05 January 2016

Do We Have Too Few Car Chases?

Modern humans evolved about 250,000 years ago.  Until the Upper Paleolithic revolution, about 50,000 years ago, we weren't even the unquestionably dominant species on the planet.  We were largely absent from the Europe, Siberia, Tibet, the Americas, Australia, Melanesia and Oceania.  We had clearly made permanent ventures out of Africa by then, although the extent of our settlement of India and Iran and Southeast Asia and East Asia at that point is still modestly disputed.  Megafauna extinctions hadn't yet occurred in most of the world.

Our maritime activities were primitive and it isn't clear that we ever engaged in deep sea fishing until then (near coastal fishing, shell fish gathering and harpooning of river fish date back at least to 70,000 years or more ago) and there is no evidence even of sedentary fishing villages.  Until about 10,000 years ago, when farming was invented (an event called the Neolithic revolution), almost everybody lived in smallish "hunter-gatherer" band that foraged for food, although sedentary fishing villages started to appear around 20,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Even once we adopted farming, full fledged cities didn't arise until about 4,000 years ago, and there were significant hunter-gather cultures in Europe (such as the Pit-Ware Ceramic people of Northeastern Europe) until about 3,000 years ago or perhaps later.

Raids on "civilized" farming communities by foreigner "barbarians" were common in almost every era until about six hundred years ago.

A century ago, when the first automobiles were being invented, America's "Western Frontier" had closed and life had started to get positively boring by comparison.  The industrial revolution had chained us to factories and offices indoors after eons as a species living lives only loosely guided by daily clocks and mostly outdoors if you weren't a miner or a monk.

With cars, came, at a very early point, car chases, a rare modern circumstance that feeds into our natural instincts since we have engineered a risk free, excitement free world for ourselves as much as we can (Sweden or Denmark is targeting zero traffic deaths each year as a realistic goal).

We have relentlessly used technology and law to try to make us safer and reduce risk and uncertainty. But, have we gone too far? Is some risk worth it, and even enjoyable?  Why else would TV and movies so glorify car chases.  If not that, how can we build a world that better acknowledges that humans have instincts that need to be appeased in addition to the a desire to simply survive?

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