Learning to drive the Super Highway

Written by

Andrew Millar


April 11, 2018

Oddities not Commodities

There used to be a lot more of these around… interesting little shops full of boxes of dusty second-hand stuff that was for sale for a couple of bucks.

Old cameras, spanners, copies of National Geographic, ash trays shaped like tires and empty aftershave bottles shaped like cars. Orange and brown kitchen canisters sets and slightly rusty cooking implements. Bundles of spoons tied up with string and stacks of black scratched 78rpm records.

To the common person it was a load of old tat that should have been committed to landfill years ago, but to us odd set designers and art directors they were a trove of genuine artefacts that could bring a television commercial or catalogue cover to authentic life. A big old frying pan and rustic wooden chopping board could be surrounded by the freshest fruit and vegetables for a newspaper ad… You get the picture.

I was once scrounging to set a scene that called for a grandpa’s shed scenario. So I was on the lookout for old tools, nail jars, wooden boxes and Old Pat tobacco tins. Mix these with some aerosol dust and spider webs and the finished scene looked the duck’s knees.

But in my trawling for items I came across an old pamphlet with a tatty grey cover. A small thin tome from 1903 titled ‘The rules of operating an automobile in a safe and respectful manner’. I love stuff like this and paid the asking $2.

While most was about maintenance, there was a list of basic road rules. They struck me as rather informal, almost casual, rather than the strict set of precise guidelines we have today.

For example, the section began simply:

‘The first rule of motoring is do not hit anything or be hit by anything.’ 

There you go. The whole highway code summed up in one simple sentence.

Sadly, little interesting objects like this are not in shops like these any more. And it’s no use going through the stacks of old plates looking for Clarice Cliff or sliver hallmarks on the spoons. The internet has made it too easy to identify rare things of value. Information is easily shared.

But it got me thinking about the whole Cambridge Analytica thing. The internet today has very few rules. And they are very basic.

The first rule of posting is as simple as its historic motoring counterpart:

‘Don’t post anything you don’t want everyone to read.’   

In the motoring world, as more and more cars took to the road and accidents became more frequent, the rules governing how we should use roads became more complex. Let’s face it, Facebook is only 10 years old. In the evolution of auto transport, we are still at the Nikolaus Otto and Carl Benz stage of proving humans can still breath and remain alive travelling at 25 miles an hour.

As our use of the Super Highway matures, so will the rules of the road. Technically Cambridge Analytica have done nothing wrong. They have just reminded us that there are people on the other side of the one way mirror we call Social Media. And they are making notes.

Your personal data they are mining is only the things you’ve chosen to share. If we are to continue to share with friends, family and wider circles we need to remember, that until the rules catch up, if you don’t want it looked at, don’t post it. For now, privacy is a personal issue.

But remember, Cambridge Analytica isn’t the car crash we think it is.