Many thanks to the Trail Baboon guest bloggers for giving me a week-long blog holiday. Steve, Jacque, Anna, Barbara, Renee, Donna and tim took the lead while I spent a few days not thinking about, reading or even glancing at the blog. It was a carefree respite because I knew things were in good hands and it was a nice break from the routine. But I also missed the conversation and the many pleasures of being part of a friendly congress of baboons, so I’m equally delighted to be back. It will take me a few days to read through all your comments on the previous entries, but I aim to catch up!
While I was not paying attention, the following missive arrived from our good friend Bubby Spamden.
Hey Mr. C.,
I know we’re supposed to be concentrating on our schoolwork, but the sophomores here at Wendell Wilkie High School are really distracted by the news that Google has been secretly testing a fleet of 7 cars that can drive themselves. The cars have gone over 140 thousand accident free miles with minimal human intervention, which is a lot better than 7 high school sophomores can do.
Some adults think this is a great idea, but me and my friends, we’re kinda ticked off.
If you don’t get that, think of it this way – you’re just about old enough to get your license and your mom goes, “You know what honey? I think I’ll just quit my job and be your chauffeur. For the rest of your life. OK?”
Weird, huh? I actually know a kid whose mom said that.
Speaking for all the almost-16 year olds, we haven’t really known a world that didn’t have Google in it. And Google has kind of been a mom and dad for us, because whenever we want to know something, that’s who we ask. We figured out a long time ago that our biological mom and dad are kinda clueless about most everything.
And now mom is hanging on to the car keys? No thanks!
Some of my smarter friends also figured out that there’s nothing you can do online that isn’t remembered and noticed. Getting control of the car meant maybe we could finally go somewhere and do something where some body wouldn’t be looking over our shoulder. But now with Google behind the wheel, every trip will be part of our history of sites visited. Drat!
And what’s worse, the cars have cameras in them. Double drat!
We have to do something to stop this project! Without car-key based freedoms, my generation will have no reason to work or even to move out of the house. That means there’ll be no incentive to apply for all the non-existent jobs. And if we’re not working, who will fund the social security payments that you and all your old bloggers are counting on? Try to see it our way. This is an emergency!
Where you see a safety advance, we see the complete and total loss of any chance that we might actually have fun someday.
Anyway, I’m hoping you and your blog people can be on our side in this one. Speak out! Defend our youthful autonomy, rather than giving in to this scary auto tyranny by Google.
I told Bubby I couldn’t agree with him completely. For one thing, youthful indiscretions are overrated. And as a person who, as a 16 year old, totaled my father’s prize Corvair, I can’t argue that teenage driving skills are more reliable than a computer. Still, I don’t think the Google car project will ever be a realistic threat to Bubby’s freedom. Liability concerns will slow widespread adoption of the technology, and although it looks promising in these early stages, how many times have you started surfing on the internet with a clear destination in mind only to wind up a million miles away from where you thought you were headed? How will that tendency translate to a cross country trip, a Thanksgiving jaunt to Grandma’s house, or even a “quick” trip to the store? I’m not all that excited about climbing into my Googlemobile and clicking “I’m feeling lucky.”
Would you let a computer drive the car?