The Reality of Electric Cars

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s now well known that Europe has committed to the electric car being the only car within 20 years. Possibly within that time frame, or soon after, the richest segments of Asia will follow (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and parts of China). North America, due to its size will take quite a while longer to reach that stage, but I believe it will happen.

At the moment, we seem quite far from countries filled with electric cars being the norm. Not only do we have to overcome public opinion, which rightfully criticizes the usefulness of modern electric cars for extended road use, disposal of hazardous batteries, crash safety, and poor infrastructure support, but we still have to develop cheaper, more functional electric car technology, and much faster charging stations (or an alternative like solar charging panels that can be formed to a car’s shape).

These will happen, of course, largely because of Europe’s commitment. What I mean is that, having the national commitments codified means industry now has the luxury of a single focus to their goals, rather than the three or even four directions they’ve currently been split between (petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid). In addition, car manufacturers will undoubtedly gain access to the lucrative government subsidies that  aid the development of so-called ‘green’ technologies. Unfortunately, they can only develop as quickly as the support technologies such as charging stations and battery size/life.

There are many advantages to countries of electric cars. As someone who is primarily a cyclist and pedestrian, I welcome the cleaner emissions that mean I won’t be forced to inhale car exhaust during my bike rides. Electric cars are also quieter, which is a mixed blessing. On one hand, there’s less noise pollution. On the other, it will mean paying more attention at street crossings because it’s almost impossible to hear an electric car approaching. Arguably the largest benefit to moving toward electric cars, however, and the most world-changing, is the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels from the Middle East.

The benefits of this don’t take much looking to see. We reduce our spending on foreign-sourced fuels and we reduce the funding of governments that support terrorism and have horrible human rights records all at the same time. But as Newton famously said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Much of the Middle East is a chaotic, wild place and we do not know how the oil rich nations there will respond to the massive decrease in Western money coming in. Will they turn to selling oil cheap to developing nations? Will there be new waves of terrorism against the West? Will the regimes collapse to the point that Western values can grow? It’s too early to tell any of this and I won’t speculate here (although I do in some of my upcoming books).

And what of other parts of the world? The developing nations may well be stranded at that time, if they haven’t begun converting away from fossil fuels, because the car manufacturers, all in rich, developed nations, will have been forced to transition to the new norm. Of course, this does open up opportunities for both old and new car manufacturers in the developing nations, creating a global polarization with the new polluters being the developing nations. One wonders how the politically correct will react to that. Nevertheless, it will be a real and important divide. Especially important will be the role of the United Nations in managing this divide and finding ways to transition developing nations quickly and reasonably through the industrial state of their evolution.

Finally, at least for the discussion here, the commitment to electric cars pave the way for the wide-scale implementation of autodrive cars. Autos, as I’ve taken to calling them, have many challenges to their development including the technological, ethical, social, and political, of which I’ll be discussing more in another article. Governments, however, are almost certainly interested in their chief benefit, namely the potential for increased road safety. In fact, other than a totalitarian enforcement of purchasing habits, it’s most likely going to be insurance companies that drive the switch to Autos. As the saying goes, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just better than what we have now, and Autos should have a much better safety record than human driven vehicles since they should have much greater awareness of traffic and road conditions.

Of course, the reality of electric cars is not without it’s down side, and I’ve mentioned many of them in this article. One more I’ll add here is that, regardless of how good they turn out to be, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll be the next target of the green movement, most likely for the type of waste produced by their disposal. Still, I’m looking forward to a quieter, safer, cleaner future with cars. Nevermind the fact that I may not have to go through the terrors of drivers education training with my teen by then.

But where do you stand on electric cars? Are you loving the look of the future, or loathing the loss of the past? Let me know in the comments.


The Right to Offend is the Most Important Right…

All over the Western world, we are eroding our free speech in the name of being kind. Or rather, in our desire to legislate our world into being kind by using the carefully named and conceived hate speech laws. Such laws intend to forcibly prevent us from insulting — intentionally or otherwise — Western minorities, sexual minorities, gender minorities, religions, and women.

A short time ago, on Twitter, J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series, for anyone who has been living under a rock for the last two decades) became the latest author to defend hate speech laws. This stance is difficult to believe of any author, but especially someone of J.K. Rowling’s history. Not only is she someone who makes her living (and has make a very good living) on being allowed to say the words she wants, but her own work has faced attack for its content. Devout Christians and Muslims alike attempted banning the Harry Potter series because they believe it promotes witchcraft and Satanism (a good summary can be found on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_debates_over_the_Harry_Potter_series#Wicca).

Unless Rowling has ignored the issue and let her agents deal with it, she is someone who has had firsthand experience with censorship. And yet, still she advocates government censorship of speech in the guise of hate speech. And, among authors, she’s not alone. A few years ago (2013), the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers Association) erupted in conflict over the cover of an issue of their magazine. It depicted the Conan character Red Sonja besting a beast in a mountainside scene while wearing her iconic chainmail bikini. Claims of sexism and misogyny were levelled, despite pictures of male characters wearing loin clothes in similar situation adorning the covers of previous issues. Eventually, many people resigned from the SFWA leadership and steering committees, and many people left the organization altogether. The argument continued for over a year.

I will admit, to someone who wants all people to get along and treat each other well, as I do, a hate speech law can, initially, sound appealing. However, if the removal of freedom doesn’t bother you, then consider what happens when the political wind changes direction, when your preferred side is no longer pulling the strings.

Suddenly, that well-meaning hate speech law designed to protect the marginalized group of the moment, is being used to oppress anyone the state doesn’t like, and the truth of said law becomes blatantly apparent. Suddenly, anti-Islamophobia law is used to curtail all religious critique; laws meant to protect the feelings of minorities and women are used to prevent criticism of new policies; anti-transphobia laws are used to force us to say certain words. If this sounds like fiction to you, you haven’t been paying attention to North American universities. Or the current Canadian government.

Hate speech laws, and indeed any laws made by the state or an authoritarian body, against our freedom to speak or express our thoughts and feelings in non-physically violent ways, are tools of force used to control the individual. If the ability to criticize is removed, if the right to offend is removed, then the right to independent thought is removed.

Free speech does not exist without the right to offend. Any limits on this freedom only lead to oppression. But don’t take my word for it. The next time you think otherwise, consider what might happen if the law is made by the political side you most dislike and how it might be abused.

There are many examples of abuses of freedom in our modern society, do you have a story of one that has directly impact you? Feel free to share it in the comments.

You take away freedom of choice. You take away my right to voice, my beliefs and all my views. You take away my right to choose.

Should I See — Frozen Ghost, 1987




Alternate Futures


Hello and welcome. I’m Edwin H Rydberg, author of Echoes of the Past, first episode of the Altered Destiny series and, coming soon, a number of novels in the Gateway to Eternity saga. I also write children’s books and I have a non-fiction series in the works. In addition, I run writing and coding workshops at my local library and primary schools.

I primarily write science fiction and my writing explores the relationship between humanity and technology and how each influences the other. It’s often been said that science fiction is stories of now, extrapolated into the future, and I believe this is very true. My stories tend to explore ideas and aspects of human natural in futuristic settings because I love the wonders of technology and imagining what might be achieved with them. However, I’m also aware of the horrors that can be wrought by the misuse of technology, which is why I also include a healthy dose of warnings.

This blog will include samples of my writing, reviews of science fiction stories, comments on scientific and technological developments and my thoughts on how technology has and will influence society. All of these are my own opinions, which are ever evolving. For that reason, I hope this blog will become a discussion with you the readers, rather than a lecture or a wiki. If you’re interested in learning more about me and my writing, please check out the ABOUT page. And if you want to stay up to date on my writing, opinions, and the tech of our times, please join my e-mail list.

I hope you will  come with me in an exploration of the undiscovered country as we move Into The Future.

Edwin H Rydberg