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  • Writer's pictureAndreas Hardeman

Life In The Slow Lane

(Originally published on 30 August 2018)


They say that children keep you young. It is certainly true that they provide a constant window into the latest gadgets, social fads and a dizzying stream of new forms of entertainment and consumerism. And while trying to keep up with it all (let alone participate) is mostly futile as one grows older, it is fascinating to watch. Being surrounded by teenagers on a daily basis, it merely seems to confirm the impression that the world around us is accelerating as we slowly age. Personally, I believe this is one of the least understood aspects of the space-time continuum.


According to popular science, the rate of technological change tends to increase exponentially meaning that our society will soon reach a point of ‘singularity’ where machines will outsmart humankind. That sounds pretty scary. I’m not sure exactly why, it just does, it’s visceral. It doesn’t surprise me, therefore, that growing numbers of people are turning away from Big Tech, adopting “off the grid” lifestyles or at least building “slow life” and “no wifi” moments into their daily lives. Not because they don’t want or enjoy new technologies (many will in fact happily boast about being neo-Luddites on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube) but because they are concerned about its pervasiveness, intrusiveness and unintended consequences.


Step changes in technology have the power to radically transform global society and local communities. At a time that we are about to witness the birth of a whole new generation of air transportation modes, we must wonder how society will react to these profound changes. While perhaps not exactly in the image of Bruce Willis’ The Fifth Element, set in 23rd century New York, our urban landscape may soon be transformed beyond all recognition with shiny air taxis, flying scooters and fully automated drones buzzing about. What seemed science fiction only 20 years ago, now looks to become reality sooner than we thought.


"it is virtually certain that genuine concerns about safety, privacy, and environmental health are going to be raised."


Unlike Ned Ludd, their ideological - and allegedly fictional - protagonist some 200 years ago, you won’t find today’s neo-Luddites on the barricades for better wages and labor conditions. Nor are they likely to smash up any of these newfangled flying machines. In fact, you are more likely to find them sipping on a soy macchiato at your local Starbucks. But whether you believe that neo-Luddites are just pesky technophobes standing in the way of modern progress, or social activists standing up for citizens’ rights under threat from runaway technologies, it is virtually certain that genuine concerns about safety, privacy, and environmental health are going to be raised. As we know, people are perfectly capable of enjoying the benefits of modern technology, while simultaneously taking to the internet or the streets to bemoan its shortcomings.


Citizen's groups in the past have been very effective in opposing and delaying infrastructure projects that were seen as harmful to the environment or local communities. Degradation of ecosystems, pollution and safety tend to top the list of reasons for conflict and resistance. Hostility against nuclear power stations comes to mind easily. But closer to home, high-speed rail, supersonic aircraft, airport runways, highways, power lines, cell towers and CCTV have all seen their share of organized opposition at different times and places. Urban air transportation companies and local governments would do well to anticipate a certain amount of antagonism, online or otherwise, to the profound changes that are about to be foisted upon city-dwellers around the world. Gaining the public’s trust and support, winning their hearts and minds, can be a slow process but it will be absolutely critical to the successful integration of these zippy new technologies in our everyday lives.


 

About the author: Andreas Hardeman (The Hague, 1967) is an internationally experienced air transportation lawyer, sustainability expert and acclaimed aviation writer and commentator on current industry trends. Opinions in this blog are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of his business associates or clients. He can be contacted directly at info@astraworx.com

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