Modern tech and innovation companies are taking the world’s transportation systems down the wrong path, says local author, blogger, and tech critic Paris Marx.
Marx has written a book about it, and it is of great interest.
“Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong About the Future of Transportation” will be presented at the Benevolent Irish Society, 30 Harvey Rd. in St. John’s, Friday evening, July 15.
The book, he says, exposes the flaws in the technology industry’s vision for the future and offers a more collective way to organize transportation systems that address the needs of poor, marginalized and vulnerable people in society.
“I think some of the book’s core parts are really meant to make people think more critically about how we think about transportation and transportation systems,” said Marx, who is originally from the Burin Peninsula but now lives in paradise. “First of all, over the last decade we have received a number of promises about how new technologies would improve the transport system. What has actually happened is that it has made traffic worse, it has pulled people off the transit systems and it has put more cars on the road.
“We have a lot of serious problems with the transportation system, including car dependency and how many people need to own a car to get around and there aren’t really a lot of other options for people. And that comes at a really high financial cost for people, especially at a time when the cost of living is high and a lot of people are feeling very tight on their budget. So it is very important to have alternatives.
“Also, we are facing a climate crisis and we have to deal with it, and transport is a big contributor to climate change. Is the answer just to encourage electric vehicles and people to switch from internal combustion engines to battery power? Or should we think more fundamentally about enabling people not to own a car at all and to use alternatives to get around reliably?”
Marx says his interest in technology began when he was young, but writing about it and transportation evolved over time.
He said he attended Memorial University, made some trips to different countries, and then earned a master’s degree from McGill University in Montreal.
“My masters was urban geography and was really focused on transportation and the tech industry and how the tech industry sees the future of transportation and if that would actually solve the problems we have with our transportation system to make it fairer and more accessible for the people,” he said.
Writing is also no stranger to Marx.
Since 2015-16 he has been writing freelance on topics related to cities, transport, technology and climate change and has published in national and international media.
He also started a podcast called Tech Won’t Save Us in 2020.
“The book is based on a lot of the texts I’ve written over the past six or seven years and on the research I did while I was doing my master’s degree. It’s a way of taking those things and remaking them for a more general audience rather than an academic audience,” he said. “So the book draws a lot from history, from people like Peter Norton, who wrote Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, and people like Fred Turner, who wrote a great history of the technology industry United States and Margaret O’Mara, who has written on the subject, as well as much of the critical work done over the past decade on the technology industry’s proposals for the future of transportation.
“I’ve also reached out to people like Ursula K. Le Guin, an American science fiction writer, just to offer different perspectives on technology, transportation and society and to try and get people to think differently about how our society can be structured, how we can think about technology.”
The book launch is sponsored by Downtown Comics and Verso Books and will take place from 7:30pm to 8:30pm during which Marx will give a reading, answer questions and sign books.