Self-driving trucks and the future of our economy (plus other thoughts)

This morning I read an article about the emergence of self-driving trucks and the impact this will have on the economy. The word is that there are currently only legal barriers remaining in the transition to self-driving semi trucks and that the technology is already in place once that green light is given. And this will wind up putting countless truckers out of work, which then impacts the towns where they spent their income, not to mention people employed in related fields, such as mechanics and many others.

Hmm. I’m not a fan of what I see unfolding before us. But there’s nothing I can do since apparently this is what people think they want. It’s too much change for me. From where I sit, the automated life sounds more like a nightmare than some utopian fantasy. But people have to learn everything the hard way, per our custom. We out here who openly criticize this trend toward ever-greater centralization on all levels are drowned out by the applause among those within corporations who see such strategies as cost-saving and thereby beneficial to their bottom line.

I, for one, say that human life shouldn’t be directed by economic interests alone and that, by allowing that to dominate, we will eventually reap the consequences, many of which are unforeseen at this time. But my mind isn’t suited for this era and its drive toward increased complexity and the expectation that humans must mold ourselves to fit it and not the other way around. We are being required to serve The Machine, The System, but what are its obligations to us?

More and more, it appears the god we’re busily creating and worshiping today is that of Technology. It’s already responsible for producing enough food to allow our population to expand to an extent that would’ve been impossible in all centuries prior. It’s already reshaped our entire habitat, from metropolitan cities to the dying small towns abandoned by the companies once relied upon for economic prosperity, not to mention undermining small businesses and family-owned farms that proved unable to compete in the corporate climate. Now we’re all being linked together via computers and the internet, and in just the last few years it’s become common for people to carry this mode of communication around in their pockets. So common that there’s a definite push for us all to get on board and “get with the new age” and give up last year’s technologies in favor of the evermore-complicated “tools” being marketed to us incessantly. The zeitgeist emerging in the 21st century undeniably unnerves me…

The author of that article linked above thinks the solution is to somehow offer people an unconditional base pay whether we work or not. I do not see that as a solution so much as another problem being generated. And who or what would pay this living allowance to all of us? Major corporations and our government? Undoubtedly. And wouldn’t that create further dependence on those entities? Would that not essentially allow them to rule over us more than they do already? Would we not become their captives?

They would be our masters, responsible for our care from cradle to grave, feeding us, clothing us, educating us, employing us (or otherwise financially supporting us), marketing to us their wares and services (restricting and limiting our choices along the way), legally dominating us (through the use of government directly but also through select corporations possessing the funds to lobby the government to sway in their favor, as is currently occurring), medically tending to us, transporting us, etc. One thing we’ve witnessed under capitalism is that it doesn’t remain a free market once certain companies figure out how to oligopolize and crowd out the rest of the competition. This is not expressly the fault of capitalism, per se, but the dream of capitalistic free markets hasn’t been able to avoid this outcome. With huge amounts of money and influence in high places springs up another form of tyranny, though this one is special in that it claims to allow The Market to decide our fate instead of dictators. Though I’m coming to realize that average people will go along with damn-near anything that looks new and exciting and promises to ease their suffering.

Which is another reason for why I’m giving up on the notion of a democratic state. Most of us haven’t a clue what’s truly in our best, long-term human interest apparently. We are easily swayed by appeals to our emotionality and our irrational utopian fantasies of 4-hour work weeks and unbridled freedom to do whatever we wish. It’s a pipe dream, folks. Never gonna happen, no matter what some may tell you. And it’s not “pessimistic” to see that for what it is. We serve The Machine, yet The Machine views us as expendable. Nearly all of us, male or female, black or white or beige, young or old. If we cease to exist, that’s only a problem if too few of us remain to service this new way of life.

Nobody wants to tolerate a bunch of unemployed has-beens living on the public dole. Not unless you’re aging and wealthy enough to feed the service industries that will pick your bank accounts clean up until the date you expire. But the last thing any of us care to see is more lazy, unemployable, drug-addicted, prolific child producers claiming entitlement to an unconditional base salary provided by the rest. That situation alone is enough to cause civil unrest over time, especially seeing as how people with nothing but time on their hands tend to be rabble-rousers without much of a clue. Sound harsh? Well, ask around and you’ll find out that this is indeed how most folks feel, even if they pay lip service to caring about the poor and downtrodden. As George Carlin would say: NIMBY — Not In My Backyard. We care…but keep the poor over there, they say. Why? Because when people lose their jobs and the general outlook appears bleak it’s not uncommon for them to turn toward self-destruction and/or destruction of what others have. That seems to be the way humans are wired. Productivity is the name of the game, but by that we don’t merely mean holding a job, seeing as how so many jobs out here are soul-draining in their own right.

Humanity came to an important crossroad however many millennia ago, and this is the route humans took, for better or worse. So here we are. No way to go back now. The infrastructure has developed so rapidly in just the last century alone that this has us locked in. It’s shaped our entire reality to where we depend on this way of life. Most of us couldn’t survive outside of it. It’s all we’ve ever known, it’s all we’re trained to deal with, having generations back lost the ability to provide for our own sustenance. We are all dependent on so much that we take it for granted. Some do appear to fare better than others within this most-modern scheme. Some are better equipped to navigate within this, while others are reduced to being beggars who vote for what it is they think they need and want. And people wonder why I see voting as being so futile these days…

Maybe we humans, taken as an aggregate, truly aren’t capable of comprehending our long-term interests and needs. We’re too flighty, too easily excited by trivialities, too prone to numb our minds off so as to cope, too narrow in focus to take in a bigger slice of the picture (and even if some individuals can take in more, what can we realistically do with it? Other than drive ourselves nuts over the details?). We don’t trust others to lead us, yet we cannot seem to lead ourselves anymore. And when people do vote, they buy into the insane notion of choosing between “evils.” We select our leaders as if it’s a game of choosing our favorite celebrities. What is truly valued anymore, beyond merely entertaining ourselves to death? What are we to become if this is the path we’re collectively on? How would any individual break free from this way of life when there’s nowhere to run to escape it? Accepting that, how does one then tolerate this ever-changing way of life and find peace with it in going forward? I don’t know. I continue to ask myself that everyday while out driving around on the streets and highways and observing our handiwork.

Speaking of which, time for work.

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2 Responses to Self-driving trucks and the future of our economy (plus other thoughts)

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    It’s a tough general question for any society. The evolution of technology is inevitable, and what do we do when new technology obsoletes entire sectors of society? We once had many people employed in support of horse-based transportation (breeding, feeding, housing, cleaning up after, etc.).

    So what do we do when horses become a tiny sliver of society? Ultimately those professions die out and no one does them anymore, but there’s always a lag time filled with unemployed workers. This is probably as inevitable as the growth of technology itself.

    One trick — the one that saved me time and again — is having a well-rounded education and multiple skills. Training in foundation and theory topics is crucial. This is exactly why I so lament the death of general education.

    As for truckers, I can’t say I’m terribly sympathetic. There was a time when truckers were the best drivers on the road. That hasn’t been true for a long time — so many have taken on the profession without truly *caring* about it. Many can’t afford to maintain their rigs as well as they should.

    Plus, it’s looking like computer-driven vehicles will be safer than human-driven ones. There’s an emotional component to this, though. One bad accident will have a strong effect on public opinion (like plane and train crashes do — despite those both being much safer means of transportation).

    The simple fact is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. So many of the curves that describe society are not just upwards trending, but showing increasing rates of growth (it wouldn’t surprise me that the rate of growth also has an increasing rate). No system can sustain that kind of upward trend, so a catastrophic social collapse is assured. Millions, if not billions, will die. It’s really not a matter of “if” so much as “when” and “how bad.”

    Most days I figure it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of useless assholes, but then I’m a raging misanthrope. :\

    • Byenia says:

      “Most days I figure it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of useless assholes, but then I’m a raging misanthrope. :\ ”

      LOL! It’s understood. Sadly but truly.

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