Technology is a wonderful thing: Or not.By DAVE KIFFER
June 19, 2017
Yes, I know I stole that line from President Reagan's famous quip about "government."
Actually that quote didn't originate with Reagan.
It was reportedly first uttered by the Aga of Kish when he arrived to convince the hairy potters of Sumeria to switch from hand forming their pots to a new high tech doohickey called a potters wheel - which the Aga called a "robowheel."
And specifically what the Aga of Kish said was
Which roughly translates as "I am here from the government to cut your heads off and boil them in yak oil."
This was almost immediately re-tweeted, inaccurately, as "... and I am here to help."
Anyway, the misremembered quote was eventually passed on to President Reagan by one of his speech writers who had learned Sumerian in his spare time because he was interested in returning America to a more glorious time in which all "dissagreeables" were "Sumeria-ly" boiled in yak oil.
But, as usual, I digress.
I was thinking about technology when I read the other day that we are closer than ever to flying on jet planes without pilots. That thought, of course, makes me feel closer than ever to death, but then I am an optimist.
Yeah, jets already pretty much fly themselves between take off and landing, I get that. After the stress of takeoff, pilots need some "Candy Crush Saga" downtime before taking on the stress of landing. As everyone knows, air travel is predicated on a very specific formula: Takeoffs (must) = Landings.
This equality is extremely important, for reasons that I will not go into here because then I would have to concede another digression.
Which is also something you should never do when someone says it.
Anyway, apparently those smart folks at Boeing and Airbus are really close to achieving completely un-piloted flight. Good for them.
I also read recently that both the Chinese and the Russians are working to develop commercial jets that can actually fly. This will be a welcome change from the 1970s and 1980s when it was not considered crucial that Communist bloq jets have "landings equal takeoffs." Will wonders never cease?
Meanwhile, Boeing and Airbus believe jets will eventually fly themselves. Safely, we are told.
Natch, we are still experimenting with self driving cars and trucks.
I saw recently where one of the self-driving car companies had a fatal crash. They are now claiming in court that the crash was not the fault of the self driving car, even though it apparently drove itself into a semi that was minding its own business.
I hope they win that one. It would open up a whole new speciality in vehicle operations law focusing on no-fault accidents. And we'd all have lower insurance rates, I'm sure.
No, I am not thrilled with the idea of self driving cars either. Undoutably, they are safer than most cars driven by "my fellow Americans." But I just can't get "Hal" from "2001: A Space Odessey" out of my head. Can you?
Anyway, what I was really thinking was "why the heck don't the experts come up with some transportation technology that will truly improve the driving experience?"
Although it's not the worst idea I've heard of this week (see self flying jets, above).
But it did occur to me that there are some improvements than can be made.
It would have been great to say "Ravia" - I drive a Toyota after all - "Ravia, please open a hailing channel to that gent in the ahead of me in the blue Chevy."
But that wasn't an option. And I wasn't about to roll (button?) down the window and hail him that way.
No, the only technology available was the "horn." And even though modern automotive horns have about as much punch in them as a virgin mimosa it still seemed like honking was too harsh and intimidating for what the situation called for. I mean, we are NOT road raging thugs here in Our Fair Salmon City.
Wouldn't it have been nice to have a way to directly communicate with that near-by car and offer a friendly "you can go now?"
And when you pass someone who's turn signal has been blinking since they left Settler's Cove, wouldn't it be nice to be able to hail them and pleasantly say "Dude, nix the blinker."
Your only other option is to flash your lights and that is always misinterpreted as "Watch for the Smokey with the radar gun behind the tree a quarter mile behind me."
Just imagine all the great situations if those fancy computers in all our cars could open up hailing channels with nearby vehicles.
It would give you unlimited opportunities to confer with nearby drivers and correct their bad habits before those habits became dangerous, right?
And since it would improve our own manners (no screaming into the Intravehicle Communicator!), we would all benefit.
In fact, with our modern translation technology we would could enforce improved manners by "translating" all communications so they come out into calm, measured airline captain speak. Or, even better, into "I will not be rattled Brit speak."
The next time someone cut me off in traffic and I said "#$%&*%#@#$$%^#%! You @#$@#$^%@#!@#!!! What kind of @#$%#@$*(&@ are you?" it would be transmitted to the other car as "I say, old chap, you really should be a little more careful with those lane changes. And by the way, it would be jolly awesome if you would be a chum and toggle off that blinky you've been waving for the past 46 kilometers."
Now there is a technology that would be truly helpful.
On the Web:
Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2017
Stories In The News
Contact the Editor