HIGHTOWER: Fear the Computerized Geekmobile

I love cars. From the zip of a convertible to the sass of a lowrider, from the longhaul comfort of the Cadillac to the hitch-em-up-and-go possibilities of the pickup -- the automobile has long made a statement about individuality and the get-away-from-it-all spirit of Americans.

But now I'm sad to report that America's adventure machine has been roped, tied, and neutered, reduced to the ultimate indignity of corporatized conformity: the car has become an office cubicle on wheels.

We have the "electronic revolution" to thank for this. If you've been concerned about the danger of cell-phone maniacs yakking as they drive, wait'll you encounter the Geekmobile. No longer a car, these high-tech automobiles are referred to as "vehicle based information systems."

Let's kick the tires, so to speak: First, the trunk holds not a spare tire and a jack, but a PC that runs Microsoft Windows and Office. Fold down the rear seat, and you'll find a fully-loaded computer printer. In the dashboard is a color monitor that interfaces with the PC in the trunk. Between the front seats is the keyboard, conveniently placed for your input as you do your daily commute. On the passenger seat is a filing cabinet to rifle through as you change lanes. And on the dash is a palm keyboard for idle punching as you make a U-turn.

The New York Times reports that such purveyors of electronics as Motorola are teaming up with GM, Ford, and others to "make the car a more effective working environment." Swell. But what does this make us? One operator of a Geekmobile answers by saying: "Basically, I've become a systems administrator for my car."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... The Luddites were right -- technology can be counted as progress only if it enhances the quality of our lives, not if it simply shackles us to more work. Just because the high-tech hustlers can put the office in our cars, doesn't mean we should let them.


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