By Damon Linker, The Week
How much freedom would you be willing to give up to live a life nearly free of risk?
I found myself pondering that question as I perused a recent article in The Washington Post that reads in places like a press release from the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The piece reports on a provision of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill President Biden is set to sign next week. It will mandate automobile manufacturers install technology in new cars “to stop drunk people from driving” using breath or blood sensors or discreet cameras looking for signs of impairment.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 10,000 people in 2019 died in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Nearly all of those people, and similar numbers every other year, would have been saved in a world where such technology was present in all cars. What’s not to love?
I admit that, at first sight, it’s difficult to say — but that’s because I, like you, have grown accustomed to living in a risk-averse society, so much so that any rule or regulation that increases safety and protects people from the risk of injury and death seems self-evidently sound. But is it? How much freedom and responsibility should we be willing to surrender in order to limit risk?
That’s a question we very much need to begin thinking through — because as technology advances, especially in the direction of artificial intelligence (AI), the possibilities for technological oversight and coercion of our actions will only increase, leaving us tempted to embrace these innovations without pondering their furthest-reaching implications.