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The Possible Futures Of Self-Driving Cars

I’m not sure which way the spread of self-driving car technology is going to go, but I see three basic options.
Option one: The Epic Fail.
In this scenario self-driving cars grow in popularity and start becoming common. Some major cities start banning manual-drive cars from major pedestrian malls in their city centers. Everything’s going great!
And then, BAM! A widespread software glitch, virus, or cyberattack strikes a large number of cars. Maybe it’s a given make or model of car, or every car running a certain app or receiving a certain update or patch. Thousands of cars crash, either physically, in the software sense, or both. Thousands of people are hurt in the space of hours, or even minutes. Hundreds of people die. Emergency rooms and ambulance services are overwhelmed. Video of hospitals performing triage in parking lots and stacked body bags hits the news. Victims appear on talk shows and media broadcasts.
There’s a huge anti-self-driving public outcry. Politicians pass laws to restrict the hell out of self-driving car technology. Carmakers pull back on producing them. It takes a century or two for the public to even consider allowing self-driving cars again, and even longer for laws restricting them to be withdrawn — if they ever are.
Option Two: City Drivers.
Self-driving cars become a little like hunting: mostly a rural thing, and a point of pride for many rural folks to distinguish themselves from “soft” urban types. Small towns and unincorporated areas may allow self-driving vehicles, but social pressure causes many people living in these areas to avoid them. The demand this preserves for manual-drive cars keeps carmakers supplying them and prevents the areas that favor them from passing laws restricting them.
At the same time, larger towns and cities do restrict manual-drive cars, barring them from downtown areas at least. Larger cities ban manual driving within city limits.
This division creates additional barriers and friction between rural and urban areas — it becomes more difficult for someone living and driving in one to visit the other — and as urban areas continue to grow, rural unrest and dissatisfaction with government and city people grows. Potentially, this may fuel separatism and worse political division of Americans than currently exists, and fuel similar social conflict in other nations as well.
Option three: Self-Driving Cars Take Over
In this scenario, self-driving car technology continues to develop quickly and by the time people born in the 2010s grow up self-driving cars dominate the roads. A decade after that, so many areas, including whole counties and even states, outlaw manual driving that even if you could find a manual car to buy there’s be barely anywhere to drive it. Manual-drive cars are only popular in racing sports and on closed tracks and private property as a rich person’s hobby.
The 20 years of the switchover creates a situation in which there are few of the older cars that the poor rely on for transportation available to buy. Self-driving technology replaces the cars of the poor with pay-per-ride apps, which are no more expensive as long as the poor choose to use them seldom and for short distances at non-peak periods. The availability of pay-per-ride self-drivers disrupts public transportation systems with low ridership; many collapse or contract. Some poor and working-class people are forced out of rural areas due to the greater reliance on people owning their own transportation in those areas, leading to an increase in the rural-to-city population shift.
By the time older self-driving cars are available for the poor to buy at low cost, the new social norm is set and few people buy those cars, distrusting the cost of upkeep and relatively large outlay.
It’s a relative good for most, but not for the bottom ten percent of income earners.
So. There are the major options as I see them. Got another idea? Let me know in the comments. 🙂
(This post appeared a week earlier on my Patreon page — join me and see most of my work early, plus you can get ebooks, for free, before I release them even if I’m charging for them when they go public, and even signed copies of anything I publish hard copy of at higher patronage levels!)

YouTube Just Locked Out Small Creators

That’s the gist of it. Unless you’re producing mass content via bot or a major media company with tons of material to upload, you can no longer monetize your YouTube channel without a bare minimum of 2 years of 80+ hour weeks or 5 years of full-time work making videos.

They just locked out the creators who made YouTube a thing. Now it’s just a network like ABC, only with much crappier standards.

YouTube is walking away with the moneybags small creators earned them, laughing. Eat it, suckas! Thanks for your hard work, now piss off!

Read more about it at Futurism.

13 Word Story: Get WHAT Better Job?

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(This post appeared on my Patreon page on 26 February 2016. They see blog posts three days early — plus, when I publish a new eBook they get a FREE .pdf copy even if I charge for it elsewhere! So you should totally become a patron. Not only will I appreciate it, but my wife and three children will appreciate it too. New patrons cheer me up, give me a fresh shot of no, really, this writing thing will support us some day optimism. And that inspires me to write more, which is a good thing. Daddy gets crabby when he’s feeling pessimistic and the writing won’t flow.)


I think the general inspiration for this one is pretty obvious. There have long been unpaid internships in various fields, but there has been an explosion of them, and other unpaid work, of late.

“Exposure” is the coin offered especially to people who work in the various arts. I say “coin” but we all know how much exposure is really worth: pretty much zero. It’s a lottery ticket, basically — hey, write for HuffPo (yes, I mean to pick on them because they sure as hell pull down enough profit to pay contributors, though they are far from the only offenders) for nothing, and maybe someone will offer you a paying job! Maybe someone will start buying your work because they saw your name here!

And there is a pretty big population of people who just love to say, “just get a better job, you bum.” Well, that’s an easy thing to say, isn’t it? It spares the speaker from thinking, and erects a nice barrier of ignorance and not-giving-a-shit to shield them from having to consider that someone trying to make a living from the arts is an entrepreneur — something that type generally loves as long as it’s in a profession that’s respectable in their eyes, like building houses for them, fixing their cars, cooking their food, or cleaning their toilets.

But art, their thinking goes, is worthless bullshit. Some folks who should know better, like Arianna Huffington, think the same so long as the art — creative nonfiction, in the case of the website she built up and sold off for hundreds of millions of dollars — profits them instead of the creator.

That kind of dismissive and self-absorbed thinking, my friends, is the real bullshit, and it only makes it harder to become financially self-supporting as a writer or website developer or a maker of fine webcomics or videos or podcasts or whatever your creative poison is.

(Also, a coda: sometimes it’s damned hard to “get a better job,” too. Unemployment, at least in the US, is pretty damn low. But more of that employment than ever is either part-time, sans benefits, part of the app-contractor economy (think Uber and Lyft) that skirts labor laws including minimum wage, or part of the wage structure that has been losing ground to inflation pretty much every year since somewhere in the 1970s. It’s not going to get any better, either. Not only are unpaid internships and exposure markets (sounds like a sex crime, doesn’t it? But it’s not… quite) growing, but automation hasn’t even gotten properly started yet. There’s a lot of talk about it, and a lot of disagreement over just how many jobs it will ultimately take out of circulation, but look for the impact to be large over the next two or three decades. The number of “better jobs” is shrinking, and it will only shrink faster in the near future.)