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Category: Humans

Designated Driver
Google is working on a driverless car. They’ve recently unveiled a prototype that has no pedals, no knobs, no steering wheel. It is controlled, evidently, by our robot masters.

I’m tempted to call their vehicle the Giggle, because they can’t really be serious. Except they are. California and three other states have already given them the green light to test the car on our public highways. Am I the only person who’s alarmed by this development?

I acknowledge that I am already dependent on machines. Like most First-Worlders, I’ve gone all-in for labor-saving devices. Without them, I might well perish, but I do have some hypothetical control over the situation. I could forage for roots and make clothing out of animal skins if I needed to. I could find shelter in the wintertime. Or at least I think I could. Computers may have taken over most of my higher brain functions, but I can still delude myself into thinking I can still think. That delusion allows me the comfort of imagining that I could find a way to survive in a world without machines. But I am not ready for the driverless car. In that situation, even my deluded mind can see that all my control would be stripped away and lost.

I picture my rented auto-auto arriving at my home. I get in, inform it of my destination, and off I go. Soon, I am speeding along at high speed among thousands of other such vehicles. Their passengers, like me, are nothing but baggage — Spam in a can, as the astronauts used to say. We play no part in the handling of our devices.

What if the device malfunctions? Will it stop in time to avoid a deer bolting across the road? Does it know that a second deer will likely be trailing the first? What if it doesn’t hear me screaming “OhGodNo!”? Or what if one of the other auto-autos malfunctions? What if the whole system goes down? What if I am caught in a deadly cataclysm of robot cars gone mad?

Okay, that last scenario is kind of unlikely. In fact, we are told, the benefits of driverless cars include an improved environment, a freeing up of space once used for parking…
and a reduction in accidents. All that would certainly be wonderful — except I don’t believe the accident part. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to see people to get hurt. Other people should have their driverless cars if they want them. When it comes to me and my future, however, I’m a little old-fashioned. I prefer to have complete dominion over the deadly missile I am riding in.

It’s a simple issue of trust. I don’t think the machine can protect me as well as I can. It may be a delusion, but no amount of back-up systems or calm reassurances by engineering savants will shake that conviction.

So please…don’t try to sell me a car that brakes when it senses danger or one that can parallel park itself in the tightest of spaces. And don’t ask me to get into a Giggle. If I’m destined to leave the First World ticketed for the next world, I prefer to be the one holding the wheel as I go, screaming “OhGodNo!” Just so long as I am not in the clutches of our robot masters.
Hey Man
I’ve got a message for my fellow men.

If you blame women because you can’t find love. If gentleness is a sign of weakness to you, if compassion is for suckers, if using force is the only way you know how to gain respect. If anger and hatred are the same as righteousness in your mind. If you never learned how to be nice.

If you feel that you shouldn’t have to put up with disappointment, ever. If women are bitches…

Then my message to you is: man up.
Got Dibs
“Got dibs,” according to paleolinguists, were likely the first words ever uttered by a human being. Other animals would no doubt have made the same claim, but they don’t know how to talk, so tough titty.

Since that first declaration of rights, the practice of dibbing has had a rich history. In fact, the notion of having dibs (as theorized by paleo real estate agents) is at the very foundation of our modern concept of ownership. If you own real property in the United States, for instance, your deed rests on the original dibbing done by the minions of various kings. Native Americans, sadly, considered land to be undibbable, so all they got was a worthless section of Oklahoma (at least until White Man changed his mind and shouted “Got dibs!”).

In Europe, ownership rests on dibbing done eons ago. Unlike the royal dibbing done in North America, which rested on the direct endorsements from God that all kings enjoy, those ancient dibs depended mostly on the size of the dibber’s club and his willingness to use it. Not to put too fine of a point on it, then, all ownership is based on extortion and murder.

Dibbing has continued unabated into modern times. When The White Man took back Oklahoma, he parceled it out by way of the Great Land Rush of 1893 — one of the wildest and woolliest episodes of dibbing ever witnessed. The Rush even came with a nice legal rationale, although it was clearly just another example of whiteman giving.

A whole bunch of nations called dibs on Antarctica, and that was kind of entertaining for a while, because getting dibs is not quite as acceptable now as it used to be. Eventually, everybody made nice and signed a treaty. Which is great, but we’ll see what happens when oil is discovered at the South Pole.

Dibbing went extraterrestrial when we planted no less than six American flags, complete with spring-loaded stiffeners, on the lunar surface. No one said anything at the time about the Moon belonging to us, but nobody denied it, either. We can be sure, in any case, that we have not seen the last of lunar dibbing. The Russians are still grumpy over losing the race to the Moon, and they’ll be back to try again someday.

Speaking of humiliation-based land grabs, old Vladimir Putin has been doing some serious dibbing himself recently. His argument seems to be that there is a great yearning in the Ukraine to rejoin Russia — especially among the goons he sent there. Consequently, he’s got dibs.

And so it goes. Dibbing is a fundamental part of human nature. Whether we’re grabbing a Third World country, kidnapping a candidate for slavery, or snatching the last piece of pizza, the gimme instinct is strong in us. If we want it, we take it, and if you don’t like it, do you know what this here big club says? Tough titty.
Enemies
A tree fell on my house once. It was a hundred-foot-tall Douglas fir. We were very lucky; no one was hurt, and the house survived. I am now wary of Douglas firs. They are a dangerous plant. But I do not hate them.

Nor do I hold a grudge against poison oak. That plant has been a lifelong source of misery for me, but I know it’s not seeking me out and doing it on purpose. Berry bushes have left thousands of tiny, painful stickers in my hands over the years, but I don’t take it personally. Right now, I’m sniffling and sneezing with all the pollen in the air, but I know the plants that produced that pollen are not out to get me. I would not (even if I could) decree that any of these plants be banished from the face of the earth forever.

Mosquitoes are another matter. Them, I hate. On some level, they know I’m a fellow creature, yet they go ahead and suck the juice out of me anyway. My juice! If the opportunity ever arose to dictate a species extinction, I just might pull the trigger on the mosquito. Same with gophers. Those bastards steal my food and destroy my garden even though they know it enrages me. The thought of a world without them makes me smile.

Yes, yes… I know. Each of these animals is part of the vast, intricate balance of nature that sustains all life, blah, blah, blah. You suggest that if I tried to play Jenga with the delicate stack of species and extract just one offending animal, the whole pile might come tumbling down, me included. To which a part of me wants to respond, “Yeah? Bring it on.”

But I would stop short of total annihilation, I think. What if, in lashing out, I caused some plant species to go extinct? That would be wrong. The plant kingdom is the nice kingdom, and it should not suffer for the misdeeds of a few sociopathic animals.

You see? I may be genocidal, but at least I’m not mean.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon