Driverless Cars and Local-Digital Homesteads
The Future Is Arriving Fast
Photo Credit: From the GetCruise.com website
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When it comes to living better in a worsening world, a combination of ideas seems likely to be the best medicine. Over the last two weeks, a robust discussion manifested on some of my posts debating the technological glories of digital abundance versus the reality of the limits we face and the need to "degrow." While I do not believe anymore that degrowth is a viable path forward, many principles of that idea are sound; I tried living them in the 1990s and enjoyed it a lot. But it is not for everyone, and as a practical matter, degrowth is an unacceptable vision to so many people that it will never be widely adopted.
Critiques of Digital
At the same time, people pointed out that there is a bit of a utopic view of digital. They are skeptical that capitalism will fall the way I outline it. They say solar cannot work because more energy goes in than it can generate. Several people pointed out that “food cannot be digital.” These are all good critiques, and I provided some answers. On digital food, see this. It appears that the energy to produce a solar panel can be generated by the panel in 2-3 years. Panels generally last upwards of 40 years, so the energy production payback is strong. (I’ll be publishing a more complete assessment of the viability of solar panels in the next week or so.)
A Vision of Local-Digital
The conversation was very useful, however, in that it helped me see a new path forward, one that I am now calling the local-digital homestead. Degrowth, Transition, Permaculture, and other approaches to less growth all have some level of self-sufficiency running through their solutions. That self-sufficiency is central to their positive effect on the environment—less travel, more local living, less fossil fuel burned. All good.
Except, as I said before, a lot of people do not want to live that way. So they won’t. Unless…
What if, with the use of technology, we can make people’s lives better as they perceive them and accomplish a lot more participation in the self-sufficiency aspect of these approaches? If you don't like to grow a garden, the artificial digital food I outlined provides what you need when you need it. Grocery store trips are no longer necessary. Self-sufficiency may be achieved on your countertop rather than in the garden. Same for 3D printing the things you need in life. And so on. For people who may not enjoy the same activities that advocates of these lifestyles suggest, they now have a way to make their lives better and still become self-sufficient—even in deeply urban environments. I see this as a good thing.
One article this week highlights what is coming: Autonomous, Driverless Vehicle Taxis are now open to the public for rides in San Francisco. Look at that story and watch the short video. It is amazing. Just think of what happens when these vehicles replace not only the taxis but also private car ownership. The disruption to one of capitalism's biggest industries will be enormous.
Imagine the changes that will happen when this technology is ubiquitous. We will be able to get where we want to go in the privacy of a vehicle, but we will avoid the costs of ownership—no car payments, no insurance, no gas, no deductibles, no repairs or maintenance. Instead, we will have a subscription in which all those costs are shared across the groups of people who use the vehicles, thereby radically reducing costs.
Even more, no stress from driving. No lost time in a commute to work. Just call your vehicle online, it shows up in less than two minutes and takes you where you are going while you work or talk on the phone. You won’t need a garage in a home anymore, and you will never pay for parking again.
Autonomous vehicles will make people’s lives better, and they will adopt them. When the cars are electric, and the electricity comes from solar and non-burning sources, we will see a reduction in smog and transportation-sourced greenhouse gases. This is a win, and it is the kind of win that people will eagerly adopt because the personal benefits parallel the environmental benefits. When it comes to getting the mass population on board to solve climate change, we should adopt, promote, and advocate these kinds of solutions.
Because that is living better in a worsening world.
Note: Use the links below to access my current articles published on Medium.com or other platforms.
In Case You Missed Them
Here are my recent articles from this week on Medium.com. Note that if Medium needs you to sign up for a membership to get access and you wish to do so, please use my affiliate membership link. The cost is the same, but your sign-up with that link helps support my work financially.
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Ideas, insights, and imagination to help you live better in a worsening world. Topics include Men, #MeToo, and Masculinity; Postcapitalism; Climate Change; Digitalization and Cryptocurrency; Green Energy; Retirement and financial planning… basically everything that addresses making life better in this challenging time of history.