I never thought I would say this, but I think technology is causing us to become too complacent. Maybe I’ve seen too many Terminator movies, where robots start out as our assistants, then rise up and try to take out mankind when we’re not paying attention, but I’m starting to worry for our future.
Remember when technology was developed to help ease the burden of everyday tasks? Pushbuttons on phones, a remote control for your TV, even an ignition to start your barbecue. These things actually improved your quality of life.
The technology that brought us CDs and DVDs not only made things easier, it improved the quality. The same way the technology of my parents’ generation improved communications and refrigeration (they developed electricity, for goodness sake) technology of my generation made things easier to use.
Since the turn of the century, we’ve focused our attention on car safety. Headlights illuminate the road better; air bags can now protect us from the front and the side in the event of a crash. The tires are better and anti-lock braking systems prevent you from skidding out of control. These improvements have made it safer while driving your car.
What technology hasn’t been able to do is turn bad drivers into good drivers. As a matter of fact, we’ve thrown in the towel and just accepted that drivers are distracted nowadays and there is nothing we can do about it. We’re using technology to help prevent accidents, whether the driver is paying attention or not. Since driverless cars are still a few years away, technology is being developed to “assist” drivers.
Can’t seem to stay inside the white lines on the highway because the kids are distracting you? No problem, we’ll warn you when you drift too far. Just have to respond to that text while you’re driving? No problem, the car will slow down and even stop automatically when you are about to hit that car in front of you.
Most new cars are equipped with something called “Advanced Safety Systems.” In an era when acronyms are used for everything, somehow, they aren’t using “A.S.S.” to promote the new package. Maybe that’s what they think most drivers are, since they feel the need to protect them with these safety features.
Why don’t we just do a better job educating our future drivers? I don’t think Driver’s Ed has changed since the 1960s. If you can drive in reverse, stop at the appropriate signs, navigate corners, traverse intersections and turn the car around, you get a license.
There is no requirement for negotiating entrance and exit ramps on parkways. You don’t have to demonstrate you can make a left on a busy road when there is no traffic light. It’s not necessary to prove your ability to drive under the stress of traffic, which is a way of life here on Long Island. Maybe a lesson or two in shopping mall etiquette would be a good thing.
Of course, new drivers are still being tested on their ability to parallel park. As a young driver, I spent way too many hours working on my parallel parking abilities, a skill I’ve repeated maybe 10 times in the last 45 years. Yet somehow, there was enough outcry that they’ve perfected the technology that will parallel park the car for you.
No, dear readers, instead of preparing our young drivers for the day-to-day rigors of the road, we’re lulling them into a false sense of security by programming the car to do what they don’t seem to be capable of. All these features are touted as making your ride safer. Instead, they may have the opposite effect. People are already blindly following the “voice” on their GPS while driving into rivers and onto railroad tracks.
We are being anesthetized by technology, and that frightens me.
My worry is that drivers will get complacent as they become dependent on the technology, knowing that the car will stop automatically if a child runs out in front of them, whether they are paying attention or not. The problem is, what happens if it doesn’t?
Paul DiSclafani has been a contributing columnist to Anton Media Group since 2016. He has called Massapequa home for 50 years.