, 2017

Driverless, 'clean" cars and bicycle thoughts

Power is addictive, driverless cars will be more powerful. As the great social thinker Ivan Illich put it, people have tried to replace human slaves with technological ones and ended up being enslaved by their power, which is a little sad as people don't need slaves, just a little help.

In my view the most important recent scientific progress that relates to cars has been progress in the science of self-regulation or self-control. It's the addiction to the great power of cars that needs to be addressed in my view, if this can be addressed cars will not need to be "improved". The irrationality, even evil, of driving around in lengthy circles, along the same routes day after day for years using a finite destructive resource, at crippling cost, displays all the symptoms of chronic addiction. Especially when we'd be freer, happier and healthier if work, food supplies and home were all mostly in the same place. 

If work, food and home were mostly in the same place, use of cars would be relatively rare and the impact of using fossil fuel cars might be insignificant making clean cars unnecessary. Even bicycles may not be viewed as the antidote to cars, as they usually are, when compared with the much more opposite,  balancing and complementary self-reliant homestead. Bicycles as sole solution still place excessive faith in the ability of technology to solve our problems for us. It is still trying to find a green way to maintain our addiction to speed as opposed to placing the emphasis on its true antithesis; staying in one place (this view was developed from Ivan Illich's argument in 'Energy and Equity' that motorized transport as inefficient and unethical compared with the bicycle. But I reject this conclusion as not fully developing the implications of his own ideas. He remained within the religion he was critiquing, mineral based technological power, bicycles are more modest power for sure, but stepping outside of addiction to technological power-slaves, doing things mostly for ourselves, is really what I think his radical critique points to).

In addition I think it needs to be argued that it is highly narcissistic, not virtuous progress, to try to acquire ever more godlike power through technology, not only to have a car but a car that drives at your command. The narcissism of our age has been addressed by many of the same psychologists working on self-control. Narcissism and reduced self-control, such as addictions, often go together, possibly because we loose the ability to think critically about our impulses. 

Rather than a narcissistic addiction to power, perhaps we need a humble pursuit of genuine autonomy... or at least the happy medium and/or balance between these two extremes.

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