There is little doubt about the benefits the internet age has brought us. It’s easier to connect with other people from long distances; new outlets are available for art and the media; and many aspects of our lives have become simpler and smoother thanks to a reliance on expanding technology.
However, there are drawbacks to that reliance, too — especially for younger generations that have not known a world without the ease of digital assistance.
May 2017 will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Joshua Brown, the first fatality in a self-driving car.
A tech enthusiast who helped dismantle bombs for the U.S. Navy during the Iraq War, Brown was well-known to other technology enthusiasts for videos he uploaded to YouTube displaying his self-driving car from Tesla.
Many of the videos showed the vehicle actually avoided collisions — but in May 2016, the Tesla Model S electric sedan collided with a semitrailer truck in Florida.
“He [Brown] enjoyed the fact that technology was available, that it was being used to, ironically, increase safety on the roads,” Brown’s friend Paul Snow told The New York Times.
Automated vehicle technology has only grown since Brown’s death and will soon likely become far more popular with mainstream consumers. However, a March 2017 report from Jones Day, a legal institution, suggests that the most dangerous time for the technology to exist is right now.
“Industry sources have thus expressed concern that this initial phase of automated development may actually be the most dangerous period for this technology. In a recent study by Stanford University, the authors questioned whether semi-autonomous vehicles are sustainable, because as drivers become more confident in autonomous systems, they are less likely to pay attention and may become even more dangerous than those who do not use such systems,” read the report, which went on to cite the death of Brown as an example of overconfidence in technology.
“On June 30, 2016, Joshua Brown was killed as he allegedly watched a Harry Potter movie while relying on Tesla semi-automated technology. The technology did not stop his vehicle, and Mr. Brown’s vehicle struck a flatbed truck that had turned in his path. Mr. Brown could have taken control, but his reliance on the technology took his eyes and attention from the road.”
More and more, individuals and companies are putting their full faith in technology. The fast food giant McDonald’s has just begun rolling out machines that can take and create an entire food order without cooks or cashiers.
Machines can now drive for us, cook for us — and who knows what else they’ll be able to do in just a few years?
Unfortunately, the tragic loss of Joshua Brown speaks to a larger issue with a heavy reliance on technology. When we give in to the point where we are losing our human instinct or giving complete power to a thing and not a person, we are at risk. We are in the complete care of technology — and history shows that is not always a good thing.
People are already used to using technology — and dangerously — while they drive, whether their cars are automated or not. The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving.
Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Association also partly blamed cellphone use for pedestrian fatalities. The first six months of 2016 saw a 10-percent spike in pedestrian fatalities, which was the biggest year to year bump in 40 years.
“There’s never been a 10 percent increase in just one year,” said the co-author of the report Richard Retting, according to USA Today. “Looking at cellphone data and how much is used — it’s explosive; it’s beyond an incremental increase and those could be factors that come into play.”
It all unfortunately speaks to the drawbacks of this transition period. As technology is quickly taking control of most aspects of our lives, some people are becoming too distracted by and overly reliant on it. A balance is needed and needed fast. Technology is here to expand our lives and make things easier. However, it is not here to live our lives for us.
Common sense is needed in our use of technology, especially as it becomes more and more essential to our daily living. Machines are great tools to ease the burden of daily tasks or to help in accomplishments, but they should never replace human instinct or care.