My Life As a Car (or augmented by one)

The tool that probably augments me most is my car. I use it to get places that would involve prohibitively lengthy journeys, either in duration or distance, without assistance. Norman, when talking about artifacts, says that, from a system point of view, the person plus the artifact is smarter or more powerful than either alone. That is definitely true of me and my car. Without me, the car is just a bunch of parts linked together. Without the car, I can go about twenty miles a day on foot (on a really good day). “Me plus the car” can go as long as road and money hold out – over a thousand miles a day (with good interstate and convenient rest stops). Without the car, I wouldn’t be able to commute to school and I wouldn’t be able to shop at stores in neighboring communities on a regular basis. It allows me to take my kids to school AND get to work AND stop at the grocery for doughnuts in a half hour span. At the same time, my car doesn’t provide all sunshine and roses. The time I save in some areas is actually often spent at the gas station or the service station or talking with the insurance agent. The money that I earn by being able to commute to work is often spent in fuel, oil changes, car washes, insurance, license fees, and new tires and brakes. Rather than walking to close-by places and giving my body necessary exercise, I often think “it will be easier to just drive.” This results in higher stress levels and lower health.

There are things that I would never be able to accomplish without the augmentation provided by my car. At the same time, when I use that tool inappropriately, I find that it has a very detrimental effect on my life in general (that’s not even talking about the burning of fossil fuels).


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