The author ruminates on all things driving related in this engaging book he covers so much ground related to and surrounding cars and driving everything from the Autobahn to Soap Box derby that it does risk diluting the various topics but overall I appreciated the discussion whether it was speculating on how autonomous driving will affect us to the joy of car repair It s less Click n Clack and philosophical citing Marcuse and other 20th century intellectuals it largely worked for me There s a bit of over emphasis on the human driving aspect as there is some skepticism regarding the inevitable trend toward autonomous driving but I understand the allure of the open road and that this actually matters for a lot of people Ever wonder why to prove we re not robots we have to select the cars and traffic signs that are training Google s self driving alorithms thus narrowing the distance between us and the robots Why We Drive is an attempt to sound the alarm against the seemingly relentless march of connectivity and smart devices supplanting dumb or at least biased humansWith my admiration for Crawford s work matched only by a deep loathing of Top Gear and macho motor narcissism I approached this book like some kind of Schr dinger s car with devils and angels trapped inside The World Beyond Your Head his previous volume was a masterful investigation of one downside of the Enlightenment enthroning the individual as self legislator that it engenders a kind of isolation or disengagement from the world Yes in an essential political sense we should live under and act by laws of our own making but there are other kinds of freedom which reuire constraints to freely improvise a jazz musician must first learn his scales a carpenter or sculptor must work with the grain of the wood The individual is not always the ultimate arbiter particularly in domains the trades the arts where there are external standards of excellence Plumbers don t plumb to impress other plumbers as Nassim Taleb put it a shoddy leaky repair is visible to all Crawford s first book Shop Class as Soulcraft explored this in depth looking at how the trades and manual labour are all but depleted of cultural capital in the service economy and the information age at how our use of tools and gadgets has become freuent but much superficial we ve become less capable of repairing things and in an age of products designed for planned obsolescence that was bad for business anyway One important upshot of his past investigations was that the society fosters self sufficient individuals with a trigger happy disposition for says who as the knock down response to critiue the we open up a marketplace for our uniue sovereign preferences to be sold to the highest bidder That one of the most common social manifestation of individualism is consumerism is not really news But there are other manifestations which increasingly come to resemble rebellion or at least resistance This is where this book comes in On Crawford s reading driving is an activity that illustrates important features of a humanistic outlook worth preserving the ability to exercise skill and judgment to balance prudence and risk broadly to negotiate one s individual freedom within the collaborative give and take of the road No doubt such a view may strike many as a romantic idealisation far removed from the fumes emissions accidents roadkill and gridlock of the modern roads A simplification it may be et it is itself a reaction to a different kind of simplification ushered in by the marriage between behavioural economics with its emphasis on our supposed irrationality and Big Tech colonising increasing parts of the public sphere and our private thoughts whilst portraying itself as a value neutral provider of solutions On this view we are hopelessly biased creatures who fail to act in accordance with our own best interests thus ushering the need for the kind of libertarian paternalism made famous by the authors of best selling Nudge and increasingly used to put a scientific spin on corporate and bureaucratic interventions We eat too much save too little play the lottery despite the odds and of course drive too fast Crawford uotes a senior executive s conclusions after heading Google s self driving car project drivers need to be less idiotic But the solution is not the education of drivers to higher planes of enlightenment it is to wrest control altogether through the magic of self driving cars As Crawford notes automation has a kind of totalizing logic to it At each stage remaining pockets of human judgment and discretion appear as bugs that need to be solved Put neutrally human intelligence and machine intelligence have a hard time sharing control And although some might find this to be a demeaning view of our faculties we are told it is an insult added to avoid injury the logic of automation is joined in the public mind to the moral logic of safety which similarly admits no limit to its expansion to uestion Team Progress is to invite being labeled pro death To be clear Crawford is not indulging in some simplistic rant against seatbelts and helmets and the nanny state There is smoke aplenty in his descriptions of drifting and demolition derbies but his moral sensibilities are not those of pick up drivers rolling coal to own the libs Which is not to deny that Crawford s dismissive remarks of carbon Tee Totallers May Well Attract totallers may well attract fellow travellers I am usually OF THE VIEW THAT BOOKS AND WORKS OF ART the view that books and works of art be interpreted for what they are not what they aren t but with SUVs and trucks being the second and fourth largest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions over the past decade I found the relative absence of the environmental costs of our driving culture to be glaringCrawford may legitimately uestion if the effectiveness of cash for clunkers scrappage schemes may have been exaggerated and he may be right that there are potential fuel and emission saving benefits from restoring rather than discarding vehicles But it was dispiriting not to see the case for better stewardship of our shared natural world from an author that makes such an elouent case for better stewardship of our objects Coming back to safety Craword points out that not everything done in its name lives up to scrutiny for example studies have shown speed cameras are often placed not in the most dangerous but the most profitable intersections with high traffic flow and short ellow lights Indeed Crawford makes a very plausible argument that what explains the intense interest in self driving cars by companies like Google is the possibility of tapping into hiterto inaccessible reservoirs of our attention Although increasingly distracted by our phones when we drive we remain for the most part agents in control behind the wheel and focused on the road How profitable it would be if that hour spent on the average commute could be better monetised by turning drivers into consumers of content To be sure some of this transfer in control is already happening software which automatically limits speed is to be installed in new cars sold in the EU after 2022 and Crawford contemplates cars that eventually take ou to The Voyage of the Iron Dragon Saga of the Iron Dragon your destination but only afterou agree to watch a few commercials or take a detour past a store which had a promotion that The Intelligent Web you might enjoy Dismiss such scenarios as fanciful ifou will but there is a deeper point here which we ought to take seriously Crawford warns that growing areas of society are falling under algorithmic governance that is in tension with democractic accountability there is no account that can be given when the outcomes of machine learning algorithms are becoming inscrutable even to their programmers As our health sleep and travel patterns and social interactions get mapped out in ever detail by projects to make our cities and homes smart it is by recourse to the logic of efficiency convenience cutting edge science and analytics but not to democratic norms of transparency and distributed power Which is no coincidence the book ends with a discussion of surveillance capitalism whose ultimate goal is not just to predict users actions but to help direct those actions In a world where driverless cars are programmed to protect their passengers our bodily safety might be higher but it may come at the cost of growing social engineering Depriving children of unsupervised play and adults of unsupervised driving which as our love for singing behind the wheel shows may turn to be much the same is oblivious to the fact that testing our will against an uncertain world helps us find our limits and grow to surpass them Crawford is right to remind us that between the feeling of safety that comes from self mastery and the safety that comes from knowing there is a benevolent guardian watching on stand by there is a world of a difference Another phenomenal and very readable treatise from Matthew Crawford He here explores the idea of sovereignty through a varied look at driving drivers cars and where it s all headed Two short passages suffice for whetting our appetite to pick this up and read it We seem to be entering a new dispensation ualities once prized such as spiritedness and a capacity for independent judgment are starting to appear dysfunctional If they are to operate optimally our machines reuire deference Perhaps what is reuired is an adaptation of the human spirit to make it smoothly compatible with a world that is to be run by a bureaucracy of machines Or maybe we need to burn that house down To drive is to exercise one s skill at being free and one can t help but feel this when one gets behind the wheel It seems a skill worth preserving I have always felt most at peace with myself during long solitary cross country road trips a fact that puzzles than few of my friends and always made my mother a little uptight So when I read the description for Why We Drive by Matthew B Crawford I felt I d found a kindred spirit After reading the book I m not sure I did Maybe it was about my expectations or maybe my hopes I wanted a book that celebrated driving the freedom the headspace the emotional release From the author of the landmark Shop Class as Soulcraft a brilliant first of its kind celebration of driving that views the open road as a uniue pathway of human freedom one now critically threatened by automation Once we were drivers the open road alive with autonomy adventure danger trust and speedToday we are as likely to be in the back seat of an Uber as behind the wheel ourselves Tech giants are hurling us toward a shiny happy “self driving” future selling utopia but eually keen to advertise to a captive audience strapped into another expensive device Are we destined then to become passengers not drivers Why We Drive reveals that much may be at stake than we might thinkTen.
REVIEW ↠ NARRATIVEYOGACLUB.CO.UK ´ Matthew B. Crawford
F getting behind a car and determining our course and timeline and experience Why We Drive was not that book Instead it was a well written personal essay on why self driving cars and car sharing are bad and how car less and car hating Americans are ruining it for the rest of us I was not a fan and admit to skimming through much of the book hoping to find something that hooked me inFor car enthusiasts as opposed to folks like me who simply like the feel of the open road Why We Drive would probably be a satisfying read There s a lot of information about how car safety advocates and environmentalists have changed cars and this the driving experience in general which is interesting and the author s personal commentary of various cars he s owned or driven definitely adds a friendly counterpart to the technical information The writing is clear the research seemingly thorough and used appropriately to move the story forward and the author s voice is consistent and engagingOverall I think my lack of enthusiasm for this book is based almost entirely on my own false expectations I expected one kind of book and read a different kind And that happens Still I walked away with a deeper understanding of the auto industry s move toward automated driver less cars and how that will change us all Crawford is a real non conformist and this book is a pean to gear heads and hot rodded Volkswagens I appreciate this as in my ounger days I had several vintage Jeeps a couple of which were also hot rods He revels in the open road or dirt and chafes against societies expectations and the rule of the ManThere is discussion of coming automation bringing both good and bad but a strong wariness of large corporations with their penchant for mining our data and regaling is with ads at every opportunity which could make a driverless future a dystopia Loved it More a collection of essays than a comprehensive deep book on a single theme Some excellent writing by a very thoughtful car guy I strongly disagree with the author on a few points be he changed my mind on other points A perfect give and take with me as reader gaining lots of perspective and education on topics including autonomous vehicles playingfighting in vehicles the structure of and perverse incentives of traffic laws advances and regressions in car technology London Cabbies vs Google Maps and so much A really brilliant book about driving and what it means Philosopher Matthew Crawford s third book is ostensibly a book about driving but as with all Crawford s works that is merely the jumping off point Crawford expands our minds by exploring a range of related ideas usually through concretizing abstractions tying them to work done by real people in the real world Why We Drive uses this structure as did his first two books Shop Class as Soulcraft and The World Beyond Your Head Such writing is not for everyone the payoff can take some time to arrive But it s worth the modest effort reuired and offers insights into critical modern problems most of all the pernicious vice of safetyismWhy We Drive revolves around what driving tells us about human capabilities and limitations Crawford as a philosopher is very very interested in human capacities and how modernity affects such capacities in particular how it often limits or even cripples them when appearing to enhance them All of his published thought revolves ultimately around the creation of agency through learned skill and of its erosion in modern life a creeping colonization of the space for skilled human activity This is not a discussion about economic efficiency or productivity however Rather Crawford talks a great deal of man s uest internally for meaning and externally for status and honor both earned through the works of his own hands The focus is the individual but through the individual society as a whole So why do we drive The uestion implies we drive for reasons other than to get somewhere We drive because driving like other learned skills satisfies crucial human needs In doing so it improves us in a wide range of ways many not obvious And taking driving away from us is therefore a problemThe backbone of this book is a view of driving machines as a kind of prosthetic that amplifies our embodied capacities Crawford begins by explaining how we got to the present time when self driving cars which we by definition do not drive are imminent We can ignore that I at least am very certain self driving cars will never actually arrive Crawford considers the history of cars in urban life good and bad citing Jane Jacobs plusminus thoughts on cars noting that the prevalence of cars was a deliberate choice by central authorities Who are today s central authorities for most purposes Our tech overlords What do they want Self driving cars Why So we can be creative in our increased free time as they say No Self driving cars must be understood as one escalation in the war to claim and monetize every moment of life that might otherwise offer a bit of private head space Driverless cars are not driven by consumer demand they are a top down project that has to be sold to the public Inevitability is asserted by the Narrative and all must bow ou will be reuired to use a driverless car the infrastructure and technology of which will not be held in common but owned by our tech overlords #walled off in secret vaults for their benefit not ours And this will come with and massive #
off in secret vaults for their benefit ours And this will come with many and massive costsOne of the charms of Crawford s books is how he prevents reader fatigue at philosophy by freuently turning to stories that are concrete interesting and relevant For example he recounts a story of his broken down Jeep failing in rural California sometime in the 1980s Later in the book we get a lengthy discussion of metalworking in the context of rebuilding a Volkswagen to be something than a Volkswagen Crawford warns this discussion is not for everyone though with my interest in metalworking I found it for everyone though with my interest in metalworking I found it but To go deep into any technical field is to make progress in independence of mind and feel a freedom to maneuver that grows in proportion with one s powers This focus on one s powers is perhaps the overriding theme of all Crawford s workIn the 1980s he was oung and he was learning about physical things in the world engaging with his Jeep which was somewhat of a Frankenstein s monster he had himself built which he understood at a visceral level Such engagement is rare in modern cars where what the drivers sees and feels is a mediated representation not for the most part the physical reality of the car New cars today are largely disengaged disintermediated paradoxically whereas in older cars the car becomes an extension of the body a transparent two way conduit of information and intention modern technology makes this impossible making the car even apparent to the driver rather than less apparent when it relieves the driver of tasks But excessive disengagement not only reduces the ability to learn and improve it also erodes psychological resilience in cars and in anything else that can be a learned skill and may in fact be responsible for increases in depression and anxiety by breaking the connection between effort and conseuence No mental engagement means limited flourishing Driverless cars are thus even worse than merely modern cars They are billed as convenient and safe maybe they are and maybe not but they have deleterious conseuencesThe problem isn t just the control on our lives exerted by Elon Musk s machines much so it is the passivity created by any substantial automation Specifically Crawford talks about Audis I drive an A7 and although I am not a car guy and rarely if ever use the vehicle s capabilities I can see what he means I also learned that Nardo Grey is a paint a matte non metallic light grey used by Audi on their high end models I need to get that paint on my next car to look cool All driving becomes analogous to the created experiences without agency that pass for most entertainment The pleasure of driving is the pleasure of doing something of being actively and skillfully engaged with a reality that pushes back against us This is vanishing in today s world not just in cars but everywhere We are not becoming sexy creative individuals writing poetry in our self driving cars we are becoming the fat people on floating automated scooters from the movie WALL ECrawford then shifts somewhat to the spirit of play Here he talks a good deal about Johan Huizenga who wrote a classic study of the play element in culture Homo Ludens Play is hostility mixed with friendship part of the human need to fight and this has been found in every human culture But in ours it is disfavored It expresses a part of the soul that sits uncomfortably with the contemporary taste for order and is therefore subject to censure as irresponsible on safety grounds or because it is competitive as a threat to the ethic of eual esteem Everyday driving is except for road rage not part of this type of play for the most part but driving machines are often used in this type of play in various forms of racing and in other competitive activities that revolve around driving such as car modificationThis introduces Crawford s highly negative thoughts on safetyism Safetyism has received a fair bit of ridicule as it has inexorably heightened over the past thirty ears but it has always seemed silly than pernicious a matter of removing the jungle gyms so little Johnny doesn t cry when he scrapes his knee That was a wrong judgment as we have seen in the incredibly destructive unhinged hysterical reactions to the Wuhan Plague the logical end result or perhaps only intermediate result of unbridled safetyism Crawford wrote before the Plague so it is absent here but much of what he says is exemplified by what has happened in our country in the past six monthsCrawford points out that safetyism is primarily a symptom of declining societal trust Rules become necessary as trust and solidarity decline in society And reciprocally the proliferation of rules and the disposition of rule following that they encourage further erode our readiness to extend to our fellow citize. Years ago in the New York Times bestselling Shop Class as Soulcraft philosopher mechanic Matthew B Crawford a University of Chicago PhD who owned his own motorcycle shop made a revolutionary case for manual labor one that ran headlong against the pretentions of white collar office work Now using driving as a window through which to view the broader changes wrought by technology on all aspects of contemporary life Crawford investigates the driver’s seat as one of the few remaining domains of skill exploration play and freedom Blending philosophy and hands on storytelling Crawford grounds the narrative in his own experience in the garage and behind the wheel recounting his decade N
s a presumption of competence and good will Self governance of a polity is rooted in activities that demand cooperation not mediated by government action Driving is precisely such an activity though only one of many Automation is a response to lack of trust if we cannot trust each other on the road automation will fill the gap Yet automation itself increases lack of trust in other drivers each driver becomes spiritless and less capable a problem also found in automated airplane cockpits especially in an emergency when trust in others needs to be at a maximum We become incompetent as a result Thus we hand over our agency our human capacities to those who make the rules the lords of tech or the state which are increasingly the same thing And they take action to keep us safe since we are no longer capable of cooperating to balance safety with other needs This process has no logical endNot just activity but the rules themselves are automated in the name of safety Left to its own internal logic the regime of public safety must find ways to justify its own growing payroll and its colonization of ever domains of life This can always be accomplished through further infantilization of its clients under the banner of good democratic values The result is very bad Infrastructure predicted on too rigid an ideal of control fails to accommodate the exercise of our human capacities or to exploit the social efficiencies they offer leading instead to the atrophy of the human This is true for automated cars it is also true for society as a whole Crawford says citing James C Scott s Seeing Like A State Shared norms on the other hand such as those developed during driving create trust and allow mutual prediction of others action which is why diversity is not our strength totally aside from driving and Crawford cites Robert Putnam s study proving this obvious truth They are the solution we should go back to them Organic growth whether of towns or driving may look disordered but it is resilient and far efficient than it appears to outsiders We give up the common law which provided legitimacy and we allow it to be replaced by rules issued by faceless men or by computers based on opaue Big Data which we must not uestion because the experts tell us this is the Right Thing To DoPushing back against this is very difficult particularly though Crawford does not say so in a social media dominated environment filled with shrieking Karens and safetyism is then used by people for their own purposes large and small Those who invoke safety enjoy a nearly nonrebuttable presumption of public spiritedness so a stated concern for safety becomes a curtain behind which various entities can collect rents from perfectly reasonable behavior Crawford s focus is on speed cameras and the like but the preening self regard earned by those demanding safety is a much broader phenomenon esterday in my semi rural area a woman posted on Nextdoor congratulations to two small boys riding their bikes wearing masks for keeping us all safe causing me to vomit all over the screen This is not only dumb but The pursuit of risk reduction tends to create a society based on an unrealistically low view of human capacities which freuently exacerbates the very problems safetyism supposedly is meant to solve With respect to cars while some safety devices such as traction control no doubt save lives drivers in modern cars lose embodied cognition making driver incompetence and thus ever increasing reliance on semi automated systems a self fulfilling prophecy thereby decreasing safety Thus any driverless car that is only semi automated may increase rather than reduce danger especially with the herd mentality in favor of such cars which has led to manipulation of data that understates their risks Yet the logic of automation is joined in the public mind to the moral logic of safety which similarly admits no limit to its expansion Crawford never comes out and says it exactly but safetyism is tied to a society excessively skewed toward the feminine With all of Crawford s books men are the focus something he does not specifically advert to but which is entirely obvious Nearly all his discussion both practical and philosophical revolves around primarily male talents traits and interests risk justification through endeavor competition combat the desire to feel fear and overcome it the creation of things with one s hands As far as safetyism being the feminization of society this comes through in Crawford s talk about play which in the sense Crawford discusses it means societally organized and recognized competition Crawford notes that for the player almost always distinction is the goal not domination It is the aspect of the contest the thirst for distinction that Huizenga identifies as the crucial civilizing element of play This thirst is an essential building block of society Crawford cites Huizenga for the proposition that The contest for honor gives rise to deference and trust among players in part because unlike the simple lust for power games reuire that participants recognize the legitimacy of standards that aren t simply emanations of their own will But the uest for honor and distinction is far a male instinct than a female instinct thus men are the crucial players and a society run wholly by women would entirely lack both this uest and its benefits Why a particularly defective brand of feminine thought of ways of feminine thinking has come to dominate the ruling classes of the West is a topic for another time soon but one symptom of this disease is that competitive play is today strongly discouraged by those who rule society Sometimes this is demanded obliuely under the guise of increased safety for the children but now is often demanded openly to end toxic masculinity meaning all masculinity The result of eliminating competitive play is therefore feminization but not one where the feminine virtues are amplified rather one where eual esteem is forced through eliminating the uest for honor thereby harming society and most of all eroding trust without any benefit Crawford says forbidding competitive games leads to infantilism to a failure to understand reality and its limitations which guarantees arrested development on a mass scale Games especially risky games build societies and civilizations Lack of games which guarantees arrested development on a mass #scale games especially risky games build societies and #
Games especially risky games build societies and Lack of games reverse Moreover when eual esteem is forced people become easier to control which is why those in charge of our schools hate and fear traditional competitive games They want feminine type compliance and agreeableness little boys marching uietly in a lineThere are some places where this is still not true Review completes as first comment It s not really about driving than it is about being human seen through the lens of driving For this reason the book is for folks who want to think about community social structures personhood virtues technology technocrats etc You may get bored or turned off by the length of time he spends on his cars and the depth he goes I know I started But then I thought Wait my response is the epitome of the sort of circumstance he shares we ve found ourselves in after giving over our control and responsibilities to private parties I should at least appreciate the art and performance and virtues Crawford is displaying The best the rest of us can do is say Hey look what I bought I had 2 problems with this book One is the mismatch between the title and the description and the contents of the book One was with the author himself If the premise of this book is to describe what the title says Why We Drive it has failed Or to create a cohesive philosophy it has also failed Instead it seems as if it is a chance for the author to complain about some things that bother himThe increased technological advances that make driving automatic less hands on At first I was willing to go along with this premise I often say GPS has made me dumber and lazier because I don t need to problem solve my way out of being lost I just make the GPS do it for me But I m not sure he makes a good case for this and not sure it built to a cohesive thesisThe essays don t really hold together and they can be very repetitive Crawford has issues with things He thinks motorcycles should be able to split lanes He thinks speed limits are unnecessary and we should be able to set our own He LOATHES people who use their phone while driving Ultimately this book feels politically murky There s a sense of libertarianism in his desire for lawlessness only where he desires it The weirdest takeaway is that I feel as if this book could be a text that someone could read to spot the microagressions Fairly early on in the book he talks about going to a dealer to test drive some kind of speedy fast car He says he gave them my license and they gave me the car to drive I love being white Those of us who ve read So You ve been publicly shamed might immediately recognize the joke that made Justine Sacco the scourge of the world Why was it necessary It made me so uncomfortable that I marked the book page and continued on Once I was hyperalert to this I found many other things to bother me suburban woman drivers in SUVs are derided than once There s a chapter about bicycle moralists I was interested in this there s a lot of bicycle moralism in my town and I think it s ripe for discovery But his whole take seemed to anchor on one anecdote a guy in Portland who used his prefab bike to take his kid to school and insisted on getting in the car drop off Who s the moral judger now He describes someone who got into a road rage incident with him as having jailhouse tattoos He calls people thugs He mocks people who do help desk for Microsoft He doesn t call them nerds but he comes dang close References to Nazis they build the autobahn Trains running on time aboundUltimately Matthew Crawford is one of those people who thinks the things HE likes to dabble in old cars and motorcycles are COOL and important to our life but things OTHER people like to dabble in computer programming riding bicycles are for pretentious dorks This is such shallow scholarship Highly disappointing Hillbilly Elegy redux. Ong restoration of a vintage Volkswagen as well as his journeys to thriving automotive subcultures across the country Crawford leads us on an irreverent but deeply considered inuiry into the power of faceless bureaucracies the importance of uestioning mindless rules and the battle for democratic self determination against the surveillance capitalists A meditation on the competence of ordinary people Why We Drive explores the genius of our everyday practices on the road the rewards of “folk engineering” and the existential value of occasionally being scared shitlessWitty and ingenious throughout Why We Drive is a rebellious and daring celebration of the irrepressible human spiri.