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Media hype of the same tech firms -- more clicks, less benefit

Aren’t you tired of technology that doesn’t exist – or could hurt you? Let’s consider the technology offerings we cannot buy and perhaps do not ever want to buy.  There is a growing and increasingly tedious list of them, as noted in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, ZDNet, CNET, and blah, blah, blah elsewhere.  The tech companies these media influencers want you to know about include Facebook drones, self-driving cars, those ubiquitous robots, and anything that has the word Apple in the text – can you say Wall Street Journal?  It is getting tough to select from the conflicting survey articles on driverless cars. The word 'fear' crops up a lot – perhaps having to do with concerns about a recent autonomous auto casualty. This gem is from today, about the cities that will lead the driverless car 'revolution.' Condolences to you if you live in one of those cities.

Driverless, electric, Google – the hype is invariably about the same tech companies.  One imagines a reporter parked outside each of Google, Facebook (covering the politics of the users!), Apple, and Tesla. Or those PR departments have the reporters on speed dial (more likely) and place a call daily. So what’s up with drones? And why does UPS have no scheduled date for drone delivery?  So that’s the news – that they’re just not ready.  Ah, but the NYC Fire Department disagrees –here they are, look up at the sky, New Yorkers, just $85,000 each – read that and think about the barriers – uh, the mostly restricted air space and then there are the trees!   

So do we get to vote with our wallets about which tech works for us? Why, for example, is GM so nervous about electric and self-driving cars?  Kind of unfortunate, the choice of words for the article attached to that one: "This is what it is like to drive Chevy’s Tesla Killer."  Probably they did not mean that literally. Those that cite the accident statistics to make a case for self-driving/autonomous cars want us to believe that they will reduce fatalities from car crashes. Did anyone bother to check that deaths from car accidents have been declining, relative to population, since 2006? This year, the death rate rose – due to lower gas prices and a stronger economy? Really? But the CDC solutions were simple (seat belts, not drinking and driving). They did not involve self-driving cars.  The CDC article did compare death rates with Belgium, which given the 164,000 US highway miles versus 8,632 in Belgium, kind of strains credulity.

Do you want a self-driving car on the highway near you?  As an aside, did you know that the US population grew past 322 million in 2016, up from 318 million in 2014? Maybe that has something to do with traffic? As cars zip by, you see them driving in the breakdown lane during rush hour outside Boston, or you watch the zippy movement to-and-from the car pool lanes near Los Angeles. Ask not what Google and Tesla can do for your driving. Ask what you can do to avoid encountering these products of irrational tech and media exuberance.  More to the point, tell someone, anyone -- how about a car dealer? -- you are going to opt out until such time as all vehicles on all roads are self-driving and that they have mastered the skill of avoiding distraction from low-flying UPS drones.


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