The car-human cyborg remains the deadliest creature on the planet except for the alliance between malaria and mosquitoes. It’s also the cause of death we simply can’t be bothered to care about. I first made this point in Chaos Ethics, and have reiterated them ever since - including back in cyborg #5. As tragic as the quarter of a million deaths attributed to Coronavirus might be, road accidents cause over a million undiscussed deaths every year - yet it is unthinkable that we would trigger a lockdown to stop this steel-framed pandemic, even though it is quite possible when the lockdown ends we will have saved more lives by taking our cars off the road than by blunting the impact of the virus.
After the deaths, the roads are the other casualty of vehicle use we just don’t like to think about. For motor vehicles wreak tremendous violence upon our road surfaces - just as motorists cause the traffic they complain about, motorised vehicles are the cause of the potholes that drivers detest. A network of cycle routes would last many years without needing more than basic maintenance... motorised transport not only burns up resources making the vehicles and fuelling them, it uses even more resources building and repairing the infrastructure that makes the car inevitable, and thus scares people away from cycling. People are afraid to cycle because they are afraid the cars will kill them - and they’re right to be afraid, it’s just they are not safer in a car. The car itself is the very problem, and we are oh so experienced at ignoring it, especially when we get behind the wheel.
Roads as we currently operate them do offer a few opportunities for cybervirtue, such as building the excellences of navigation. So of course, we add robot navigators to destroy that possibility as well. And really, we are reaching absurdly as we try to find the positives in our nomadic “normal” life of endless motorised travel, as if it wasn’t the number one threat to life outside of the tropics, the biggest environmental health risk we face, and a major contributor to the collapse of land use diversity that is steadily driving our fellow species to extinction.
Yet we will not question the roads. We must not, for we have engaged in an endless double-or-nothing bet on this way of organising human life, and just as the gambler pursuing the Martingale strategy in a casino must eventually hit the house limit and go bankrupt, so will we. I encourage you to use the lockdown to reflect upon the way we take roads and travel for granted and imagine a future of lighter, slower, safer, friendlier vehicles that could make their roads last longer, and kill fewer people. We have a golden opportunity for making changes right now - let’s not waste this chance to imagine what a good transport network might be.
A Hundred Cyborgs, #90
The final ten cyborgs begin soon.