Introduction of Automobile in 2022

We live in an age marked by technology. The world we inhabit is radically different from the one we used to live in even just 10 years ago. I am old enough to remember the pre-internet age; the time when you had to manually punch in a phone number whenever you wanted to call someone, and when people still used typewriters and fax machines. My grandma remembered the world without electricity and for my father’s generation a TV set was a marvel of technology.

We are used to thinking that our history is a steady march of technological progress, and that humanity is ready to embrace every new tech that comes along. We often think that this advance of technology is followed by the similar advancement in social freedoms and open-mindedness.

This is not so.

A new technology is guaranteed to elicit an intense emotional response if it touches on at least two of the three following elements:

  1. The way we treat the space,
  2. The way we treat the time,
  3. The way we do our social interactions.

As technology advances, it brings more and more new ideas that might challenge our established preconceptions. The frequency of those changes is so high that our society doesn’t have a chance to adapt to the previous wave before a new one is upon us. As a result, I would argue, we have grown risk averse as a society.

Novelty

Imagine a proposal by a company, or a consortium of companies, to introduce a new mode of transportation. This new invention would revolutionize the world. It will have a profound effect on our everyday lives, from the way we do our daily commutes to our leisurely activities. It will bring our personal mobility and autonomy to an unprecedented level. It will increase productivity and efficiency and open up large swaths of countryside to a new style of suburban living.

There is a downside of this proposal, though. It comes with a steep cost. It will require that we relinquish the control of our streets, severely limiting pedestrian access to a large area of our cities. It will require installation of an entirely new system of signs and signals, and indeed reorganization of huge chunks of our urban areas.

The whole system will also generate significant levels of pollution altering significantly the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In addition, the device itself could potentially be very dangerous. If you decide to use it, it might lead you to endanger your own life, lives of your friends and family, and even potentially turn you into a murderer. Furthermore, the use of this system will directly cause the death of some 39 000 people per year in the US alone.

There is no way our current risk-averse society would even contemplate the introduction of such a system. Yet this is exactly what the invention of a car powered by an internal combustion engine meant.

Now compare this to the discussions we have had a couple of years ago about the downsides and benefits of rental electric scooters.

To a time traveler from the first half of the twentieth century these discussions would without a doubt sound quaint. For better or for worse our contemporary culture is not conducive to such changes. In many ways we have grown more cautious and more conservative than the generations preceding us. Perhaps we greet new technology with less glee then they would. Perhaps we are now capable of better understanding the possible consequences of our inventions, less happy-go-lucky in our approach to tech, or we have grown less confident, and more self absorbed.

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Stanislav Stankovic

Stanislav Stankovic

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Creative Director at Northern Stars studio in Helsinki. Ex-EA, Ex-Rovio.