Reliance on technology, from elevators, to computers, to self-driving cars
Whenever I hear someone say that they don't want to risk their lives to some sort of technology that they don't understand, I watch them get into an elevator. Inside of that box, they push a button that propels them hundreds of feet into the air. They stare at the inside of the box, maybe think about what they're going to have for lunch, then step out of it, never giving a thought to how deadly it was to entrust their body to an anonymous box, run by a simple computer, that tossed them way up into the air. Then, in spite of what they say, or write on a blog post, I know that they have learned to trust technology with their life.
I like technology. I was an early adaptor to personal computers, and my career grew up on it. I learned to do backups, and redundant backups, but ultimately I trusted the computer. I did all of my work on it. I knew its limitations, and I never feared that it would suddenly drop me, the same way that I have no fear of elevators. And no, I really don't know how they work, I just know that they do, and it's a whole lot better than walking up forty flights of stairs!
To me, a self-driving car is exactly the same thing. And the more I learn about how deadly it is to take your eyes off the road, for just a few seconds, to look at a text, or to check your map, I realize that human beings aren't really the best things to drive them. The only thing that I know that keeps its eyes on the road in an absolutely unblinking way, is a computer.
Self-driving cars will be the greatest technology revolution of my lifetime, eclipsing even personal computers. It will change the look of roads, of cities. Cars will become boxes that we sit in, like elevators, and push buttons. Hopefully those boxes will have windows, as I love to look at scenery!
And like when elevators became automatic, people will hate them, and fear them. I've never seen an elevator operator, except in movies. It must have seemed bizarre to get in an elevator, and have no one driving, in the 1950s!
And that's how self-driving cars will be. I look forward to pushing a button, and just watching the scenery go by. My human brain has never been good at processing complex three-dimensional puzzles while keeping attention so focused that I couldn't even look away for a few seconds. Computers can do that with ease. People will look back at our time, and see how we crashed our cars into each other all of the time, and wonder what we were thinking. We thought we were good at it!
Posted by Brad Hall