Practicing law has a way of teaching you the real value of time. Whether it’s billable hours or the precious other moments you get to spend outside of work, your time ends up being a valuable limited commodity. And like any limited commodity, the more you can conserve, the more value you can realize. I think new technology is often expensive just for this reason. It saves you time. Thankfully, technology also has a very consistent way of getting cheaper over time. Cell phones are a great example. The Motorola DynaTAC was a clear status symbol of the 1980s—costing close to $10,000 in today’s dollars. Thirty years later, I can get a prepaid phone for $50 that vastly outperforms the “brick” of yesteryear. Additionally, the cellular infrastructure has finally caught up to the point that I can get reception virtually anywhere I go.
Although robots are not new technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is still mostly in its infancy. AI is growing up fast though. Boston Dynamics is looking at replacing our dogs (albeit without heads), Alexa is about to start doing your grocery shopping, and there is a short round little guy vacuuming my house right now (and his buddy can mow your lawn, too). AI is also poised to start driving us around, having a much larger impact on our lives. Most experts agree that autonomous cars will save lives, improve traffic flow, solve parking issues, and provide mobility for people with disabilities … someday.
Most folks depend on some form of transit to get to work, get their kids to school, and to handle all kinds of day-to-day needs. Of course transportation costs money, time, and potential injury. Autonomous cars may be able to at least help with the latter two concerns, but like most new technology, at a higher cost. When I was a kid and flipping through a Mercedes-Benz brochure full of cars we could never afford, my dad said, “These are some of the safest cars in the world, but only if you can afford it.” This observation may also apply to autonomous cars. Autonomy is a luxury, and if you can’t afford it, you’ll be stuck doing the driving yourself, and at your own risk.
Safety issues aside, just think of all the time you spend piloting your car and what else you could do with that time. I like driving as much as anybody, but sitting at a dead stop on a freeway is a complete waste of that precious time. No wonder everyone is on their phone. Now consider being able to have the car drop your kids off at school and come back to take you to work. What about sending your car to pick up that grocery order Alexa just placed for you? That time adds up and can amount to a much higher quality of life … if you can afford it.