If aliens were watching Earth, they’d think cars were the apex species. I mean, just look. If they looked down, this is what they’d see:
Road, roads everywhere. 20% of the earth’s surface is within 1km of a road, and the rest is vivisected into 600,000 pieces, most of them tiny.
Where there aren’t roads, there’s parking.
Parking, parking, with no one there. In LA there’s more parking spaces than human spaces (housing). As Strong Towns says, “parking is the dominant physical feature of the postwar American city,” and this car cancer has spread all over the globe.
Aliens can see it from space.
If they’d look a little closer, they’d also see that cars are predators.
The human herd is relentlessly culled by these beasts of prey. Cars are the #1 killer of young people (aged 5–29). Our children have to cross car-infested rivers every single day.
Cars have evolved to get bigger and bigger, such that you can now fit an entire Kindergarten in the blind spot of the most popular trucks, which are often bigger than some of last century’s tanks. These behemoths absolutely splatter children and hit everyone else square in the internal organs.
Who would our aliens believe runs the Earth? The kings of the road, or the roadkill?
It’s important to understand that road development, which we consider an investment, is actually a giant Ponzi scheme. As Charles Marohn of Strong Towns documents, roads have huge maintenance costs which no one has really thought about or planned for.
As he said, “In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the cost at $5 trillion — but that’s just for major infrastructure, not the minor streets, curbs, walks, and pipes that serve our homes.”
Every road is actually a long-term liability, and cities don’t raise nearly enough money from taxes to pay for them. Instead they take money from new projects to pay for maintenance on the old, just kicking the can down the literal road. And we’re rapidly nearing the end of the road.
If you thought the housing collapse was fun, wait for the roads collapse. In this case actual tunnels and bridges will fall down.
Then there’s the emissions, which make the literal sky fall down. Today machines (like cars) are emitting so much that they’re killing us, and we still assume that we’re the dominant species. But uh, we’re the ones dying, and they’re doing fine.
In evolutionary terms, it’s usually the emissions of new species that kill the old, and we’re the old in this example. And this has happened before. 3.5 billion years ago, solar-powered bacteria killed almost all of the older lifeforms they evolved from (with oxygen emissions and global cooling). Evolution is literally just the stories of creations killing their creators. What makes you think we’re immune from history?
In this way the Disney film Cars is actually a horrifying dystopia, where the cars have completely taken over and humans aren’t even a memory.
As you can see, a culture based on cars is pointedly a culture not based on humans. It’s not good for our economies, our ecosystem, our children, or even our daily lives.
As Matthew Lewis said in a recent thread:
People don’t know that almost everything they claim to want — good health care, schools, streets safe enough to let their kids walk to school, affordable housing, jobs that aren’t 3 hours away, parks/open space, walkable neighborhoods — can’t happen in cities dominated by cars.
In this way, cars are fundamentally incompatible with human life. They are, in affect, a different lifeform, and a predator to us.
And so I return to our aliens, looking down on us from above. What makes you think they’re even looking at us? Maybe we showed some promise with the pyramids, but look now. It’s all asphalt and concrete. We’ve just been laying out the red carpet for machines.
As Jeon Tae-il said before he immolated himself in protest, “we are not machines!” We are not these things and we do not command them in any meaningful way. Yes you can turn off your iPhone, but can you turn off Capitalism. We can’t. It’s operating at a much higher level. It’s a higher lifeform, and its growth is more important than the mere survival of you and me.
We’re just bugs in the rug and it’s very difficult for us see to this tapestry. This is why we’re getting squashed so thoroughly. But for an alien—watching from light years above—it ain’t hard to see. Capital is the dominant branch of life, and cars are its apex species.
How Marx’s Capital Is About AI (how Capitalism is a globe spanning AI already, and indeed at the point Marx was writing in the 1850s)