(Photo courtesty of Reuters)It’s a good thing Gertrude Stein never said, “A phone is a phone is a phone.”
Clearly, these days, her tautology would be a disconnect, received like a dropped call. The mobile devices we’re so dependent on, attached like an extension of our brains, are so much more. Ultimately, these Swiss Army Knife-like gadgets allow everything to be knowable.
But while the smooth, mirrored glass on an iPhone presents a cyber-world, a fun-house from which anyone can observe all the YouTube videos, Facebook updates, Tweets and apps, ad infinitum at an instant—when blended with the speed of driving, it’s enough to send a person careening through the glass of a car windshield onto the hard, real world pavement.
Reconciling the two worlds these newfangled lenses open up, will take some discipline, growing pains and if the NTSB has its way, regulation. This past week, in the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that every state ban the use of mobile devices in automobiles. That includes hands-free devices too. No texting, no phoning, no nothin’.
23 countries including England, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Israel and Japan, have enacted handheld cell phone bans while driving.
In the U.S., nine states and D.C. prohibit all driversfrom using handheld cell phones while driving. Except for Maryland, all laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place. As for Text Messaging: 35 states and D.C ban text messaging for all drivers.
Clear as a lens from the Bareket observatory, the aim of these laws make sense.
For it’s all too common a phenomenon to look over, behind or in front and see a fellow commuter juggling the wheel, their coffee mug and their lifeline to the Internet, and want to honk a wake-up call so they get back to reality.
Yet, he who is without fingers may cast the first PDA out the window.
The challenge is, if these apparatuses are becoming extensions of us, providing guidance on how we live, shop, work and play, then how conceivable is it that we can actually exist sans contraption?
After all, we live in a world where media, cannot not be found. We’ve become so accustomed to it always there, always on, that we reference it before we even look to the reality it’s supposed to be displaying. The postmodern philosopher, Jean Baudrillard described this brave new world as hypereality or as a map so detailed that it ends up taking the place of that which it is referencing. By the way, he wrote about this long before there were Garmin GPS devices loaded in every car.
Navigating around the obstacles all this media displays, and more than a bit ironic (just as a virus needs part of itself to create the antibody) Sergey Brin co-Founder of Google and an investor in Tesla Motors also just this past week was on the road to achieving a driverless car vision. It was reported that via artificial intelligence, deploying GPS video cameras and radar sensors, driverless cars could be on our roads, with the result being fewer accidents and lighter, streamlined vehicles. Holy Knight Rider!
But until cars can drive themselves, we should heed the advice given by the band The Doors, “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.