When I was a sophomore in high school, I started writing nature poetry and started a group called The New Luddites, in honor of the British textile workers and weavers who rebelled against the new machinery they feared would replace them. I made T-shirts with our logo, wrote manifestos, and fulminated about the dangers of technology. It didn’t take long for me to become a sellout: Soon after, my dad brought home a new Macintosh computer and I was instantly hooked, caught up in the allure of gadgets and devices.
So I think I understand what recently drove a man in San Francisco to shout at a self-driving car–a GM Cruise AV–that was waiting to make a turn at a light in the Mission District and throw his “entire body” at the vehicle’s rear bumper. Though it’s still not clear what his motive was, he targeted the self-driving car so it seems like he may have been a Luddite in his own way.
As self-driving cars start to proliferate (10 million of them by 2020, according to some estimates), expect more of these types of attacks. Last year, when I asked my cabbie about the technology, he immediately replied, “Every time I see one, I’m going to crash into it. Really. I’ve thought about it. When that happens, it’ll be a big deal and stir up controversy, and they’ll take them off the road for a while.”
It doesn’t matter. Such attacks might slow down their advance, but they’re coming and before you know it, we’ll all be sitting in the backseat, sighing at the memory of what it was like to maneuver the steering wheel in midtown traffic.