Monday, March 13, 2017

Wanna Go For A Ride?

If, as Arthur C. Clarke has suggested and I have reiterated endlessly, all new technology is indistinguishable from magic, then each new service will be seen as a conspiracy or crime. Cell phones and those in-home "assistants" that are set up to record your every personal and discrete interaction for playback later to those big electronic ears of our intelligence gathering agencies. Why should I care if the CIA knows that I added broccoli to my shopping list? Maybe they would be interested in that series of calls I made to Brainerd, Minnesota a few weeks back. The truth is, I have given up trying to keep my private life a secret from the somewhat ironically named "intelligence community."
Then there's Uber. The advent of cellular telephones allowed us all to stay in touch with one another at all times of the day, seemingly regardless of our location. My father's favorite trick from way back when he was alive was to call on his brick of a mobile phone and ask, "Guess where I'm calling from?" My standard answer: Your mobile phone. These days, the ability to send and receive pinpoint satellite locations from all that technology we lug around in our pockets and purses turns out to be a great boon to those of us who are looking to be found. When we are lost. When we need a ride. This is part of the guiding principle behind ride-sharing services. You could call a friend and ask for a ride. Or you could call a taxi service and have them send a car over. Or you could do something right in between. You could call a company that would send a complete stranger to your location to pick you up and drive you to the destination of your choice.
I wonder about the interim moments when there were free ride-sharing services that worked more like that bulletin board in your freshman dorm. You drive and I'll pay for gas, or you drive and I'll buy the In 'n' Out burgers. That sort of thing didn't really need to be regulated beyond who got to control the stereo. Personally, I have always believed in the "my car, my rules" vision of the universe. You don't like Rush? Find another ride.
But what about Uber? Geddy Lee and Neil Peart don't really enter into that equation. They're a great big business built on the idea that folks who might never have used a taxi or a carpool are now tapping their app to get where they need to go. Do they regulate the vehicles and drivers the way cab companies do? Is that lack of regulation causing the taxi industry to become less viable and on its way to the fate of the corner pay phone?
Full disclosure: I have never used Uber. Or Lyft. Or Sidecar. But if you worked for the CIA, you already knew that.

1 comment:

mg said...

Stole my line! You owe WB $116.03.