If a technological breakthrough could enable people to travel as quickly and cheaply across the world as they now do between adjacent cities, but at the price of 500,000 deaths a year, would you want the technology developed?
Well, I guess the first question that would really need to be asked here is how does that 500,000 deaths compare to lives lost in current modes of transportation? According to a quick Google search, it’s been shown that an average of 1.3 million people die from automobile accidents worldwide, accounting for the vast majority of all transportation related deaths. In fact, when you look up the statistics on deaths caused by planes, trains, or boats, the numbers are laughably small in comparison to what we do with our cars.
So when you just look at the opening question, 500,000 deaths each year sure sounds like a lot. But it’s less than half of the casualties that come from car wrecks annually. I’m assuming that this breakthrough technology is something akin to the transporter devices we see in Star Trek series and films. And that those half million fatalities would be the result of some kind of transporter malfunctions. I think I’d be okay with that.
Because here’s the thing… That technology will continue to advance and become safer as time goes on. Yeah, we’ve managed to tweak the design of our cars over the decades, but put the wrong idiot behind the wheel and it still becomes a deadly weapon. It doesn’t matter how many safety features are put in place in the automobile, we still have 1.3 million people dying every year.
I say beam me up, Scotty!
But what about you? Would you be in favor of this kind of technology, knowing that human lives would be lost in the process? Or does the prospect of this new technology replacing driving present the possibility that fewer lives could be lost? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!
*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.