Parenting for Profit

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Cars are supposed to transport us – not parent us.

The government disagrees, of course. That’s not new. Uncle has been working hard to parent grown adults since at least the 1960s, when it first got into the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety business.

Which of course is really the control business – and that business is as old as government itself.

Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety is just the excuse, the window dressing – the curtain behind which lies Oz.

What is new is that the car companies have become even worse about parenting us than the government – which the car companies can do more easily because no fatwas are needed. They can just parent us, at their pleasure.

And for their profit.

They became conscious of this lucrative possibility in the ’90s, during the fight – which was pretty much the last fight – over the Supplemental Restraint (SRS) mandate, which is  government-ese for the air bag mandate.

The industry fought, at first. They knew the bags were dangerous, for one thing. That while they would “save lives,” they would also take some. This actually bothered them, unlike the government.

But somewhere along the line, the car companies gave up and bought in – realizing that lots of money could be made not only by charging everyone for air bags but also for replacing them (as well as replacing cars totaled by air bags).

This opened the sluice gate and became the new modus vivendi. The  car industry stopped fighting Uncle and instead learned to snuggle him, inhaling his very essence, even. It worked to their mutual benefit. Government got the increase in control it feeds on like a vampire does warm blood and the car industry got money, which is ultimately what corporations (as opposed to individually owned businesses) are all about.

Today the car companies anticipate the government; they spend as much time inventing new saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technologies – and installing them as standard equipment – as they once spent designing attractive and interesting cars

The latest – and most obnoxious – example of this parenting-for-profit is GM’s Call Me Out saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety app. Even the name is cloying, emblematic of Red Giant stage American busybodyism, both government and corporate.

And it’s already in your phone – ready to be tied into your next new car.

Most smartphones know where you are – they track you – and how fast you’re moving – via GPS and accelerometers built into the device. GM’s app uses this data to peck at you when it notices you’re moving faster than 5 MPH, playing (cue eruption of vomit) “personalized messages from friends or family reminding drivers to keep their eyes on the road and put their phones down.”

Even more  cloying, the app “…features a scoreboard and ranking system based on how often drivers are distracted by their phones. The less a phone is handled, the higher the driver is ranked on the application’s leaderboard.”

It smacks of the Arch Community Songster from Huxley’s Brave New World.

“With Call Me Out we are extending our commitment beyond the technologies integrated into GM and Chevy vehicles and are making the app available for Android phone users who drive other vehicle makes and models,” says Alan Batey, who is GM’s president of North America, in a statement posted by Chevrolet.

An interesting thing about this app is that it’s yet another distraction. Just as the seatbelt buzzer that never goes off is arguably more of a threat to your saaaaaaaaaaaaaafety than not “buckling up” is. Instead of drivers being distracted by a conversation, they’ll be distracted by an app interrupting it.

It’s arguably more distracting to be pestered while driving as it is to multi-task while driving. Flashing lights, buzzers and interruptions; electronics that function as a car-full of mother-in-laws hectoring and berating you while you’re trying to drive.

For now, this app isn’t coercive – but how long will that last?


It’s certain we’ll eventually be required to have it. Just like in-car Breathalyzers for everyone; that’s coming, too. Cars will perhaps be made to not function if they don’t have the app – or the app isn’t on. Or the car will simply narc the driver out to the insurance mafia, which will then adjust the offender’s can’t-say-no premiums accordingly.

Get that great GM feeling!

But isn’t just GM. If only it were. Because then we could buy Fords or Toyotas instead. Unfortunately, the entire industry is pushing the same thing: Cars that are less and less under your control and more and more under the control of them.

For-profit parenting.

Sold under the guise of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.

I much prefer my old muscle car from the pre-parenting ’70s. Which somehow manages to be amazingly safe despite not having any of the latest saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety “features.”

It doesn’t automatically brake for me, or pester me to buckle up, hasn’t got a single air bag and does not pelt me with cloying messages if I send a textwhile I drive.

The thing is almost 50 years old and has never wrecked yet, despite no ABS or traction control or pre-emptive Band-Aiding idiocy of any kind.

And by some unfathomable miracle, neither have I.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. RK said “These things are supposed to reduce our burden, not make it worse.”

    Yeah. I look at the bug-eyed glass peckers in amazement. Pavlov’s dogs. Bing, brain stops and all focus moves to phone. They aren’t even human anymore, just cyborgs, slaved to whoever is on the other end of the line, even if it is just a billing notification.

    We need a week without the internet. The facebook withdrawal suicides alone would solve world population concerns. I would do a happy dance on their corpses.

    • The problem is not the internet per se, it’s social media! Call me a tinfoil-hat wearer, but as I had mentioned previously, social media was invented as a way to distract the masses from the real agenda; that is, to “dumb down”, contain, and eventually eliminate all but a handful of human beings (i.e. the “elites”).

  2. The manufacturers “gave in” after Uncle forced so-called passive restraint systems on the public. My ’89 Subaru XT had the damn things. The shoulder harness sat on a little track that ran along the door from the A pillar to the B pillar. it was meant to stay clipped in all the time but one could still unclip from the attachment. When you started up the vehicle it would move to the B pillar position. You were then expected to clip in the lap belt and off you go. When you opened the door it would move back to the A pillar so you could get out.

    I didn’t mind it especially but it did seem to be a complicated solution to a non-problem. There were a few spilled cups of coffee because I wasn’t paying attention and of course any time the door was opened the seatbelt would do its thing, including when parking and checking the curb. The passenger seatbelt would move even when no one was in the seat making it pretty much worthless for holding small items. But apparently everyone else hated it. So because wise Uncle was kind enough to give carmakers the freedom to choose between airbags or automatic seatbelts, airbags won out. So it is really the public’s fault we have all these things pointed at our faces…

  3. My ’05 Chevy Trailblazer will probably be the last “modern” vehicle that I ever own. It has everything that I need (and want) and none of the stuff that I don’t. Anything post-2006 is a no-go for me.

  4. And my wife wonders why I hold on to all those beater Mopar trucks of mine. Think of it as a Luddite’s last gasp under Big Brother’s boot stamping on a human face, forever.

    • Hi Ross!

      I don’t consider us Luddites; we’re opposed to pushy, nudging, suggestive-selling “tech.” And the pushy, nudging authoritarian collectivists who are using it to mold people’s behavior according to their liking.

      • Hey Eric! Ever notice how the majority of “progressive” technologies and regulations in this country seem to emanate not from Capitol Hill, but from California? You know, where the majority of celebs and other rich folks reside? Coincidence? Me thinks not. Hell, those commies on the west coast even sued the feds for not enforcing stricter emissions regulations!

  5. Truth is, if you always have your phone with you, you effectively are Already Microchipped.

    Only advantage is that you can leave it behind (or destroy it) without first having to rip it out of your flesh.

    Until then…’re chipped!

  6. From elsewhere, I could have written this;

    “Personally, I have ghosted several people over the last two years. Why? Because they became iZombies.
    Several attempt to get them to understand that I would not accept the surfing/texting/twitfacing while I was trying to speak to them, failed to change their behaviour. Explanations that having to repeat myself because they were distracted by their phones was unacceptable, failed to change their behaviour. Catching them mid tweet while I was speaking and then having them impulsively (an obviously falsely) deny that they were doing so, despite the phone in their hand.
    These are people who had effectively already ghosted me. Ignoring me while in the same room, to play with themselves (their phone). No point in trying to explain to them, they were never listening in the first place. In fact, I suspect most of those who claim they have been ghosted, were just self absorbed iZombies, not paying attention when the reasons for the coming break were voiced.
    Smartphones are the most anti-scocial device ever invented. The average human simply can not control their impulses well enough to use them respectfully.

    BTW, I understand the I am the odd one. Seems everyone else is just fine with the complete lack of manners that came bundled with their cell plan.”

    These same people drive like they socialize…. Inattentively and self absorbed. They are unaware of time when distracted as the distraction is the only thing they can focus on.

    Two friends have driven off the road texting (that I know of). I got to watch one from the following car. I saw his head turn and him reaching for the phone. Then saw him start pecking on it with his one handed thumb style, staring towards the passenger a-pillar, just before he left the road. No real damage as it was a field he drove into, but it could just as well have been a bridge abutment or oncoming traffic. He learned nothing, and still drives texting. I’ll have nothing to do with him now, simply based on that he is an inconsiderate piece of shit, with no respect for the safety of others. Apparently texting is more important than the safety of others.

    This in-car electronic crap is definitely getting folks killed. Most humans are apparently too stupid to recognize their own bad and often dangerous behaviors. And it will only get worse.

    • Excellent post. and correct, it is still getting worse by the month it seems.
      I don’t even drive rush hour anymore, or if it even drizzles. Around NY metro, it is just a crash zone, seems every 10 miles or so. people dying in head on’s have increased to about one a month here. they never say it’s the stupid infatuation with the phone, but it almost certainly is. it’s a disaster.

      In most of my business meetings people are using their phones all the time. I think it’s rude.

    • I agree with you, Frog! I really do believe that social media was deliberately invented to “dumb down” society. I bet if the government were to one day decree going outside as “unsafe” (thereby, implementing a permanent “shelter-in-place” mandate), people would be content as long as they have access to their precious social media in addition to receiving a new smartphone every 6 months or so.

      • Hi Bluegrey!

        An interesting thing about “”social media” is that it has achieved by voluntary participation what the East German Stasi, the Soviet KGB and every other clumsy authoritarian information gathering services of the state tried far less successfully to achieve: The gathering up of the personal data of every person in the country, including their preferences and political opinions. No need for wiretaps or card indexes; the cattle stampede all over themselves to offer it up.

        Not that “social media” is the government, loosely camouflaged by the storefronts of a handful of “private” companies – which interlock and trace their origins to the government, Especially gesichterbuch.

        Note further how it has become almost impossible to do almost anything online without “logging in using gesichertbuch.” No more anonymity, or at least – it’s much harder.

        • Eric, I’m new to your site – a comment from a zerohedge pointed me in your direction . From the little I’ve read, I tend to agree with you but I will not say American cars from the 50’s thru mid 80’s were anything other than pieces of shite compared to European ones.

          My first car was a ’76 Cutlass which I inherited. The first thing it did when taking evasive action and hitting the brakes hard was a 360 due to one back drum locking up. Managed to walk away and took the insurance settlement for a Cosworth Vega I bought from a friend. A step up; the first car I drove close to 100mph but if you listened closely, you hear it rust. Anyway, a friend who’s father owned in the ’70’s: a 289 Cobra, a ’61 Ferrari 250 which I helped rebuild the Colombo, and a ’74 Pantera.

          Of course he owned American cars too. Usually drove a Seville and my friend made his ’66 Galaxie 500 convertible his daily driver after selling me the Cosworth. Sadly the Galaxie had the Cleveland, not the 427, which was probably better 20/20 hindsight. Us being teenagers in a high horsepower machine with poor handling and braking probably wouldn’t have ended well – our friend Karl was a perfect example as he was killed when his Charger lifted its front end ~80mph, lost steering, and hit the end of a guard rail. On a happier note: I still remember riding shotgun when Scott decided to top out the Pantera – managed an indicated 145mph on an empty freeway @ 3am. Heady stuff when you’re 17. I guess my point is, you could “drive” European cars, or you could “ride” in American ones.

          Oh, the real reason I wanted to reply to this post is: You’ve heard of Solzhenitsyn. Well in “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956” there’s this passage…

          “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

          • An ex-housemate and college buddy had a Cosworth Vega in the late 70’s. It was a bad-ass car and one he lamented trading. No problem with rust in almost all of Tx. so whatever a car had to offer you got to find out long terms if you wanted to keep it.

            My 77 El Camino SS was a 145 mph vehicle/car/truck. It had a form fitting tarp over the bed that actually turned into a variable rear spoiler as you gained speed. It was quiet and fast. Certainly it wasn’t stock even though the stock engine opened up with an air cleaner and dual 2.5″ exhausts and headers wasn’t a slouch. I couldn’t tell you how many cops I outran with it, some not even bothering to chase me.

            Headed to Dallas one day with two Yamaha racing carts in the bed, I got into a race with a turbo Celica that was pretty mean. I toasted him and as we were coming up on an overpass my Escort went off and I stood on the brakes to get under 60 as I topped the overpass. There was a DPS on the shoulder who turned across in front of me who I nearly ran over doing the speed limit and the Celica came barreling over the overpass after me doing high triple digits(but sucking my exhaust) and damned near ran over the DPS. I know he was shitting bricks but the DPS, already committed to crossing the median and getting some poor schmuck doing probably 50 mph less than the Celica was the intended victim so he never looked back. The guy in the Celica passed me and I shook my head. He looked to be freaked out but he got away with it. The Celica driver had this sorta disbelief look on his face and we both grinned. I got the feeling he’d probably outrunned a cop or two himself.

            Probably the stupidest thing I ever did was to use a Fuzzbuster and assume it worked. Well, one trip and that mystery was solved. About the only thing between Austin and Virginia it identified as radar was the big McDonald’s on H.E. Bailey in Ok. where you could stop at the smoke shop and the Army/Navy store and get surplus ammo and a big cigar.

      • It was a pincer movement. Once pincer to dumb us down and the other to collect every bit of information about us, our likes, dislikes, and our friends.

        Facebook is a Stasi wet dream come true. For an idea of how government intelligence agencies used to have to spy on us, watch “The Lives of Others”, based on a book written by a 30 year Stasi agent, who basically lived in a guy’s attic for 20 years listening to bugs in the house, steaming open his mail, peeping etc.

        Now FB can do in minutes what it took years for an old fashioned spy to do.

        Never facebooked or participated in any social media. Saw it for what it is when it first came out. Haven’t changed my mind because all new data is pointing in the direction of me being right 10 years ago.

        • Hi Roy,

          Yes, exactly. Lives of Others; great movie. Social media accomplishes the same by cultivating a sick narcissism and vulgar display of what ought to be private. It has created a national Jerry Springer Show.

  7. Eric,
    An even more deadly sin I often commit is… driving without a phone at all! Going to work or grocery store or running errands; I leave my phone at home so people think I have died in a horrific car crash and only relieve these fears when I call them back later. How did people survive before this, no one knows. But now in newer vehicles you cannot escape phones or gameboys or super nintendo control panels. Tons of buttons and crap you have to look at to press where as before muscle memory of knobs and resistance were all that was needed to change stations or the AC.

    • I keep my off more than 5 days out of seven. I don’t even text.
      But I do carry it with me for payphones no longer exist for the most part. I may be a shorter walk home than to a payphone.

      The damn smart phone is something I have come to hate. It’s always updating or asking to be updated. Each update changes how the UIs work, eliminates things I’ve installed, changes settings, etc. When I try to take full root shell control it tells me that is not allowed. This is the future. Not owning our own things.

      • I only recently switched to a modern non flip phone at the beginning of this year. It is a sonim rugby phone. It is garbage because the camera sucks and the audio sucks but it cannot have any apps installed or updates. I’ve looked into some stuff on open source phone OS but those projects have been discontinued. I imagine if I forced a new OS onto this thing it would be kicked off the network.

    • It’s hard to imagine how the pioneers in covered wagons made it to Oregon when there wasn’t reliable cell service west of St. Loius !

    • Judicious use of Do Not Disturb allows one to utilize the many benefits of a smart phone while avoiding the interruptions. I just drove 8 hours straight and had plenty of podcasts to help the miles go by. Got to get a pic of a cattle drive while waiting for it to pass and didn’t get any alerts, calls or other distractions. When I arrived at my destination all those would-be interruptions were stored and waiting for me.

      These things are supposed to reduce our burden, not make it worse. But the “free” model demands eye time in exchange for convenience so instead of having a personal digital assistant (what they used to be called) we have a constant source of interruption and dopamine.

      • Hi Ready KW,
        I am going to try using that Do Not Disturb option. I don’t really like talking on phones except to a couple of friends. Were it not for my truck driving job; I would probably only get one or two calls per week.
        With my job: I have to call in to my company every work morning between 0630-0800, call in when I arrive to my destination, and call in once I am loaded or unloaded. Fortunately, my company almost never calls me. Unfortunately, load brokers often do. They have the phone number to my company because my company agreed to haul their load. They know that I am probably driving truck when they make their calls, but they call me anyway instead of calling my company which already knows whether or not I am already loaded or unloaded, and which can pull up my location at any time thanks to the electronic logbook app that is installed on my phone. Further, many of them require the driver to have a tracking app enable on my smart phone so that they can track me live too! The app is from Macropoint . Yet, the brokers still call me. There are times when I tell them that I am only going to pick up the load, and that they should contact my company to find out which driver will deliver the load because I will be off-duty; yet they usually call me on my off duty day asking whether the load has been delivered! Yup; I am definitely going to try using the Do Not Disturb option which hopefully will force them to call my company instead. Hopefully I will be able to exit the trucking industry for good. Thanks for the tip.

        • I also have a VIP list that will still get through, although if they call I pull over. You should also make your boss and dispatcher aware if you don’t put them in the VIP list.

          You are driving, so they really can’t complain about you not taking the call. We got along for centuries without immediate responses and somehow survived.

          • “We got along for centuries without immediate responses and somehow survived.”

            Exactly! The problem isn’t the technology itself, but the fact that we humans take said technology for granted. We now expect results within a moment’s notice (i.e. “instant gratification”). What was supposed to make our lives easier has also made it more stressful.


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