There is any interesting dichotomy at play in the technology world. As someone is who is cold-stone engineer by day, but a struggling product design artist by night, I am keenly aware that people both embrace (at the notion of) innovation yet fear change. We like to dream of a better tomorrow, rather than live it. We are blessed to live in remarkably dynamic and creative times. If humanity is to take the next steps in our collective evolution, we must begin to embrace change, even when we fear it. Driverless cars and drones come to mind immediately when I think of technology that seems to bring out the extremes of fear and anxiety.
The vast majority of people outside of the technology sphere (and actually quite few inside that world) express fears about these innovations that are rational from the perspective of possibility, they are not rational concerns when one considers probability. When I solicit perspectives from people on the concept of the driverless car from people who can and do drive themselves today, the response is more often than not one of trepidation. What if it gets hacked? What if something “goes wrong”? Well, what happens when human operated vehicle has a problem? Perhaps nothing, perhaps there is indeed an accident. But that has not stopped 100 years of favoring automobiles over horse and buggies (Amish aside). In short, the able bodied focus on what can go wrong.
But then something interesting happens when you ask someone with a disability such as blindness about driverless cars. Many of whom have spent large portions of their lives depending on others to perform tasks that those with no disabilities take for granted. They are excited about the possibilities that driverless cars offers. The chance to live life on their own terms without reliance on others. They embrace the potential technology offers, they recognize the probability of failure is so low that they’d rather accept some nominal risk in exchange for more fulfilling and self-reliant livelihoods.
I have learned from those with challenges in life to embrace possibility over fear. That we can engineer a better tomorrow. Sure there are risks. There have always been risks with new technology. Yet here we are. If we want to move forward, we must continue to innovate and embrace the change that it entails. Life without risk is no life at all. And as an engineer I’d rather give a better life to as many people as possible, than to simply protect those fortunate enough to have needed to rely on others to simply sustain life. Everyone deserves better.