- Picture yourself like a car, she said, starting her presentation.
The auditorium stopped murmuring. This was going to raise some eye brows after all.
- You’ve got your standard engine, she continued, with a turbo button for when you get pressured. You have your heavy body type that protects you from danger and a nice coat of paint to make you pretty. Then, the wheels to help you move further and seats inside for a few – or a few more – people to ride along.
- Now, that’s all fine and dandy. That’s the construct. It’s the car – nobody can say that’s not a good representation of a car, right? she said looking at the audience. Yet a car without a driver is nothing. It’s just some inert thing; it could move, but it can’t. Not on her own.
- So, yes, if you had any doubt, you’re (for now) the driver of the car. Of your own life. You fuel it with your hopes and dreams, you gain speed and reach out for your desires. Sooner or later you’ll even have some scratches and dust from the road. And maybe need some repairs.
Some people in the public started laughing. “Where is she going with this?”
- However, my question to you is: are we absolutely sure we are driving that car? Or is it self driven and we’re just a passenger given the right to sit in front of the wheel?
- Do you know The Simpsons? Of course you do, who doesn’t know The Simpsons?! There’s a scene in the introduction of that show that’s very (yes, I’m referencing The Simpsons, she said smiling at the people in the first rows) relevant to this here presentation: Maggie is driving a car. Ow no, a baby is driving a car, she’s going to crash for sure! It all seems so real too. She’s turning right and the car turns right. She’s turning left and the car turns left. She even pushes the horn and the car goes “beep beep”.
- However that’s just an illusion. We later see Marge (the mother) driving the car for poor Maggie, the baby. Making all the decisions for her, making her believe she’s in control, while she’s actually not.
- How many of you here drive?
People are reluctant in showing their hands.
- C’mon, raise your hands. How many?
Three thirds of the audience slowly raise their hands up.
- See, wasn’t that hard! she said smiling. So you all (well, most of, I hope) went through driving school. And what did the instructor do when you did something wrong?
“He would yell at me!” said somebody from the back.
- Yes, that too, she said. But that’s not the answer I’m looking for. What else?
“He would push the break!” said another one
- Precisely. He would push the pedal for you. But how does this man (or woman, let’s not exclude this possibility) who’s sitting next to you have such controls over your car? And by the way, is it really your car? Or is it his/hers? Or maybe it’s both? Truth is that this car that you’re sitting in might have some hidden controls that you weren’t aware about. Pesky little thing. And seems other passengers could easily slow you down or speed you up. Especially when dinner is not ready and the kids are crying, she joked.
- But sometimes you decide that’s not going to go. No, sir! Not on your watch. And you assume cruise control. Those others don’t know what they are talking about. Self driving cars with pedals for other passengers. Hah! What a joke. No, you’re the lone rider, the speedster, the unstoppable road beast.
- So you take the wheel in your hands, put your foot on the gas. And where do you go? Yeah, exactly. Where ARE you going?
- You have no clue, don’t you? I don’t, do you? she said looking at one of her pupils. How about you? she said raising her finger at another.
- It often happens that even if we have the right will to drive, we’re driving aimless. We have no clue about the road we take. Are were still saying we’re in control? Right?!
- Well, please let me remind you kind sirs and madams about the road regulations. If you don’t follow them, you could get yourself fined, your driver’s license taken or even get injured or killed.
- So I ask you: who is driving the car?
“The state”, said somebody.
“Chance!”, said somebody else.
- All valid ideas, she said laughing. Now let’s jump to something more…cosmetic. You all like good looking sports cars, don’t you? Yees, of course you do.
- How about tattoos? Anybody?
Some people raised their hands.
“I have a bird”, said someone.
“I have a butterfly”, said somebody else
- Yeah, I have a snowflake, she said showing her arm. I know it’s white, you don’t see it back there. Why, you ask? Cuz it’s lighter than what we’re discussing here, that’s why, she said laughing.
- So we all have our nice colors and little models on our cars. We like them quite a lot. We try to make our own cars as cozy as possible. Yet can we say we had full control over applying them?
- Some cars have colors painted on them by the master painter himself without any say in the matter. Others are left with scratches that they never wanted. Even that nice vinyl wrap that you have is influenced by something. Might be other cars that you looked at or some nice moment that you felt while cruising at midnight. In essence, our decisions might be our own just partially. If we’re lucky, that is, she said smiling again.
- But now make one final exercise with me. Let’s dismantle the car. Yeah, let’s pull those seats up, those headlights, all those parts of the engine. What are you left with? The supposed driver, right? We’re going all the way back to the start. What can he do without the car? Nothing, he’s just as useless as the car itself without him. Without him and the “other things” we’ve been discussing, I mean.
- In the end, I ask you is this self-less driver that we found enough? What’s one without anything else? Alone, that’s what!
- So my message to you is: this road is not about you or your car. This trip is not only yours. It’s ours whether we like it or not. Whether we ignore it or not. We’re bound here, by structure. The highways intersect. So regardless on how you’ll going to make it out, we’re all sitting in the traffic jam, waiting for it to move.
- Thank you!
Professor Faith is a renowned teacher at Hawkings school of logics and philosophy. This was the lesson she gave to her class on the commemorative day of her lost son, who died in a car accident a few years before. Several witnesses of the tragedy said that he wasn’t the driver of the car he was in, yet the police found only him in the damaged vehicle.