Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The lies we tell ourselves about technology and the future have real costs

Follow-up to yesterday's post.

 Not so long ago, the conventional wisdom (except for a few journalists who really understood the challenges) was that the tech for autonomous vehicles was basically in place. The only thing holding us back was excessive regulation and legal concerns. And it wasn't only AVs; the following is from a post we ran in 2018 on that old standby, flying cars:

One of the most cherished tenets of the standard tech narrative is that we would all be living in a wondrous futuristic land – – half sci-fi movie, half amusement park – – if not for those darned regulations. It's a perfect, multipurpose excuse. It teases us with the promise of great things just around the corner. It creates a handy set of villains to boo and hiss. It neatly explains away the failures of tech messiahs to come up with appealing and functional technology or viable business plans.

It is also bullshit. There are certainly cases where onerous regulations hold up big infrastructure projects and you can make the case that the IRB process is delaying certain medical advances, but in the vast majority of cases where a new technology fails to catch on, it is because of incompetent execution, bad engineering or non-feasible business models, but those explanations are difficult to write up, run counter to the standard narrative, and tend to make the journalists look like idiots for having bought the hype in the first place.

Regulators of autonomous vehicles have been more than compliant; with Tesla, they've been negligent, allowing the company to publicly imply to customers that they have level 5 autonomy while privately admitting that they only have level 2 and are far behind companies like Waymo.

Tesla has brought in billions selling a product that doesn't exist, making Elon Musk one of the two richest men in the world. A byproduct of that fraud has been to endanger everyone who owns or shares the road with a car with Autopilot or "Full Self Driving."

Just think of how bad it would be if Musk were in it for the money.

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