There’s a nice little rant about driverless cars up at the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (economic blog) today, not that I feel the same as the author about driverless cars (Me? Love highway driving; Hate city driving) but there are a couple of good discussion points coming out of it. One, as I mentioned in the comments of the post, is a bigger question about when technology progresses to a point when it detaches from any kind of ‘naturalness’. This is a question I’ve thought about often lately (which is probably why I see it in places like this driverless car rant) – but I also think is a transcendent question of our times. As some of the commenters note – there are similarities in comparing the progression from horse drawn carriage to automobile vs the progression from automobiles to driverless cars. However, there’s also the point of emergence. The change from horse to car (or any other previous progression) may be distinctly different from the car to driverless car because of significantly less reliance on physical restrictions such as ankle movements, arm movements, and hand-eye coordination. There’s a detachment involved with the driverless car.
Another point that the author brought up in the comments was the nice little line about First World Problems not necessarily being a put-down, but a bit of insight, or a category (as I take it) of problem that is more detail oriented or situation/personally specific. Driverless cars are a good platform for showing this – it’s easy to imagine people not liking them, it’s easy to imagine people loving them, both for reasons of detachment. It’s context specific, and it’s perhaps not the biggest concern for everyone, but might matter a lot for some.
This second point ties in with my first – an emerging skill in education (and the networked world) is learning to what degree automation suits yourself and in which situations, no matter how small the detail. Because small details matter and detachment from the physical world matters.