On NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ with Terry Gross they were discussing automation and driverless cars, and it got me thinking: what kind of mysteries will exist in a world run by automated checks-and-balances?
It’s fair to say it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to get away with a crime without it being caught on camera; they’re ubiquitous to the smart phone generation. Writers have to take those kinds of changes into account, unless they want their characters to sound dated.
“Already on the market today there’s a technology called Traffic jam assist that… allows the car to drive itself in stop-and-go traffic,” said Terry’s guest, author John Markoff.
But what happens when we get to the point that so much of society is automated that our very movements aren’t entirely our own?
For example, if a driverless car always recognizes the number of passengers, how can a killer move a dead body without a record being created? What if he can’t hack or break into the car’s memory? He’s going to have a hard time explaining that one to the police.
And if we reach the point where driverless cars are common, it’s likely they will no longer be constructed with engines that go far beyond the speed limit. What would be the point? The driverless car is going to be programmed to obey prevailing limits. So will we be writing getaway scenes in which bank robbers literally can’t “step on it?”
Cell phones and internet databases were relatively recent examples of how social shifts affect writing; people no longer had to rush to find a phone or knock on someone’s door in the middle of nowhere, or use a phonebook to look someone up. It’s tough to keep in mind sometimes but I like to think it’s a new wrinkle to storytelling, a challenge to better reference the world from the character’s point of view and not my own.
Plus, driverless cars mean more time for writing, and therefore more opportunities to procrastinate about writing. Score one for technology!