Do you text while driving? One in three do, apparently. Which means that even though it’s a leading cause of accidents, a lot of us are such utter idiots that it’s a miracle any car gets to its destination intact.
Our capacity to act against our obvious self-interest has inspired inventor Scott Tibbetts to create a device to solve a problem that really shouldn’t be one. It’s a little box that stores the text messages up, only delivering them to our phone when we’ve arrived at our destination. The theory is that we’re all so thoroughly programmed to be distracted by a “little bing”, as he puts it, that we need to ensure that these messages don’t arrive in the first place.
It seems a brilliant solution to a moronic problem. The equation whereby answering a text message is more important than keeping your eyes on the heavy machines hurtling towards you makes absolutely no sense. The extent of this problem must mean that somehow our phones have bypassed our instinct for self-preservation, and induced some kind of Pavlovian response whereby we simply cannot concentrate on anything else once we hear a message arrive.
Getting into a crash because of a text message is bad enough, but there are even more irrelevant distractions than SMS on our phones these days. Writing off your car because someone tagged you in a Facebook photo is an even more ridiculous possibility, but we can more or less guarantee that somewhere, sometime, it’s happened.
Have our intense yet indulgent lifestyles have completely destroyed our capacity for self-control? It seems that way when you consider that lifestyle diseases are the world’s biggest killers. It’s dumb to overeat, or smoke, or reply to a text while you’re navigating a busy highway, and yet we can’t say no. Just like it’s dumb to build up a huge credit card debt, or go BASE jumping, or go and see an Ashton Kutcher movie, yet still many of us do, time and time again.
It may seem ironic that the solution to a problem caused by technology is more technology, but appealing to our self-preservation instincts clearly doesn’t work. That’s why the government insists we buckle our seatbelts and wear bike helmets, even though not doing these things is as self-evidently bad an idea as an island full of genetically-engineered dinosaurs.
So if self-control is genuinely no longer an option for us as a species, here are some machines that inventors like Tibbetts might want to work on.
A car distance lock
While we’re adding features to our cars, what about a feature that disables the engine if the distance you’re proposing to drive is within walking distance? It would also somehow have to be able to prevent us from hailing cabs.
A flame preventer
The technology that can stop us getting text messages while driving may also be able to prevent us sending those angry messages that spiral into a pointless, time-wasting exchange of bile. It would be especially useful on websites that feature anonymous comments from the public. (Hint, hint.)
A stomach controller
Gastric bands reduce the size of the stomach on a permanent basis, but I’d love to see a machine that can induce a feeling of intense fullness whenever I walk past a bakery, but give me a ravenous hunger when all there is on the table in front of me is lettuce.
A pokie controller
Playing the pokies is fundamentally illogical, as Tom Cummings once explained on The Drum. Even if you win, that will encourage you to keep playing, and in the end you’ll almost certainly lose, because they’re programmed to give a return to player of something like 85%. We need a machine that sits on our ear and constantly says “DON’T PLAY, YOU WILL DEFINITELY LOSE”, and then, when that doesn’t work and we try to play, disables our fingers.
A humblebrag nausea-inducer
Remember how in A Clockwork Orange, Alex has a treatment that makes him queasy whenever he thinks of violence? I’d like to see people getting that fitted so that whenever they say something like “Don’t you hate it when the paper prints a terrible photo of you in the social pages?” or “Seems like they were really desperate for Order of Australia recipients this year, you guys!” they immediately feel as ill as everybody around them does.
A selfie deleter
Simple – if you take a photo of yourself, not only is it immediately shredded before your eyes, but you receive a mild electric shock. The more selfies you take, the more intense the shock gets. This may be fatal in the case of certain celebrities, which means that it’s all upside, really.