Why We Drive Pt 4: A Better Way
There's stuff to be done right now
(This is a continuation of musings on Matthew Crawford’s Why We Drive. Read Part 1 here.)
I love Crawford because he isn't just a critic. All the way through, he's showing a positive way, typically through example of people on the margins: the rat-rodder, the offroad-racers, and the like. It's a revolutionary way, a way that goes against all our instincts, but it is a positive way!
It begins with us - and reclaiming our place at the table in making decisions about the technology we use and develop. A habit that we Americans were once proud of - not 'liberty' but self-governance:
"Children in their games are wont to submit to rules which they have themselves established, and to punish misdemeanors which they have themselves defined." Thus did Tocqueville marvel at Americans' habit of self-government, and the temperament it both required and encouraged from a young age. "The same spirit," he said, "pervades every act of social life."
We should act the same with our technology. When problems arise, we can look to ourselves first and our neighbor next to solve them. We need to exercise our muscles of self-governance once more and act as masters over our technology.
And yes - look to your neighbor! Because:
Rules become more necessary as trust and solidarity decline in a society.
If we want less rules and more self-governance, we need more trust and solidarity.
All too often I hear people lament that their phones are too addicting or their cars are too fandangled. Maybe the perfect solution doesn't exist, but you are not at the unbridled mercy of manufacturers. Buy an old car and keep it running. Use an old flip phone. Buy a new car and rip out the television in the middle of it - heck, rip out the electronic throttle; replace the ECU! Take matters into your own hands. Tired of your laptop breaking? Buy an old ThinkPad and enjoy the ability to actually fix the thing.
The revolution begins not with legislation but by changing your own oil.
Technocrats get away with stuff because we let them. Real Americans don't stand for that. Real Christians are not of this world. We set our sights higher.
What if we pursued automotive safety not by forcing safer cars but enabling safer drivers by making "driver's cars" - cars that are lightweight and have good responsiveness?
"The world is its own best model." This could be taken as the motto for a new direction in automotive design. To do so would be to accept the existence of two very separate classes of automobiles with different design criteria: driverless cars and driver's cars.
It's worth noting that a driver's car isn't a Lamborghinni - it's more like a Honda Civic. A Civic built with advancements in metallurgy, fabrication, combustion, and other sciences - unencumbered by the weight of sensors, extra-wide bodies, and automatic transmissions. Such a car would not only enable its driver to grow in virtue but would have material benefits - it would be profoundly more fuel-efficient.
I wouldn't advocate for such a law, but outlawing the sale of automatic transmissions could enable drivers to burn less fuel, cause less crashes, and spend less money, than Tier-4 emissions standards and backup cameras. But most importantly, think of the spiritual development!
It certainly feels strange to talk about technology in terms of virtue rather than material but we have to, or we will find ourselves infantilized by our machines.
The secular world may not have ears to hear about Christ, but it does have ears to hear about virtue. I think we can gain something here, and something worthwhile. I think many of us - myself included - have found conversion by a desire for virtue. Let it be so with our technology, too.