Motorcycles are fun, right? Beware. That makes an attempt to wipe them out, even more likely. There are people out there who don’t want anybody to have fun, and motorcyclists are high on the list. So how does the future look for us?

The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to have a major effect. It does not necessarily lead to Skynet. Author Iain M Banks writes science fiction stories about The Culture, a social system that is based on self-aware AI “Minds” which work for the best interests of humanity. Not for their own idea of what’s best, either, but for what people actually want. One result of their existence is material abundance; as a human in The Culture you can have whatever you want, the only limitation being that you do not hurt or control another “person” – human or AI.

Government oversight of every move you make is becoming easier all the time.

It is difficult to make such a utopian society interesting. Most other authors who write about the future of humanity find it easier to set their stories not in utopia, but in its opposite: dystopia. The novel that pretty much immediately comes to mind as an example is “1984”. It does not make use of AI or even computers as such; its villains are human and as coldly evil as, I suspect, only humans can be.

But relax. Humanity’s future will not look anything like George Orwell’s playful predictions in “1984”. There won’t be huge screens showing Big Brother’s face and slogans. Nobody will come around to collect you for a quick trip to a re-education session. Drugs and salutary beatings will simply not be required. Why not? Because there will be much, much easier (and incidentally profitable) ways to keep you in line.

Guard your liberties. Every time you take your eyes off the ball, you lose another one.

Orwell, ironically, was fighting the next war with the strategies and weapons of the last one. In case you’re not familiar with the concept, it covers things like trench warfare in the age of the machine gun for World War One, and fortifications like the Maginot Line for World War Two. Technology outdates tactics and even strategy between wars, and here’s a tip: the war on freedom is no different. Orwell thought that re-education and conditioning would be necessary. If only.

Who needs troublesome re-education and wasteful time out to change the minds and behaviour of citizens when you can just have their entire quotidian environment re-educate them for you, automatically?  And incidentally make money for the State with fines, rather than costing the State money with re-education camps.

Let’s see. Is speeding a problem for the State? Make it impossible. Here is what the Swedish Vision Zero, already being partly adopted in some Australian and US states, suggests.

Equip every vehicle, be it a car, a truck or a motorcycle, with an on-board camera which recognizes speed limit signs. This is verified by map data, or provided directly if the camera fails. The speed is advised to the driver, and adaptive cruise control can automatically reset to the new speed limit. Really? No, no. Will automatically, not can. Why bother with halfway measures? All right, I suppose it could always stay at can, but in that case your speeding fine would be automatically added to your citizen debt. Win-win for them, lose-lose for you.

It doesn’t matter if your bike is IC or electric powered. You are a threat to the safetycrats.

And this is eminently possible. The Red Chinese government already does stuff like this every day, although they are simultaneously fighting the last war with their primitive Uighur camps. But as I suggest above, some of our governments are moving in the same direction. Google Vision Zero and be appalled. The most dangerous social engineering is the kind that holds out a desirable result – in this case, no more traffic deaths – using draconian and undesirable methods.

And what does that have to do with motorcycling? Well, bikes will be the second frontier after total control of vehicles with more wheels, which is already being tried. Bikes serve no useful purpose apart from meal deliveries by scooter, as far as the safetycrats are concerned. So watch them move in on us once their Vision Zero really get rolling. We might not be spending our time in re-education camps, but we won’t be riding our bikes, either.

More benevolent AI rule, like a toned-down Skynet if not The Culture, looks a lot more desirable. Maybe we should be cheering the computers on?

(Photos The Bear)


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