Monday, April 04, 2016

What About Motorcycles? and Other Matters

I read a cover article in Time magazine recently about the imminent ascendance of self-driving cars, swiftly leading to the point where humans will be banned from driving altogether, because they are too dangerous and inefficient, and therefore expensive. Time has always been ridiculed by the cleverer people, but glancing over some issues at a house I visited during Easter it seems to have become even more of a mouthpiece for the technocratic establishment than it has been traditionally ridiculed for being (Joe Klein has a regular column assuring/insisting to the reader that our professional political and financial classes are brilliant, serious people with a thorough understanding of how the world works and how best to get things done). Getting back to the self-driving cars article, the writer seems to have been a little overawed by the geniuses he interviewed at Google and at Elon Musk's company and let them set the parameters of his vision with regard to this upcoming disruption. This is a collective problem in society. We need to learn how to talk sensibly and with some self-assertion to geniuses and millionaires. Our lives will be richer for it. The combination of the tech revolution and the bifurcation of the economy, divided largely, it is held in some quarters, along lines of cognitive prowess, seems to have had the effect of cowing many of those who did not prosper under these conditions into withdrawing from engagement with those who have in any kind of lively or spirited way at all. This vision for the self-driving cars seemed to me very presumptuous and limited, as if all motoring were strictly utilitarian trips from point A to point B. What about motorcycles? Obviously they will be banned under this regime, but how well is that going to go over among motorcycle enthusiasts? Perhaps this hobby is not common in Silicon Valley or in greater Washington, but it is very popular where I live (indeed, people who come to visit me in the summer from the mid-Atlantic region expecting a quaint New England getaway inevitably want to know what the deal is with all of the motorcycles, the road passing by my house being a major thoroughfare for this mode of transport). While certainly the motorcyclists have destinations in view most of the time, in truth the main purpose of most of these outings seems to be as an excuse to meet up with other bikers and ride around. Even with cars, loosely-planned drives as the primary activity of the day, stopping at places that catch the fancy along the way, remains a common pastime; certainly I do this a lot myself. None of this is accounted for or acknowledged in the article at all. I assume the self-driving car will be accommodating if I want to spontaneously stop, or go on a different road than the one the computer has determined is best to take, or have to go to bathroom, or pretend to have to go to the bathroom as an excuse to stop. But it isn't really made clear in the article.

Things I Wasted Time and Energy Worrying/Arguing About When I Was Younger

1. Even before I had any children, I undertook a several years campaign to get my wife to promise that we ever did have any sons, she would not make a stink about them playing football if they wanted to do so. At that time, when I was around 30, I thought that the absence in my own upbringing of the masculine social conditioning, violence, exposure to competition that people cared about and the possibility of enhanced social status in high school, might be contributing to my failure to flourish as an adult, and I did not want to automatically close off that (or any) avenue of possible success for any sons I might have. However, despite having four boys, it is pretty clear that of the elder three, two will have no interest in playing football whatsoever, and the third seems unlikely to based on his temperament as well. This leaves my youngest son, who is only in 1st grade, though he does seem to be the most inherently jockish of the group, and as well to have something of the bearing and makeup of a quarterback, or maybe one of those old style golden boy running backs. Even in New Hampshire though now, the high school that they are likely to go to seems to recruit its quarterbacks and other skill position players rather than hope people show up at their door who can be developed into players. And of course I have not shown any evidence to date of being the kind of modern super-father who is going to fanatically push my children to be good at sports, or anything else, so it looks like the odds of any of my children playing football are pretty low at this point.

2. When I was in my 20s, having children and, especially, taking them to Disney World was seen by the people I was most influenced by and wanted to be like as the ultimate symbol of spiritual death. I was certainly convinced that one could never be a good writer if his experience was tainted by ever crossing the threshold of the Magic Kingdom or one of its sister amusement parks. Naturally I felt everyone with any potential for attaining an intellectually acceptable and satisfying life had zeroed in on me as the most obvious candidate for repeated mindless and sexually neutered vacations to properties of this dreadful corporation. I saw it as an adversary actively trying to destroy whatever positive effects all of my efforts to rise above my station might somebody have for me...Anyway I have never had to go to Disney World, because as it turns out in the 2010s it would cost almost $1,000 for my family just to enter the place for one day, which is so extravagant for us that up until recently, perhaps because I have to go around wearing rags and shoes with holes in them most of the time, no one has ever even asked me about going there. It seems to have become expensive enough that rabble-rousing intellectuals cannot effectively trash it anymore without calling attention to the fact that they aren't worth enough in any milieu to be able to afford to go there...   

I was going to do a religious activities update too but I have to let this post go.

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