Automation…and then what?

Kevin Roose: Shouldn’t the goal be total automation, though? Shouldn't we want Google or Tesla to get to 100 percent automation with these cars, so roads will be safer and crashes will be less frequent?

Nichols Carr: We should encourage the innovation and engineering to go in the direction of giving us that opportunity. And I think it will. It’s always hard when people start talking about safety to say, "Well, maybe that’s not the only thing we have to worry about." Driving is a pleasurable activity for many people. It’s one of the rare times when you can relax and be in charge, be in control. Looking at this purely as a matter of efficiency and safety misses something important.

One of the things that worries me is this belief that, ultimately, we can use computers and automation to create this perfectly efficient, safe society without saying, "Who the hell wants to live in that society?"

Kevin Roose interviewed Nicholas Carr, author of the forthcoming book The Glass Cage: Automation and Us about the perils of a robotic future society in which no one has anything productive to do anymore. The 1993 film Demolition Man foresaw this issue, as Sly Stallone’s character was awaken from cryo-sleep centuries from now and confronted with driverless cars and sex without sex. The Dennis Leary character he comes across, who leads a counterculture in the sewers and clings to his Marlboros and cheeseburgers, would agree with Carr here. I’m not 100% sure I do.

Check out Carr’s book here:

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us (Amazon)

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