Tuesday, July 26, 2016

open road


Dear Drivers,

I know, you have heard a lot, maybe even too much from me on this of late, but this beautiful song for today gets at the heart of my thoughts on the self-driving car.  I am neither ready nor willing to hand over all the beautiful motion of driving to our robot overlords.  What, I ask you over and over, is it to be human essentially?  What is the thing that makes humans different from machines or devices?  Does our dependence on devices and data storage threaten essential human-ness?

At the last of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion's broadcast a few weeks ago, President Obama called in and said he thought it was stories that made humans human.  I think it might be empathy, but I love a good story, so I will make room for that being one of the markers as well.

Another idea is that what makes a human a human is asking questions.  Or maybe more properly, seeking answers.  Here's to being human, whatever it means, and I repeat:  What is it to be human?


Yes, you are thinking:  What is empathy?  What is story?  What is artificial intelligence?  What is inquiry?  Once we have definitions for all of those terms, we will return to 'what is human?'  In the meantime, get out there, man, and don't delay: grab whatever you can of the pleasure of the open road, and write it down, draw it, paint it, save it; but not on your hard drive.