Craige McMillan, Novelist ©2018. Armageddon Story. Reader's page.
Dispatches Across Eternity. A novelist looks at Earth's Final Kingdom.

The Darkest Side

Of Self-Driving Cars

by Craige McMillan
The high priests of high-tech are awfully busy these days. They would tell us (and in fact do with every media release) that they are working overtime to make our cars self-driving and safer. They don't often mention that next will be taxicabs, airport shuttles, delivery vehicles, buses…you get the picture. A trend goes on until it is exhausted. Eventually only police vehicles will be driven by people. Of course if self-driving cars all obey the law—then why would we need traffic enforcement?

The high-tech priesthood is not shy about telling us that their job would be so much easier if only the rest of us would stop causing crashes with their test vehicles. I think that's a widespread view in the tech world. Even in this enlightened, high-tech age, blame must still be assigned somewhere…else. How little human beings have changed over the centuries.

I've always enjoyed driving. When I stopped enjoying it I moved out of the city. Problem fixed. Now I again enjoy driving. Fifty miles on a mountain road is a lot more fun than fifty miles exhaust-pipe to exhaust-pipe on a city freeway. I recognize in writing about self-driving cars that "your mileage may vary." So may your darkness.

The Dark Side

Technology used to be easy. Refrigerators replaced ice boxes. Wash, rinse and spin replaced wringer-equipped washing machines. Dishwashers replaced husbands. Obviously technology has been on an upward spiral for quite some time.

The technology in self-driving cars isn't the kind that stays home to keep your leftovers cold and wash your clothes and dishes. It goes out in public and flaunts itself. Some of the risks about this flaunting have been written about, but most haven't. Those risks are just part of the dark side of this technology.

Self-driving cars might listen to you—or they might listen to a crime syndicate in China or Russia and follow a roadmap that takes you where you don't want to go—and will never return from. Hacking these vehicles isn't a case of if; it's a case of when, and to what end?

The Darkest Side

A GPS track is nothing more than a bunch of numbers that equate to latitude and longitude…isn't it? Not entirely. When time stamps are added, your car can provide a very specific, permanent record of your daily travels. A record that someone, somewhere is surely going to want to archive. Driving, remember, is a privilege, not a right. Privacy no longer exists outside the four walls of your home, thanks to our judicial public servants. Who gets the record of your time stamped travels? What will they use it for?

Privileges have a way of disappearing. Maybe you got one too many parking tickets yesterday. Today your car won't move until you pay them all. But how do you get to the courthouse? Maybe your check didn't get to the finance company on time? Are you grounded? Perhaps your travel record indicates you were in the vicinity of a violent, deadly store robbery at some point during your commute. Are you now a suspect? Must you prove your innocence? What else will your travel record reveal as the authorities begin to search through it?

Government is always hungry for power. It never has enough. Those who hold the reins of power desire to keep them in their own hands. They are not concerned with how the bit feels in your mouth. Information can be easily used against one's enemies…real or imagined. Bureaucracy always grows as it ages. Laws become more restrictive over time. Loopholes are closed. Change is inevitable. Freedom is not.

It is doubtful—no, I will say it is an absolute certainty—that big-tech will gobble up our freedom just as it has devoured our privacy. Big government and big-tech billionaires—and for most people in the world—big surprise! But you don't have to be surprised. Sometimes the truth must masquerade as fiction.

Further Reading:

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Pen graphic for contacting novelist Craige McMillan, creator of the Armageddon Story; Judgment, Interrupted novel series

Copyright 2018 Craige McMillan. All Rights Reserved.
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