REQUEST FOR SUPPORT :
I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m a phenomenal parallel parker, but since buying a car with park assist, I’ve found myself choosing to let the car take over. I realize that this particular skill is one that will soon be worthless (like driving in general), but I can’t help but feel like I’m losing something essential. Am I contributing to the general passivity and humiliation of the human species? —IDLING
Given the skills that we humans have lost in our history – archery, celestial navigation, and the ability to track animals come to mind – I don’t know if the obsolescence of parking skills count as a huge blow to the species, especially considering it is an ability that people often lose under perfectly mundane circumstances. Moving to the suburbs, for example. It is true that we are the only animal to master the art of driving, and that the progressive automation of the car often gives the impression of abdicating an essential characteristic of our intelligence. Of course, it’s hard to say what even “human intelligence” means these days. The definition is always changing, mainly in reaction to all the new fitness machines that have been taken.
However, I can understand your concern. In the 21st century, we have so few skills compared to our predecessors, and those we can claim (multitasking, photo editing, speaking authoritatively in long articles we haven’t read) don’t seem particularly advantageous to us. Assuming you’re prone to the usual doomsday anxieties, each atrophied talent feels like one more thing you’ll inevitably have to relearn when a disaster wipes out our modern infrastructure and brings us back to the wild.
But let’s start with the most immediate effects. Will losing this skill make you dumber or less proficient in other areas of your life? Probably not. The reality is that we are constantly externalizing our intelligence to unconscious processes, not to machines but to muscle memory. If you think back to the first time you drove a car, you will remember how even the simplest maneuvers required special attention. Over time, however, you no longer have to consciously think about signaling, turning, or staying centered on the lane. Without a doubt, there were even times when you got so wrapped up in a podcast, or even an ordinary old thought, that you found yourself at your destination with little memory of having stepped in there. Parallel parking may require some concentration, but most drivers are familiar enough with the rote choreography of driving that they can do it in their sleep (literally, as some Ambien takers have discovered).
You probably don’t worry about your ability to drive without consciously thinking about it, or you worry that it will tarnish your mental sharpness. The ability to perform mindless physical actions, through habituation, is evolutionarily advantageous in that it frees our minds to take on higher-level cognitive tasks. Those who are proficient in musical instruments often talk about transferring their intelligence to their fingers, so that they can perform all kinds of complex mental operations that have nothing to do with playing. Einstein once claimed that he would get down to business. on the piano to try to solve difficult math problems.
One could argue that technology is only an extension of this process. In fact, throughout history the argument for automation was based on the idea that machines would take the boredom of rough labor so that we could focus on higher activities. The housewife, freed from the drudgery of the laundry, used her free time to write sonnets or study French. The factory worker would learn to code. Perhaps the concentration that parallel parking once required of your mental RAM can now be used to compose a haiku or consider your five year plan. You might think of automation as an opportunity to become, As one founder of an AI company said, “Better at To be human. “