Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Future Hates Women

The recent murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward is an event that created a lot of subjects to consider. Some pundits, like Sally Kohn and the usual suspects on Twitter, arrived at questionable conclusions in record time.

A more interesting perspective to consider was raised by a writer at ThinkProgress who brought the data about workplace homicide. One interesting aspect to the data homicide is a greater overall share of total number of women killed at work. That is, if you are a woman killed at work, the chance that it is a homicide is greater than if you were a man being killed.

The language the article chose to run with was "Women are far more susceptible to being murdered at work than men." which is perhaps in some sense correct but still a rather objectionable sentence to choose as men are overall still four to five times more likely to be murdered at work. This is due to the total number of men's workplace deaths far outnumbering those of women.

On the topic of phrasing, another way of stating the current situation is that "Around two women are killed every month by a husband, boyfriend, or ex."

That's bad, right? It is. And it's going to get worse. Both in absolute and relative terms. All thanks to technology.

Let's look at some other numbers. Distracted driving in America killed 3154 people in 2013. If we say that men drive 60% of distance travelled on the road, then we can apply some assumptions and say that 1261 distracted driving deaths were women. Meaning "around 105 women are killed every month by distracted driving."

Imagine for a moment that we have a magic wand to make all the distracted driving deaths disappear. Not just all distracted driving deaths, but drunk driving deaths as well. In fact, make nearly all driving deaths disappear. And this might be a possibility, thanks to the evil of the self-driving car.

Architect of dystopia
It should be a happy day when we can finally be assured to not die on the road. To not be mercilessly smashed by tools meant to serve us. What could be more grand?

But this is not how the human mind works. A world without fatalities of indifference, the "accidents" that claim so many, will simply focus our thoughts on the remaining threats - crimes of passion. When the only things that could possibly bring you to your end are your loved ones, fear will not vanish but merely be moved. A safe journey home gives one more time to contemplate the terror of arriving at one's destination.

When safety transitions from a game of inflatable bags of air and becomes entirely about managing expectations and emotions, in spite of all rational thought the world may seem less friendly and less predictable. This will happen regardless of actual likelihood of victimization being much different than what it is today.

This change will have a vastly different impact on women as it will on men - as women are "more likely than males to be the victim of intimate killings (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%)."

Mass shootings, terrorism and domestic homicide will dominate more of our concern and there is good evidence to suggest there will remain a gendered component that is biased against women. Improvement in any area will be elusive. Demands to manage guns and mental health will become louder.

Without a doubt, the math will become more concerning as time goes on. Remember, the majority roadway fatalities (60%-70%) and workplace deaths (93%) are deaths of men. Technology will easily work to diminish these categories of injury. Although, to put it bluntly, these advances will ultimately fail to make this saved population of men less likely to intentionally injure each other or their partners.

Further freedom from mishaps and disease may give us more time to enjoy one another's company. But it'll also allow us more time to brood over people who have wronged us and stew about who may intend to harm us. Social media is already an excellent example of this eventuality, with nearly every virtual community touched by waves distrust and resentment created from minutia. It's not online anonymity that is our undoing, but idle thoughts and the memory capacity to store an infinite number of grudges.

Everyone is doomed to have more time to police and fear each other. Share with the entire world what we think about one another's actions, appearance and tastes -- and then immediately cower from possible retribution from those criticized.

Volumes will be written about depressing datapoints, a constant mirror of failings that will be often viewed as some sort of retrogression. Evidence that we all somehow hate each other more than we used to.

Progress is easy to forget.

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