IEET > Staff > Marcelo Rinesi > Fiction
The Long Stop (short story)
Marcelo Rinesi   May 22, 2015   Ethical Technology  

The truckers come here in buses, eyes fixed on the ground as they step off and pick up their bags. Truckers aren’t supposed to take the bus.

They stay at my motel; that much hasn’t changed. Not too many. A few drivers in each place, I guess, across twenty or so states. They pay for their rooms and the food while they still have money, which usually isn’t for long. Most of them look ashamed, too, when they finally tell me they are broke, with faces that say they have nowhere else to go. Most of them have wedding rings they don’t look at.

I never kick anybody out unless they get violent. Almost none does, even the ones that used to. I just take a final mortgage on the place and lie to them about room being on credit, and they lie to themselves about believing this. They stay, and eat little, and talk about the ghost trucks, but only at night. Most of the truckers, at one time or another, propose to sabotage them, to blow them up, to shoot or burn the invisible computers that run the trucks without ever stopping for food or sleep, driving as if there were no road. Everybody agrees, and nobody does or will do anything. They love trucks too much, even if they are now haunted many-wheeled ghosts.

The truckers look more like ghosts than the trucks do, the machines getting larger and faster each season, insectile and vital in some way I can’t describe, while the humans become immobile and almost see-thru. The place looks fit for ghosts as well, a dead motel in a dead town, but nobody complains, least of all myself.

We wait, the truckers, the motel, and I. None of us can imagine what for.

Over time the are more trucks and less and less cars. Almost none of the old gasoline ones. The new electrics could make the long trips, say the ads, but judging by the road nobody wants them to. It’s as if the engines had pulled the people into long trips, and not the other way around. People stay in their cities and the trucks move things to them. Things are all that seems to move these days.

By the time cars no longer go by we are all doing odd ghost jobs for nearby places that are dying just a bit slower, dusty emptiness spreading from the road deeper into the land with each month. Mortgage long unpaid, the motel belongs to a bank that is busy going broke or becoming rich or something else not so human and simple as that, so we ignore their emails and they ignore us. We might as well not exist. Only the ghost trucks see us, and that only if we are crossing the road.

Some of the truckers do that, just stand on the road so the truck will brake and wait. Two ghosts under the shadowless sun or in the warm night, both equally patient and equally uninterested on doing anything but drive. But the ghost trucks are hurried along by hungry human dispatchers, or maybe hungry ghost dispatchers working for hungrier ghost companies, owed by people so hungry and rich and distant they might as well be ghosts. 

One day the trucks don’t stop, and the truckers keep standing in front of them.

.finis.


This story was inspired by Scott Santens’ article on Medium about self-driving trucks.

Marcelo Rinesi is the IEET's Chief Technology Officer, and former Assistant Director. He is also a freelance Data Intelligence Analyst.



COMMENTS

Excellent short, Marcelo.

My suspicion is that if AI’s feed cash only to the super rich, and every gets replaced, soon the system that the Super’s made their money on will sink and take them with it. No gated communities or orbital colonies will sustain them. If there is no alternative in place, beside’s working for money, civilization will dissolve. One might as well invoke a large scale nuclear war for lethality, because the die-off would be similar, sans, high radiation. If there is a substitute means of income, then things will roll along merrily, with one’s hobbies becoming one’s life avocation.

The imagery you used in this story reminds me of the abandoned, stricken, earth(s) in Stephen King novels like The Gunslinger and the Dark Tower.

“In the houses of the dead, the dark, is haunted only by spiders, as the relays fall silent, one by one.”

I ma guessing that if there’s no income to replace lost jobs, those glum truckers of yours, will remember their shotguns and rifles and go hunting for the CEO’s and or, a plug to pull on those AI server farms (if such exist).  Perhaps I am being too dramatic?

Good read,

Mitch

Mitch, hi.

Thanks! I’m very glad you like it.

I don’t think I have a good intuition over what would drive something like what you describe; the US seems to have a political culture deeply inconsistent with that kind of thing, or at least that has been the case historically, but, as investment brochures say (in a very small font) past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.

I’m also awfully happy about your mention of Stephen King, as I had him in mind when I began the story.

best,
Mrcelo

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