Star Trek or Mad Max?

This post is a review of the book “The Driver In The Driverless Car” by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever.

This book is an investigation into all aspects of the most recent developments in technology. It takes in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), Robotics, drones, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D Printing and of course the driverless car.

The authors try to present a balanced argument of the pros and cons of this new technology and how it will affect our future. As Wadwha states, as a child, he was fascinated by the Utopian vision of “Star Trek” and loved the character “Rosie” the all-purpose robot assistant in “The Jetsons”.

The Jetsons (Syndicated) 1962 – 1988
Shown from left: Astro, Judy Jetson, George Jetson, Jane Jetson, Elroy Jetson, Rosie the Robot

Later in his life, he watched the dystopian vision of Mad Max, where society has broken down and the world is about savages who have nothing but live lawless lives in what remains of a past highly sophisticated technologically progressive society that has degenerated due to unemployment caused by technology and the creation of a small rich class with everyone else  left to fend for themselves.

In “Star Trek” technology has allowed man to overcome illness, live full and happy lives and concentrate on exploring the outer reaches of the universe. Back on planet Earth there is a world government and on the Star Ship Enterprise there are representatives of all races and creeds (but not sexual orientation, it was of course originally filmed in 1960’s U.S.A.!). Man has overcome the divisions that divided him and led to wars and internal strife. It was very much a view of technology which represented the views of the series’ creator, Gene Roddenberry, a liberal humanist.

Throughout the book, the authors present the case to support the advantages and drawbacks of the technological developments that are fast becoming the change agents of everyone’s lives and will affect all our futures.

Their conclusion is entitled “So Will It Be Star Trek or Mad Max?” and they write:

“If. after reading this book, you complain that I have taken you on a roller coaster ride, getting you really excited about the amazing future in one paragraph and then scaring the crap out of you in the next, I will not be surprised. That is the path that technology is on: with amazing possibilities to uplift mankind, yet with really dark downsides too.There is no clear outcome: the future hasn’t happened yet; it will be what we make it.”

Technology, as they state, is a tool and it is what we make of it that will determine our future.

I think this is a wise book that should be read widely and definitely contributes to the debates about the use of technology in society.  Highly recommended.


About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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