Solving Yesterday's Safety Problems Tomorrow
Though I’m generally too much of a libertarian to be a huge fan of the work of the neo-prohibitionists at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, this in-car breathalyzing technology is definitely the kind of active-safety mandate I can get behind. After all, the social debate over the the effects of and responsibility for drunk driving has taken place, and despite heavy penalties against it, drunk driving still kills too many people. Unfortunately, since this technology won’t be usable for another ten years, we’re all going to have to live with the risk of drunk drivers for quite a bit longer… and by the time this hits the streets, you had better believe that distracted driving will be a far more relevant risk factor. After all, if the current state of debate over distracted driving were compared to the drunk driving debate, the automakers would still be arguing that in-car kegerators help keep the danger out of in-car drinking… and the government would be working to set voluntary safety standards for those kegerators.
The moral of the story: by the time we recognize societal safety problems as real problems, we are already halfway to solving them… and the final 50 percent of the problem can take years afterwords to solve.
"The moral of the story: by the time we recognize societal safety problems as real problems, we are already halfway to solving them… and the final 50 percent of the problem can take years afterwords to solve" I have to challenge this. There are lots of people working in various fields who recognize and are able to make reasonable predictions about potential safety and other problems (e.g., ethical, legal, political, and so on) associated with the introduction of new forms of social life (particularly as relates to the introduction of new technologies) long before those problems are fully realized and recognized at a public level. There are many, for example, who claim that the best way of preventing many of these problems is to regulate or restrict the development of new technologies in the first place. Most people react strongly against this of course, because they think technological research and development should occur entirely within the free market and should not be regulated in any way. This is usually supported by the deep-seated belief (a kind of 'technological faith') that technological progress is necessarily good. So deep-seated is this belief that many people think that progress is technological progress (and can have no other form). But there are a wide range of people who challenge these beliefs and the questionable assumptions upon which they rest and who say that, because of the large scale social, legal, ethical and political impacts that new technologies have, then issues related to technological research and development should be recognized as a social and political issues, and not merely as engineering issues or as simple matter of private enterprise. Many argue, for example, that because of the potential severity of the problems some technologies bring about, that these kinds of technologies actually lay the groundwork for justifying increase levels of government regulation and police surveillance precisely because of the increased dangers the technologies pose or permit. If true, then this would be a good reason for thinking twice about developing such technologies. I realize this is going to raise the ire of some people here, but I would suggest that this is due to the fact, at least in part, that most people have not reflected deeply and seriously enough about the powerful role that modern technology plays in shaping social life. The impacts of new technologies tend to be broad and long lasting (e.g., the social effects of the automobile in North America vs mass transit in parts of Europe and Asia) and this makes them political issues and not merely engineering or free market issues. This kind of critical reflective stance is not anti-technological, by the way, but is trying to get hold of the technologies upon which we have become so dependent so that we can begin to stand in a better, healthier, more autonomous relation to the technologies we employ. Your claim that safety problems are halfway to being solved by the time they are recognized sounds more ideological than factual. In my experience this kind of claim tends to rest upon a strong faith that technology will be able to solve all the problems that it creates (such as the problem with distracting information technology). This tends to be a deep-seated belief among technofiles and society at large, and embodies the spirit of instrumental thinking writ large. This technological faith also tends to be associated with a libertarian belief that all problems are best solved within the free market, a position that rests upon overly simplified and extremely problematic conception of human nature and the myth of the atomic, rationally self-interested individual. You can make this kind of claim, of course, and will likely have many here who will support it, but I will suggest that as a general rule (you will always find a few exceptions here and there) it simply will not hold up under more careful and rigorous scrutiny. For those supporters of an unregulated free market I will add here that even if it is true that safety problems are being solved as they are being discovered (a claim I would seriously challenge), then it is also clear that the urge to solve them is not coming directly from the marketplace itself, but from a marketplace that knows that, because of the government emphasis on safety, they will have to meet safety regulations related to these problems and so plan to meet them early in their development.
meh, amachoors. Early in my mis-spent youth, I dabbled in psychedelic recreational drugs. Compared to driving on bootleg LSD, driving drunk is a picnic. It was simply a matter of realizing you are effed up and your reaction time is not so good. Sorta like driving on ice, only different. I wouldnt be any good at auto-cross when drunk, but getting home was no problem. Please note my usage of the past tense
Fingerprint scanner technology is usually meant to prevent someone else from accessing a system. In the case of a chronic DUI person, the fingerprint owner himself would have motivation to make a moulding or latex cast replica of his fingerprint to evade the lockout system. He has total access to his car and finger tip and could work on this at his leisure.
Ok, so you mandate this voluntary piece of equipment. What happens is you force the people that don't want the system, but are not prone to driving drunk or drinking at all to have to pay for a feature that they don't want or need. They in turn buy older cars just to avoid the crapware that has been shoveled on cars in the last 10 years. Id rather have the stereo installers hack up the interior of the DWI/DUI persons car than the automakers add yet another 'feature' that is such an annoyance that people look for ways to circumvent them, and they will. Im all for progress, but I am against the nannyfication of the world to do it.