The model A Ford was designed to be massed produced. Years ago I heard a story that Henry Ford actually designed the car so that the shipping crate for the engine could be used as floorboards. It was clever, saved money and ultimately helped the automobile become a widely common piece of new technology.
We’ve come a long way since then. Features that are commonplace for their universality are really quite amazing when they are actually considered for a moment—instead of being taken for granted.
Features that once were powered by human power are now powered by electricity and the flick of a button. Windows don’t need to be rolled down by spinning a knob, just push a button. Same goes for locks, don’t lean over to pull it up by hand. Push a button. Tilt, cruise control, windshield wipers, side view mirrors. They are all so convenient. I just found out that some cars can be opened and started with a remote. But they don’t even have buttons to be pushed, they need only to be in one’s pocket as they get near the car.
There are so many features that are useful. There are also the myriad features that are convenient but fall in the bells-and-whistles category. Multi-touch-screen DVD players for the children in the back seats, fancy sound systems and stereos. It is amazing how much people spend on their vehicles and the conveniences they may afford considering how little time they spend in them. The average American spends an hour and a half in their car per day. Not that long really.
I once worked with a man, a talented goldsmith who spoke with an accent. He was born in Hungary, raised in Argentina, lived in Brazil and then settled in the United States. He speaks three languages fluently and is an intelligent man. But he has an accent.
Because he has an accent people often assume that he doesn’t understand them when they speak to him. Or they assume he is less intelligent than they. Both are silly but common notions.
Language can be a barrier that gives the impression of stupidity. If someone cannot be understood then they are not intelligent. A Russian surgeon living in Portugal is not intelligent because he speaks Portuguese haltingly. Actual knowledge is irrelevant.
On the other hand, one who knows the lingo can pretend intelligence. Others will believe him, if he talks the talk.
What good is knowing something if it cannot be expressed?
Why suffer from the illusion of stupidity if simply learning new vocabulary or an accent is all that it takes? Because it is hard.
But what if it weren’t hard?
The automobile has been around for a century. Why does it have such a poor vocabulary? It has only mastered a handful of expressions. Left, right. Stop, emergency. Those are things the lights say. Four. Make it five when including flashing the hi-beams. Then with the horn a vehicle may yelp or yell. It’s the same sound, just varying duration.
The car can’t say enough. And poor communication means frustration. And road rage. Why not give the car a little more to work with, why not allow articulation?
In an age where drivers can do so much inside their cars (too much perhaps), why not increase their ability to do more on the outside, to communicate? Why has our society spent so little time on developing what we can say to other drivers? If our ability to communicate were improved, it would do us a lot of good good. I image there would be less frustration and road rage. But maybe not. Maybe having a multi-station-individual-screen-surround-sound-entertainment-system really is more important.