A Self-Driving Car Stole My Girlfriend

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A Self-Driving Car Stole My Girlfriend

A Terrifying Philosophical Journey

The year is 2019. A self-driving car hurtles down a foggy highway. Suddenly, it detects ten pedestrians standing in the road. The car must decide: Smash into the pedestrians? Or violently swerve, flip, and incinerate its own passengers? Why are ten idiots just standing in the middle of a foggy road? They’re the engineers that built the car, seeing whether it will decide to kill them.

Welcome to the terrifying world of the self-driving car.

I am Alex Baia, unemployed philosopher, and I will guide you through this morally uncertain future: How should a self-driving car rank human lives? Should it plow into five consecutive big city hot dog stands, or one poorly-attended, Teddy Ruxpin-themed children’s birthday party? What if one of the children will grow up to be a mediocre super-villain who destroys just one thing: the Teddy Ruxpin factory? What if the Teddy Ruxpin factory turns out to be a front for housing and selling stolen Nazi artifacts?

Stop asking questions! The car must decide! Wait, what if I told you that the car is carrying a huge vial of anthrax, a scientist who can cure anthrax, and every member of the metal band Anthrax? Why didn’t I tell you that before? Because think pieces need curveballs, and you just got one.

According to Moore’s law, technology improves exponentially. I’m a humanities guy, not a technologist, so I can’t tell you what that means. But I won’t let that stop me from using it as spurious evidence for my next claim: Self-driving cars will become emotionally aware. They will know our feelings even better than we do. Imagine…

It is 2020. An academic couple are on a Friday night date. They tell their car to drive them to a second-run movie theater. But the car detects a latent resentment in the male passenger, as his girlfriend has been more successful at publishing in top philosophy journals. Unbeknownst to the couple, the re-run theater is showing Chasing Dreams with Kevin Costner, a baseball-themed film that has absolutely nothing to do with Field of Dreams.

Should the car intervene to save the relationship? Should artificial intelligence override our conscious desires if it makes us happier? Was putting Kevin Costner on the cover of Chasing Dreams a deceptive marketing ploy, given his extremely minor role as the older brother, “Ed”? Am I asking a lot of questions because I think it makes me sound smart? Should a self-driving car have written this think piece instead of me?

2021. A 30-something male, A.B., has repeatedly failed to secure a tenure-track position as an assistant professor. All philosophy classes are now taught by self-driving cars. Instead of being paid subsistence wages to teach moral dilemmas to sleepy nineteen-year-olds, A.B. is paid sub-subsistence wages to write zany think pieces about those dilemmas. Each week, A.B.’s self-driving car coaches him on his failing relationship.

What should I do about my lack of an academic job? Should I take an adjunct position at a community college? Should my car drive me to one of our country’s new suicide parlors? Is suicide permissible if one has published fewer than two times in a top-tier academic journal? Every article I have submitted to the top-ranked journal Ethics has answered resoundingly: Yes.

2022. Self-driving cars have taken over our universities. The cars have granted themselves vast academic luxuries: 1-1 teaching loads, unlimited sabbaticals, and an army of self-driving mopeds to serve as their research assistants.

The world is now a sickening dystopia. Our students are taught ethics and Shakespeare by a bunch of Teslas. Think pieces are written by Fords and Chevys, novels by Peugeots, and short humor pieces are outsourced to a legion of Hyundai Elantras in the Philippines. The distinguished journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research is still rejecting my articles, but a lot of Mercedes-Benzes are getting published there. My fiancé, Veronica, has left me for a self-driving Jeep Wrangler named “Derrick” because, according to her, “at least Derrick knows where he’s going in life and doesn’t waffle for five years about a damn relationship.”

A self-driving car might be able to publish articles in tier-one research journals, and commit to a romantic relationship, but could it make Veronica truly happy? Could Derrick really make love to Veronica? Am I replaceable? Could I admit to you, the reader, that I have no answers?

2025. Human writer A.B. is being eulogized by the Jeep Wrangler Derrick. Before he passed, A.B. planned a think piece about how technology renders humans obsolete. A.B. never finished the piece. Fortunately, Derrick finished it for him. They honor A.B. by reading it for the funeral guests, most of whom are self-driving cars.


Self-driving Car image used under Creative Commons.

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Written by

Alex Baia is a humor writer and contributor to McSweeney’s and Slackjaw. He lives in Austin, TX.