There’s going to be a trial of the driverless cars in South Australia.
Now, I just read that the driverless Google cars in the US have been in eleven accidents since they were put on the road. So what happens when the technology fails or gets hacked, and there’s a fatality? Let’s do a quick poll.
If driverless cars are involved in fatalities because of the technology, would you support taking them off the road until they’re safe?
Don’t answer straight away because we’re coming back to this later. Pause and think about it. Take your time while I relate my experience when I posted the following photo:
Someone took me to task, and said that we didn’t have to descend to “their” level and that we needed to be better than this. I found this an interesting comment, because I basically agree with it.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of people’s physical appearance, sexuality, age or lack of education in everyday life, so why should politics be any different? There’s enough to attack Gina Rinehart on, without resorting to the sort of personal attacks which liken her to a well-known muppett. And we can certainly laugh at what Christopher “The Fixer” Pyne says without mocking the way he says it. (Yes, yes I know. “Why does Christopher Pyne talk funny?” “So blind people can laugh at him too.” Nobody can accuse me of being too potically correct!)
Although sometimes it’s hard not give in to temptation, and, other times, we can enter a grey area. For example, if I complain about George Christensen wailing about his name being spelled wrong by Zaky Mallah, I’m not necessarily making a reference to those creatures that the Sea Shepherd tries to protect. Yeah, I know. It’s the sort of defence that works in a court of law, but to quote Mr Hockey “fails the sniff test”
Was the suggestion that I shouldn’t have posted the photo an example of too much political correctness, or had I crossed the line?
Well, I figure that there’s a general rule of thumb and that’s, “How would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot?” (Of course, for people with normally shaped feet the answer is always: “Pretty uncomfortable”!) If the person being spoken about was someone I admired would I feel that some line had been crossed? Would I be outraged?
Yes, that’s not a bad principle to apply. Can someone complain about the sexist abuse that Julia Gillard encountered if they’re just going to turn around and do the same to Bishop or Mirabella? The justification that they liked this person, but hated the other doesn’t stand up to any rational examination or fairness test.
Which brings me back to the “Ditch the Witch” photo.
I posted it without comment, only adding later that the irony was in the eye of the beholder. I wasn’t holding up the sign, nor was I standing in front of it. I certainly wasn’t suggesting that the sign referred to Mirabella or Bishop. Again, I suspect that doesn’t pass the “sniff test” and sounds like something my lawyer told me to say. I don’t recall noticing the sign and the two women before I posted the photo, your honour. In fact, I don’t recall posting the photo at all, owing to the fact that I just finished a bottle of Grange that I don’t recall being given as a gift.
However, if there’s something wrong with posting that photo now, then it’s because there’s something offensive with the photo itself not because I’ve doctored it or photo-shopped it or even commented.
Unless we can start to agree on some general principles that inform our decisions then we’re all just going to be bickering like children and just reacting emotionally to an event rather than looking at how it fits within the agreed values. So, for example, how did you respond to the question on driver-less cars, and would it have made a difference if I’d pointed out that the eleven accidents I referred to were all caused by other cars driven by humans according to Google? Even if you remain cynical about that, the fact remains that – even if it was partially the fault of the car’s technology – human error is responsible for deaths every day on the roads. Nobody ever suggests banning private drivers until we sort out how to prevent this.
Well, that’d just be unworkable, I hear people saying, and they’re right. Just like the person who told me that I shouldn’t have posted the “Ditch the Witch” photo. But the fact remains we’re prepared to tolerate deaths on the road all the time because we’re used to it. With something out of the ordinary – like a driver-less car – then it becomes an enormous concern. If driver-less cars are common, when the first fatality occurs, you’ll probably even have people deciding to take the train to work because of concern about the risk. If the principle you’re trying to apply here is one of the safety of the general public, what allows you to ignore that fact that it’s the nut holding the wheel that’s the cause of most deaths on the road.
And so it is with terrorism. It’s not something that’s part of the normal daily occurrences in this country, like fatalities from car smashes or domestic violence or workplace accidents. Most of these wouldn’t even make it to the “news”, unless they involve a high profile person, or have some particularly graphic footage. But terrorism! It’s new. It’s unusual. It’s like a driver-less car. Gee, somebody left the country and may have joined IS – that’s worth a front page story; drunk driver kills a pedestrian, put it in that little gap on page 23.
Personally, I suspect I’m more at risk of violence from one of the Reclaim Australia supporters than from a terrorist. (Mm, why do I suddenly imagine a Reclaim Australia supporter reading this and shouting, “That’s bullshit! If I could get my hands on that smug little @*#! I’d show him.”) But it’s the unusual that grabs our attention, just like in those nature documentaries where you see antelopes happily grazing near lions, but stampeded by the sight of a jeep. Just like in the USA, after those planes crashed into those buildings, nearly all Americans thought that something had to be done, while after every gun massacre many will argue that it’s just the price you pay for “freedom”.
So we can divert billions of dollars to keep us safe from attack – security services, jet planes that don’t work and submarines to spy on the terrorists sneaking in by boat – providing the attack is from something alien, something new, something unusual. Industrial safety? Can’t afford any more there! Domestic violence? We’re spending nearly as much on an awareness campaign as we ripped out of the support systems in last year’s budget. Car accidents? We’re building more roads, isn’t that going to help?
Daniel Kahneman, writer of Thinking Fast And Slow, makes the point that we frequently instinctively make a decision and then use our rational minds to justify it. As a country, however, one would hope that we should have a set of principles that guide us, so that it isn’t just a case of: they thought of it, therefore we must oppose it.
Yep, it’s nice when we have some general principles that make us stop and think about our actions. I mean, there used to be the Geneva Convention and the Magna Carta, but they’re so last millennium in Abbott’s Australia!
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