With coming of self-driving cars, what’s to become of our actual selves?
Re “Cars with no drivers head to state with few rules” (Page A1, Sept. 22): Self-driving cars may sound like good news to some. To me, the idea is both disturbing and puzzling.
It is puzzling because, in what I’ve read about this new phenomenon, there has been no reference to what used to be called a felt need. We seem to be getting driverless cars because it may be possible to make them (whatever the hazards may be), but do we really need them? If so, why? To the uninitiated, it seems to be one more step toward making people obsolete and, on the way to that goal, making more people useless, idle, and probably poor.
As for disturbing, it’s somewhat reassuring to see that others share my worries. For example, one bill in the Massachusetts Legislature would require “an operator in a driverless car, ready to take control,” except in a closed testing area. But why shouldn’t that person just drive the car? And if vehicle operators have little to do, won’t they be texting or otherwise distracted?
I’m on the other side of 80. My generation won’t be around much longer to impede the so-called progress of robots and their effect on unemployment and the further erosion of human dignity. For us, there is this wise advice about unwanted change, with apologies to Harvard philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine: We can’t stop it, but we can drag our feet.