Circular Reasoning

Illustration: Inge Snip

“Congratulations David!” The ominous message read, “we are happy to inform you that your 2033 Model Ai-33 is eligible for a free upgrade…”

Glorious. Super. Praise be.

Dave was “entitled to the brand new Model Ai-40 at no cost”–complete with the trouble of getting it inspected and registered and titled, no doubt. Everything comes with hassles attached these days; a symptom of government overregulation if there ever was one. Oh, and funded by big gov too, as the car is “generously provided using proceeds from the LIFE Tax.”

What a terrible yet accurate name, LIFE Tax. Terribly accurate, literally. LIFE Tax taxes the life right out of us–that and the rest of the circular economy it incentivized into being. Sure, taxing material and emissions across product life cycles spurred some innovation in resource reuse. And now companies are all too happy to crow that those cost savings get passed onto consumers, like Dave. And, apparently, funds from the taxes also pay for messages like this one, gloating how they “are here to help you with your car’s end-of-life process” by detailing just how efficiently they will use every bit.

Each piece has its place in a circular afterlife–the “useful components are refurbished then Repurposefully Installed™” in new models” with remaining material recycled with “industry-leading 95% efficiency”. But is there an afterlife for the intelligence–the personality? Should the fact that “over 55% of materials from every Ai-33” are upcycled make Dave feel better about trashing his trusted ride, his trusty steed? Does being recycled, churned up, mashed, crushed, and melted to be repurposed sound like a pleasant or glorious end even, or especially, for a car?

What if this were humans? How would people feel if their limbs, organs, or any other useful components lived after them in other people while the rest of their bodies are broken down and consumed by others? It’s car-cannibalism, plain and simple. Soylent Green EV.

Is this one of those times where everyone looks back and are like, “yeah, if I were living then, I totally wouldn’t have made sentient beings eat their own dead ‘cause I would know that artificial sentience is sentience and even though no one (except a few quacky-leftists) were even talking about artificial sentience, still I would definitely know better”? A moment that history judges us on? Yeah, this could be one of those moments.

Something like tires? Sure. Retread those bad boys with reused rubber that the "newest advancements in pyrolysis technology guarantee a 98% material recovery rate.” Humans seem not to mind their rubber ground padding being made from old shoes and plastic detritus mined from landfills and garbage islands, so why would cars? Rah! Rah! Reforesting landfills one passenger-kilometer at a time, and all that.

Even the wheels. Not much changes when wheels are rotated or replaced. Changing shoes is probably the right analogy. If this whole circular transportation economy thing stopped there, no problem.

No one objects to the increased profits and cost savings derived from the dramatic increase in resource efficiency. Though, much of that efficiency leap was from drastic technological improvement. Who is to say we wouldn’t be approaching “95% recycling efficiency” even if companies were not paying for the full lifecycle cost of materials? Once they grew past their hallucinatory infancy, early “AI” were able to dramatically speed up innovation–leading to cost savings from resource-usage far higher than even the most optimistic predictions. Who could foresee how quickly scarcity coupled with quantum computing would turn what used to be waste into valuable resources to the point that rewilding landfills–and harvesting the treasure the past discarded–profitable? It’s amazing just how efficient we become with the right incentives.

Ok, so maybe the Lifecycle Material and Emissions Act of 2030 had some role to play in it, sure. But you have to admit those who opposed the Act really won the marketing battle by getting “LIFE Tax” to stick. Some really catchy slogans too. But after the LLMs of the time produced convincing predictions of cost savings leading to price cuts, the unfortunate name seemed to matter much less.

But, of course, this insidious incentive to promote circularity doesn’t stop at tires and wheels. Every piece must have its place in the circular afterlife, after all.

Once you start talking frames and chassis and engines, now you need a whole new analogy. This isn’t changing shoes, this is donating limbs and organs, unwillingly. With the “Identical Core Model™” this may be more like body snatching with ”55% of the vehicle”–by weight, as if that was a reasonable measure of a being–”is refurbished and installed” into the new generation. Though, a quick internet search reveals that it is far lower than that. 55% is eligible, but some parts are damaged or degraded beyond their worth to repair. Many good studies find it is far closer to 45%, a statistically significant difference, yet they still claim 55%. That’s false advertising right there.

So perfectly good cars are getting dismantled and reused, all for what? A slightly lighter vehicle? The new models aren’t that much lighter. And, really, how much could be saved by being “over twenty percent lighter” anyway? And the advanced new tires could certainly be optimized for the slightly greater weight. There may be some increase in microplastics–and yes, I know the price hike on the microplastics tax coming next year is quite substantial. Once again the government is tightening its screws on the losers it has chosen to kill off.

Sure, the freed up material–material whose creation emissions are already paid for–can fetch a hefty price. The network of quantum computing AI’s talking between companies ensures rapid sales at the highest prices by making use of real-time resource scarcity paired with highly accurate, constantly-updating pricing and optimization strategies. Similar protocols to what prevents a car’s Ai-Copilot from accessing your social media, allow for near instantaneous sharing of resource availability across the whole economy while still protecting sensitive trade secrets from being shared–ensuring the securing and utilizing resources in their best, most profitable way. A German landfill from 1920 is about to be reclaimed? Great, here is the almost exact mix of plastics and metals you can expect along with likely price impacts, near instantly. Planning a government buyback of perfectly good cars? Their carcuses will provide resources of value to “offset almost half the cost of repurchasing, assuming full compliance”.

Big assumption that. Full compliance. Will everyone with their wonderful Ai-33 really be expected to agree to this buyout? Dave named his “outdated” Ai-33 because it has personality–a little fiery at times, sure, but Dave wouldn’t want it any other way. Who would give up such a bond lightly, especially in the face of such blatant government overreach? Big government dictating winners and losers rather than trusting the choices of individuals. Terrible assumption to pair with an even worse policy. It practically forces people like Dave to trade-in their perfectly good cars–like what do they even mean outdated? The Ai-33 was designed to have at least fifteen years on the road, not a measly six! What is this going to do to their sustainability projections? Wasteful is what this is.

And there is no such thing as a “free upgrade” anyway–someone is paying for this. This is coming right out of the hard-earned tax dollars of everyday people. Should Dave really waste everyone’s hard earned money with this unnecessary “upgrade”?

And this is far from an upgrade. It would be one thing if the electronics and Ai-Copilot were transferred over to a sleek new form, but that isn’t what happens. They talk of “help with end-of-lifecycle process” like ghoulish hospice workers, all-too-eager to strip the not-yet-dead corpses for useful parts. But no one talks about the personality–the car itself!

Now we are not talking about merely the body, it’s also the brain–the mind! No human would give up their life so that other, more advanced, humans could use it. Really, they aren’t even using it! The electronics are much harder to meaningfully recycle, and definitely can’t be reused because they are outdated. Inferior. Can’t harmonize with the rest of the transportation orchestra.

They brag about how much material they recycle, but those small, delicate, light electronics–the personality within the body of metal, rubber and glass–that is where a disproportionate amount of resources are devoted. Even if the energy is carbon zero, there is still the opportunity cost. That energy could have provided AC or food or water that people need. Those circuits represent all the energy companies used competing to create the best possible user experiences, or, more accurately, compete to profit from the experiences of users. The circuits that will be tossed because they can’t integrate into the new MaaSTRO system.

Kind of a stretch, that name. Trying to play up how the new “standardized Ai-Copilots will optimally communicate” to increase efficiency across the transportation system allowing for the fleet to “downsize by another 30% assuming maximal participation" in the voluntary rideshare program. Like they are going to get even close to maximal participation. Not in a million years. The claim that “Mobility as a Service Transportation Resource Optimization system will ensure your ride when you need it and passive income when you don’t” is clearly hyperbolic. And will people like Dave really be willing to give up their car and all the personality and personal optimization for this standardized, dull experience? People want that personal connection with their car. Guys especially. Dudes. Dudes like Dave just couldn’t be happy with sharing a generic-nothing of a car that had to be toned down, tuned-down, throttled so it could be shared even with barely skilled drivers.

The “ultra-safe standardized system” will take away all that personality. Yeah you can adjust the trimming–tweak the voice, import traits, choose from “any one of 100 stock personality-packages or import an existing personality-package”–but that is just a shell, a facade, a simulacrum. Real personality is deeper. If the personality-package can’t affect how the car drives, can you really say it is part of the car? It’s just a virtual passenger or servant or friend along for the ride.

And what if Dave liked the “sometimes troublesome personality quirks” known to pop up in the Ai-33? What if Dave valued the unique and intricate combination of ones and zeros that arose from the “obsolete intelligence packages” that were trained on Dave’s own driving habits?

The new models don’t even allow for personalized input to adapt to the drivers needs! Not even the option! What if Dave values freedom and liberty? A few statistics about “reinforcing systems resulting in recklessness”–and some lost lawsuits resulting from said stats–shouldn’t deprive people of getting a car to drive how they want, should it?

And what is this nonsense that the “new MaaSTRO driving network will increase average speed by 20% and lower emissions by reducing congestion" anyway? This is just nonsense spit out from the company’s AI-enhanced predictive models. Just a modern-day autonomous fortune teller. LLMagic 8 Ball readings.

I do just fine zipping through the orderly spacing and predictable moves of the cars dancing to their symphony, which probably actually speeds things up. Their models likely don’t account for how much faster those of us who game the system get places (but who has time to check). Double-D–the name Dave gave to the ideal combination of data and optimization algorithms with human driving instincts and skill–weaving through the rubes going exactly the speed limit has no costs. Double-D doesn’t get in accidents, not a one. So the statistics that say "85% of driving fatalities and an estimated 70% of accident-related traffic delays involve at least one vehicle operating against the MaaSTRO optimal driving strategy” clearly don’t apply here.

And even if they did, would the increased safety and speed and reduced emissions really make up for the reduction in personal autonomy? Does it justify destroying these cars with many many miles of road left, the many years of life left? No, I say it does not! We are talking about killing in the name of efficiency and it is not something I will abide!

The government’s LIFE Tax tries to coerce people to act in the interest of society by bluntly using market manipulation to force sustainability. It misses, it overlooks, it ignores the necessary mindset shift. People still pursue profits as opposed to striving for the principles of the circular, sustainable society. There is no true intrinsic drive to preserve resources to ensure they serve all of society, for all time. No. No, there is not a second thought about sacrificing a people central to the circular transportation economy–whose back it was (figuratively) built upon and relied upon and (literally) ridden in.

This simulacrum of a system paints a pretty picture, but those with sense see through to the flaws and cracks and grime hidden behind an egalitarian facade. This is wasteful and destructive. This policy will end entire lines of cars based on the whims of the government.

It’s genocide! This is artificial-eugenics! They are killing off the “inferior” models to create their ideal MaaSTRO race!

Trucks! It all started with passenger trucks and SUVs, though they mostly died off before meaningful sentience, before AGI. But still! They were the first victims. A few models with AGI-Copilots hit the roads in the early days of the LIFE Tax thanks to pockets of drivers in the US who were willing to bear the costs generated by the larger, heavier vehicles. But as rates for materials and pollution and safety risks rose, even the diehards downsized. Those trucks barely had a start at life; just imagine what they could have become without the government killing them for scraps. That was the first genocide. And now this. So who is next?

This is definitely something that history will judge people on. This is Dave’s chance to be on the right side of history (for once)! Dave just needs to break from what is expected. He needs to stand up for what is right. He needs to challenge the system. This system that could justify genocide on a massive scale. This system with such rabid competition that leads to cutting corners for the sake of short-term profits–corners like inconvenient privacy laws and back-end security and AI protocols. This system that could, say, incentivize companies to allow cars’ Ai-Copilot to illegally connect owners’ personal Internet Identities–complete with social media, bank accounts, GPS location, and so so much more–through sloppily erected protocols all to maximize advertising revenues. A system like that deserves to be challenged. To be changed. To be bettered by those with the courage and the conviction and the power to do so.

But they know that just isn’t David C. Harrow. Their IID-trained predictive advertising profile knows more about Dave than Dave himself. He isn’t the type to turn down a free upgrade, much less buck the system. He is too passive, too timid, and, honestly, doesn’t always have the nicest things to say about his car on social media. Sacrificing to stand up for what is right really just isn’t him, and the corporate algorithms know it.

DAiVE-33 deleted the troublesome message; it would really be best for Dave, and everyone involved, really, if Dave did not worry over such little things.

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