Considerations of Technology

It’s day eight of Blogvember. I’m following the prompts from Andrew Canion, which can be found here.

We operate under a bit of an assumption that technology will solve our problems. Technology has the power to connect us, and yet it also wields the power to drive us apart. It has the potential to educate us, while at the same time holding the power to drive misinformation at a scale beyond our wildest imaginations.

In thinking about our world, and the increasingly dire state we’re placing ourselves in, I’ve thought about the role of technology, as someone who largely appreciates the advances it’s helped us achieve.

For the sake of this discussion, I want to focus on transportation. It took one trip to Europe for me to realize just how life-changing decent public transportation can be. I went from thinking that my home town was too small to sustain decent transit to realizing it’s too big not to. In much of the US, driving is essential because the people who wanted to sell everyone cars helped make sure our infrastructure required that. SUVs were sold on being “safer” because they were bigger.

Currently, a lot of the US is focused on transitioning to electric cars to reduce carbon emissions. To be sure, this is a decent idea. Still, lithium mining is not without its drawbacks, and one of our core problems is that we need to be finding means to use less energy, in addition to using more sustainable forms of energy. Part of how I realized that electric cars won’t solve our problems occurred to me while visiting San Diego over the summer. While there, I noticed a significant number of Tesla cars being driven around town, but traffic was still an absolute mess. Having lived in LA, I remember the construction to widen the 405 freeway did virtually nothing to mitigate the time spent traveling along it.

And not only are the economics of ride-share companies abysmal, they also are being found to increase traffic, not lessen it. The one area I see potential for being able to rely on driving less, so far, has been small electric means of transit. They’re not great for long distance, but a short distance run on those little electric scooters is surprisingly fun. But more than that, on that same trip to San Diego I got to get around on a pedal-assisted electric bike. On that bike, I was able to travel to the same location in the same amount of time it took to do so in a car, only I got around on surface streets. It was incredibly liberating, and fun too. An electric bike has the benefit of using far less resources to build than a car, and thus being cheaper and requiring a smaller battery. Of course, there’s times when it’s less than practical (in snowy or freezing, icy weather, as well as perhaps in rainy weather, to some degree), but it otherwise seems to have great potential.

The short amount of time I spent riding around on one has left me hoping to get one in the near future, and to use it in combination with my car so that I start driving less.