Thinking Out Loud

April 18, 2017

How Do We Define Progress?

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

Driving a car isn’t fun. When I was young, I would borrow one of my parent’s cars and take off and return around 1:30 in the morning. They often had no idea where I was and had no idea to reach me. Their only concern was that I not make noise on returning home. I learned to close the driver side door so very quietly and literally stripped on the back porch so I could just slip in the back door and land directly under the covers of my bed.

Today, parents would be catatonic if their kids were out at that hour with the family car.

It’s interesting how driving has gotten complicated.

We’re better equipped now with driver training programs that produce, in theory at least, very capable vehicle operators. But as a culture, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to making progress at road safety. Consider:

  • We run the real risk of air bag injuries in an accident, or an accidental deployment of them; but the only reason we have them in the first place was that American compliance with seat belt ordinances was shockingly poor.
  • We’ve addressed the problem of drinking and driving various ways in an effort to stop the carnage caused by inebriated drivers but then several states and all Canadian provinces have introduced legalization of marijuana.
  • Our vehicles are equipped with various safety features, but technology has also brought us the cell phone; handy things to have if you’re traveling, but we have no technology that shuts them off while the car is moving.
  • Many accidents are caused by people who simply don’t know where they’re going, but GPS devices introduce another potential for distraction.
  • We have state of the art sound systems that prevent us from hearing the fire truck or ambulance which is gaining on us, and somehow we miss seeing those emergency responders in the rear view mirrors.
  • In our haste to resolve some of these things, we’re introducing driver-less cars before the complete infrastructure is in place to support those vehicles’ knowing the intricacies of the routes we’ll be taking, or how to interpret visual cues, or how to master the human type of responses needed in a crisis
  • We have simply too many vehicles on the road. 
  • Many jurisdictions continue to require emissions testing for cars while operators of transport trucks and dump trucks are allowed to somehow skirt the requirements and end up spewing enough smoke to temporarily block visibility of the drivers in their wake.
  • We continue to license kids as young as 15, when specialists in neurology tell us the teenage brain isn’t fully formed when it comes to the consequences of ignoring safety as it would be if we only waited one year more.

So I ask, are we really all that smart?


  1. Technology has always offered a trade off. The industrial revolution brought a boom of manufactured goods to the marketplace but factories put kids as young as 5 or 6 to work in the factories. Electric lights, which today we take for granted, meant that work did not have to end when the sun went down. Instead of 2 12 hour shifts or 3 8’s, many factory and warehouse workers went to 18 hour days. Think about cell phones and internet in our own time. People working in offices used to punch the clock at 5 and head home. But we now take conference calls during our commute and get online and continue working at home. We take work calls at home and return emails from restaurants. As our level of potential productivity goes up we keep raising the bar on how much we expect to be able to do. Grab a Starbucks in the morning and a 5 Hour Energy in the afternoon and we can work more hours than Grandpa ever did on the farm.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — April 19, 2017 @ 10:08 am

  2. Eli Whitney thought the invention of the cotton gin would reduce the need for slave labor. With the process of ginning streamlined, plantations sought to bring more cotton to market and the need for slave labor in the field was greatly multiplied. Whitney mechanized the finishing process for cotton but not the harvesting of cotton, leading to cotton becoming “king” of the Southern economy. He is less well known for going back up north and inventing interchangeable rifle parts, eventually helping the Union to win the American Civil War. Just think about all the ways technology has made life better.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — April 19, 2017 @ 10:15 am

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