Self-driving Ubers have hit the streets of Pittsburgh. If you drive for a living, Uber or otherwise, you may want to update your resume. The robots are coming.
Automation has been a complex issue for awhile now, chipping away at the human manufacturing workforce and replacing it with more efficient and (usually) safer robots. But except for the looming threat of iPads replacing workers in the fast food industry, automation has never before been poised to have a greater effect on American society.
On the one hand, lives could be saved. Humans are bad drivers. Humans on their phones are very bad drivers. Drunk humans are ridiculously bad drivers. In 2014, there were 32,675 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. In the next 20-30 years, if not sooner, that number could be significantly lower with robots taking the wheel. Like, fewer than one thousand deaths, lower. Like, a car crash would be national news, lower.
On another hand, jobs are going to be lost. There are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the US alone. In 2012, there were 233,900 taxi drivers. With the onset of ride sharing apps, that number is definitely higher. There are also food delivery and package delivery drivers, as well as a variety of other professions that are primarily driving. That’s a metric fuck ton of jobs. What’s going to happen to those people?
On your weird mutant third hand, driving around in a fully automated car just means that we have one more thing tracking our every movement. And it’s one more freedom that we’ll be giving up for convenience’s sake. How long until cars auto-shutdown in unsafe weather conditions, or we find out that the government forced backdoors in all the computer systems to spy on us?
And, okay, we get it Machamp, on your fourth hand, self-driving ride share services mean that whenever you order an Uber, there is a 87% chance that people just had sex in the back seat. Seriously, drunk people already like to get a little handsy in taxis when there’s a driver. Now there’s nothing stopping them. Uber and Lyft are going to become mobile sex pods after 11 pm. Why even bother going back to her apartment? You can just take like a, uh, 4 minute cruise around the block.
Basically, the point is that, as a society, we’re on the verge of big changes. Depending on how well we plan ahead and integrate technological advancements into everyday life, things will go either very well or very poorly. Clearly, this is a very complex issue, but I’ve laid out some important tips that I think will be vital in ushering in our new robot friends.
1. Campaign for Publicly Owned, Self Driving Car Fleets.
This makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, Uber is a shitty company. They don’t deserve to privately run our transportation using technology they didn’t invent just because they have an app framework in place that everybody is already familiar with.
Two, it’ll put pricing and quality control in the hands of the people (theoretically). Of course, we always have to be wary of government run programs (take Flint, MI for example). But I would have much more faith in a self-driving fleet run by locally elected officials that are being held accountable, than in one run by a global corporation that’s already shown its willingness to price gouge customers.
2. Smack Anyone Who Says Jobs Won’t Go Away Because There Will Be New Jobs Created That We Haven’t Conceived of Yet.
Seriously, smack the shit out of ‘em. Right in the mouth. This is bad logic. Our technology is moving towards automation and your response is “oh, we’ll figure out something for you to do.” This always reminds me of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake where Charlie’s Dad gets laid off from his job screwing on the caps in a toothpaste factory because they bought a robot and then at the end of the movie he gets hired back because they need someone who can fix the robot. Like, how the hell did that dude learn to fix robots so quickly? And what about all the other toothpaste tighteners that got laid off? It doesn’t make sense. Robot fixing jobs will never equal toothpaste tightening jobs. There aren’t gonna be 4 million robot car/truck maintenance jobs to replace all the laid off drivers.
3. Prank Self Driving Ubers/Actually, Yeah, Go Ahead and Bang in Them.
Guys, Uber is a really shitty company.
If, and when, they end up firing all their drivers and attempt a robot takeover of urban transportation, I give you permission to fuck their shit up. It will be the morally right thing to do. Leave eggs or old fish to rot in the crack between the seats. Go ahead and get weird in the back seat. I’ve slept in motel rooms before, I can handle it. Hell, maybe even go full Jean Merrill’s “The Pushcart War” on them and start puncturing their tires with pea shooters.
Self driving taxis are an inevitability, I realize that. Let’s just stop Uber from bullying their way into being the one controlling that inevitability.
4. Support a Universal Basic Income.
Honestly guys, we should be happy about automation. Like, we’re almost done. We’re nearing the end of the move, all the heavy shit is already in the truck. And some of us could be hanging out on a couch somewhere while they finish up with all the small stuff.
It’s entirely possible, with automation and technological advancements going the way they are, that there just won’t be enough well paying jobs to go around. The sooner we realize that this isn’t the fault of lazy millennials or immigrants taking all the work, the sooner we can come up with a actual solution.
Giving everybody enough money to live off of as a base only makes sense. You aren’t gonna force the people who are helping you move to keep doing more and more meaningless tasks just to earn their pizza and beer. If there isn’t work; there isn’t work.
5. Heavily Tax Corporations that Rely on Automation and Don’t Employ Large American Work Forces.
This is how you pay for a Universal Basic Income. If you’re going to fire all of your workers but still make a butt ton of cash, you need to give back to the people you’re leeching off of. Sorry, but Ayn Rand is garbage, and you aren’t a great person because you own a bunch of robots that do all your work for you. Trickle down economics didn’t work in the Reagan era, and it definitely isn’t gonna work now. Tax the bastards.
6. Smack Anybody Who Thinks Education’s Only Value Is In Career Building.
Again, this is stupid, so really give it to them. Right in the kisser.
Education’s main purpose should be to make good people, good citizens. And people’s value isn’t in what they do for their job. It’s in how they treat others; it’s in how they pursue their passions; it’s in how they explore the world around them. Education should be about promoting those things, not just building job skills.
If education is a priority, a universal basic income won’t lead to a bunch of millennial couch potatoes, it’ll lead to an outburst in creativity and innovation. People will have the ability to take chances and pursue their dreams in ways that our current system sometimes won’t allow.
I realize that I’ve moved away from self driving cars and into some sort of Marxist daydream. Oops. That’s the way it goes over here at the Blowhard. But seriously, shit’s about to get crazy with the advances in technology. We need to think about helping each other more than ever. We can't let the corporations take over.