Rise of the Machines

13590461_10210032232745817_3721392248294275209_nThis afternoon – embracing the world of urban transport disruption as I recently have – I caught an Uber for what should have been a short trip across the Sydney CBD for a meeting at Governor Phillip Tower.

Into a clean and well presented car (one of the great improvements over the moribund Australian taxi industry) I instructed the driver to head across town.

Almost immediately the driver – instructed rather forcibly by his GPS – took a road that was clearly congested with traffic.

Free from the congestion he then took the Cross City Tunnel which being a tunnel under a major world city not surprisingly doesnt have off ramps into every street of the CBD.

As we breached the entrance of the Tunnel I kept asking him:

“Are you sure that this is the right way?”

Driver: “Yes, yes, yes, yes – that is what the GPS says”.

It is fair to say that exiting the tunnel in Rushcutters Bay (for those who dont know – about a three kilometre overshot) left me less than impressed by his geographical skills and now late for my meeting.

As we drove around the human and architectural kaleidoscope that is King’s Cross he kept on wanting – “because that is what the GPS says” (his words) – to take sojourns down narrow one way streets and alleys and I kept on strongly encouraging him to take me to what is one of Sydney’s largest buildings.

As he stopped to allow me to alight I pointed out – with the articulation that only a frustrated traveller can muster – that being dropped at the loading bay of a major building is very different to requesting to disembark at the front door!

**

It struck me as I waited for unmanned electronic lifts to take me 49 floors into the sky for my meeting that we have given over much to the supposed intelligence of machines.

Rather than listen to the voice of reason (i.e. – me, albeit with increasing frustration and urgency in my opinions) or heed the song of experience he chose to place his (and my) journey in the hands of his GPS.

He chose the machine over his judgement.

This isn’t a Luddite post decrying the never ending march of technology.

May these machines do for our generation what the combustible steam engine did for the Industrial Revolution.

May these machines present us new horizons, cure incurable diseases and bind us together in a way that war becomes a nightmare lived only in the past.

But as we wake to this new dawn of computer generated intelligence may we never lose the courage to explore paths that are not dictated by an algorithm.

May we never lose the ability to be heard so that our opinions, and our opinions alone, are the determining factor in the quality of life we seek to live.

And may we never forget that just because something is old it does not mean that it is outdated.

**

I walked back!

 

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