Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

New Devices, Old Distractions

“. . . at the precise moment of the [fatal] crash, the truck’s driver was attempting to use e-mail—on a laptop computer.” —Joseph T. Hallinan, Why We Make Mistakes

I’ll bet that got your attention. I’m sure the crash got the truck driver’s attention. That attention, of course, should have been on the road—and the car—in front of him. And it cost the life of the car’s driver. All for an email.

Crazy, you say? Stupid beyond belief? Sure. But how different was it from all the people we see daily on the road attempting to text. This despite it being illegal in 30 states. A recent survey says nearly 90% agree it should be illegal—yet over half of these same people admit to texting while driving.

Ford, as they used to say, has a better idea. Or so it appears. Their Sync system (by Microsoft) can send and receive text messages while you drive. Audibly. Point here is this is supposedly safer. Problem here is it doesn’t work with most phones. Danger here is that it’s still distracting. Apparently, Ford believes drivers can afford to be distracted. As do most drivers. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

On page 85 in the above-mentioned book, we have a quote from Mister Microsoft himself, Bill Gates: “Over time,” said Gates, “the kind of entertainment you have in the car is going—you’re going to want the same great things that you have everywhere else.” Beginning to see the picture? Your living room on wheels. Not just with an online computer but a full-blown entertainment system.

I have no problem with all this connectivity—in the back seat. Unless of course the driver has to set it up for the kids, change channels, or select stored videos, or anything that distracts from attending to the road. Of course, I’m sure most of you think you can multitask whatever comes down the pike. You can’t; you only think you can. Multitasking is a myth—and it can kill. But Bill doesn’t care. Maybe it’s time to change his nickname from Billion-dollar Bill to just plain Killer Bill.


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