I was inspired to write this blog by a driverless car advocate who wrote on twitter that a robot might make a better Prime Minister.
The rise of fascism in the 1930s was supported by the avantgarde movement called Futurism. It emphasised speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. The autonomous pedestrian and cyclist quickly became an irritation in the march towards futuristic progress.
It was Benito Mussolini who first favoured the elimination of autonomy in favour of corporatism. The advent of fascism welcomed and incorporated mass production of cars. Social Darwinism meant abandoning democracy, weeding out the ‘weak’ and promoting the interests of ‘successful’ businessmen, like the automobile moguls. For the fascists the superior individual drove a car and at speed, dominating public space. Mussolini was often warned, even by those in his own party, about his reckless speeding in his Alfa Romeo.
Hitler built roads for war and on the backs of slave labour. Almost a quarter of the German work force was slave labour, often from camps for ‘undesirables’ such as homeless, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, political dissidents, communists, Jews or conquered people such as Poles and Slavs.
Unscrupulous car manufacturers like Fordwerke, a subsidiary of the ford Motor company employed slave labour. Meanwhile Henry Ford and General Motors helped mobilise the Third Reich.
It is believed that 4 out of every 5 workers at Volkswagen plants during the war were slave labourers. Ferdinand Porsche was rumoured to have requested slave labourers directly from Auschwitz via Himmler. Recently a Russian Oligarch bought Hitler’s Mercedes.
Fast forward to 2016 when Fascism has once again raised its ugly head. Not surprisingly cars are at the heart of their rhetoric. Nigel Farage wants to do business with German car manufacturers post Brexit. Um?
Tesla has been keen to come to the table following Trumps shock victory with a ‘surprising alignment of interests with the new presidential administration’ says Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s lead auto analyst. No surprise here if we look at car manufacturers cosy relationship with past fascist administrations.
Elon Musk and Tesla are part of a wider corporate drive to dominate streets with driverless cars that includes Siemens with its own chilling Nazi past. The military is also a big supporter of driverless technology.
The post-truth irony is the industry calling a driverless car ‘autonomous’ when of course it is anti-autonomous. Driverless ‘mobile couch potatoes’ are the ultimate in dependency on totalitarian corporations, dominating public space.
New driverless technology is just the same business model in a new format. There is no democracy of public space and it favours corporations over individual freedom to roam. Dieselgate has shown how easy it is for the automobile industry to sneak in software that serves the corporations at the cost of the public (Volkswagen again). Air pollution is forcing children out of ‘unsafe’ polluted playgrounds. Will we end up in a Pied Piper world where children have been disappeared entirely from our outside public space ?
Robot driverless advocates want a simple world that is based on predictable algorithms. This is epistemic arrogance: rare and improbable events occur much more than we dare think. We live in an unpredictable world. We do not have a god-like control over nature. And humans that are creative and emotional are inherently unpredictable.
The Alt-right like Trump denigrate women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities. Their simple version of the truth may make them feel in control in an out of control world.
The Black Swan is Climate Change, unpredictable and dark; corporate globalisation has brought us to the edge of extinction. Using a car whether driverless electric hydrogen petrol or diesel is bad for the environment and global warming. That truth may not generate money for corporations but it could help save us?
And to the driverless car advocate that would rather have a robot as a Prime Minister, May I suggest that Government is already run by corporate investment algorithms?