My Christine

“What is the question concerning technology?” is the question I will ask Stephen King and that is where we will travel, into some of his stories that raise the question concerning technology through the potentials of autonomy, emergence, its effect on us, new technology differences, and what does technology need.


Throughout King’s work we are confronted with the problem of autonomous technology. Langdon Winner said we have become stressed by the thought that, “…somehow technology has gotten out of control and follows its own course, independent of human direction.” [1] It is King who exploits this stress.

In The Stand, King engineers a deadly flu virus that mutates so frequently, it is impossible to produce an effective treatment. We contain the virus in a special lab but it escapes and does what flu does best, multiply and spread. This is fiction.

This is not. We have eradicated smallpox from the wild. Today the only known sources of smallpox are in two labs: one in the US and one in Russia. There is no stockpile of vaccine should smallpox again escape into the wild.


Not only does King exploit autonomous technology and its effects on the world and ourselves but he engages the process called emergence. Perhaps one of the hardest problems we have yet to solve is, “How did we and our complex minds come to be?” Emergence theory suggests that minds emerged out of matter, that there are natural processes at work in the universe that tend to turn chaos into order.[2] Emergence theorists think that over billions of years such processes have plenty of time to work their magic to create things like life itself and more recently: humans.

We too are accomplished emergentists. Don’t we take matter that is lying about in this chaotic world, order it, work on it and fashion it into technology? We’ve been doing this probably since the first human emerged—or even before, because monkeys use sticks as tools. However, in the past two hundred thousand years of human history we certainly have gained our stride as accomplished emergentists, turning chaos into order.

The question Stephen King asks in his book Christine is whether a billion years of emergentism is necessary to create technology that can think for itself. His emergence theory understands that our ability to organize what is otherwise disorganized doesn’t have to wait the billion years to work through the first steps of the process of basic organizing structures. Why? Because we’ve given Christine and other technology in the King repertoire a head start by emerging things like cars and trucks from chaotic bits of metal and plastic.

What’s With the New Technology?

You say, and rightly so, we have always used technology. Our earliest ancestors banged rocks together to create tools that would cut meat and vegetation. Today, however, we are confronted with worldwide phenomenon called global warming which many believe is directly related to our technology. It would be difficult to suggest that when we were limited to small bands of nomadic tribes who broke rocks and sharpened sticks that we would have had a global weather impact from the plains of Africa. Hans Jonas asks what has changed with new technology?[3] What about the ethics of new technology should we now be thinking about—worrying about? King responds in The Stand with an answer: deadly pandemic; and that answer isn’t what we want to hear.

Effects of Technology on Us

Certainly the world can be shaped by technology, but what about humans? Volker Boehme-Nebler asks, “Does technology really shape culture and society? Or is it actually the other way around: does technological development depend on the culture, politics and economics of a society?”[4] Both Boheme-Nebler and King say it isn’t either or, but both. There is an interrelationship between culture and technology. Steven Jobs and Bill Gates set out to put a computer in every home. In less than thirty years, not only have we gone from typewriters to word processors but information that we had to walk or drive to get we can now download on telephones.

In King’s short story “Trucks” autonomous trucks surround a diner.[5] They too want to be fed: fuel. Some in the diner say wait out the trucks, they will run out of gas. But the trucks threaten the people inside the diner. The people pump the gas. In the end we ask, “Who has changed whom?”

Technophilia and Technophobia

Michael G. Campion considers the polarity of our attitude to technology as, on the one hand, technophilia or the wholehearted embracing of technology; and technophobia, the fear and distrust of technology.[6]

In Christine the technophiliac Arnie Cunningham falls in love with a car. Christine appears to love him back. However people associated with Arnie sense something is wrong; they feel that Christine swallows them. This feeling of unease, of being swallowed is a symptom of technophobia that many in the world today are experiencing. Something is not quite right with Christine; something is not quite right with all this technology that is running our lives. I ask, ‘With all the new 24-7 connectivity technology affords are we working to live or living to work’:

“As the convenience to work increases, this convenience has a way of justifying acquiescence – a person may choose more work over more living. ‘Get a life’ is a familiar phrase which in and of itself contains the seeds of the fact that the body can be converted from life to work. The ‘good life’ has become work. This giving over of the body to work has been internalized.”[7]

King uses three thousand pounds of twenty-year old technology in Christine to show how obsessive technophilia can arise and its effect on those who fall into its consuming trap.

Outlining The Question Concerning Technology

The question concerning technology is complex and multifaceted. What King has done is use his fiction to bring forward the question concerning technology using brilliantly clear examples albeit with disturbing overtones.

We will not find all the answers we require for the question concerning technology in this brief overview. Nor will we be exploring all of the technological conundrums that pervade King’s work. What we will accomplish is the posing of some of the questions that you, I and others should be asking concerning technology and hopefully give all who read this insight into how to gain a closer reading of King’s work with an eye towards the question concerning technology.

Martin Heidegger in his The Question Concerning Technology says that his investigation will not at all be technological. Rather he is asking, what is technology’s essence?[8] In a similar vein we will be asking about technology’s essence through these potentials: its autonomy; its emergent qualities; ethics and the new technology; our relationship to technology and it to us, and finally what does technology need. We begin by reviewing Heidegger’s project through King’s stories.

Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology

Says Heidegger, he wants to engage in a conversation that, “…opens our human existence to the essence of technology. When we can respond to this essence, we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds.”[9] King first bounds technology, encapsulates it within a character, whether a car, some trucks, a petri dish or even a man-made bauble that is just right for the right person as in the story Needful Things.[10] By turning the technology into a character in its own right, we can begin to understand its essence, not just its anthropomorphic qualities, but as technology in its own right. Let’s unlock the door to Christine.

Heidegger looks at technology through four Aristotelean causes. Heidegger calls the act of creation the “bringing forth”.[11] The four causes include: 1) the material used; 2) the shape we turn the material into; 3) the shape in relationship to what we will use it e.g. a silver chalice to be used for a specific ritual; and, 4) the maker who takes the material and shapes it for a particular purpose or purposes.[12] While we may try to separate the causes, the project falls apart if even one is missing.

Virgil Exner and his team at Plymouth designed Christine. She’s made of steel, chrome, plastic and rubber. Like other cars of the day she has fins, chrome, curves and round headlights. She was designed for the everyday market. Exner built mom’s car.

Those are Christine’s four causes in a nutshell but it isn’t her essence. Somewhere in the bringing forth of Christine something happened which didn’t happen to other 1958 Plymouth Furies. Heidegger asks, “But how does bringing-forth happen, be it in nature or in handwork and art?”[13] He answers, that it is revealed. Christine is revealed to Arnie Cunningham as he passes by her one day. He is drawn to her. His experience of her and those with whom he interacts becomes central to the story. Says Heidegger, technology is not a means, “Technology is a way of revealing. If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truth.”[14] What King does with technology is to reveal truth through the interaction of Christine to the world of her human relationships. It is a complex world filled with those who are technophobes and those who are technophiliacs.

Heidegger explains that modern technology is also a revealing . Christine reveals herself. From rusting twenty year-old hulk to gleaming restoration is just the beginning. The essence of Christine comes to us slowly. She covets Arnie and he her. As he buys the car, Arnie sits in it and his friend Dennis watches. Dennis thinks to himself, uneasily, “It was, in a way, as if the car had swallowed him.”[15] He’s not the only one who has this feeling. Leigh, Arnie’s girlfriend, “…did not feel that she rode in Christine; when she got in to go somewhere with Arnie she felt swallowed in Christine. And the act of kissing him, making love to him, seemed a perversion worse than voyeurism or exhibitionism – it was like making love inside the body of her rival. The really crazy part of it was that she hated Christine. Hated her and feared her.”[16] Christine’s revelation comes slowly.

Think back to the last twenty years as the internet has been revealed, first as a novelty and a way to send e-mails, then as a marketplace, and now as these but also as the repository for the world’s knowledge. This didn’t happen all in a day.

Heidegger worries that despite technology’s ability to reveal, it also conceals. While both Dennis and Leigh feel swallowed, Christine slowly reveals from concealment her temper which eventually leads her to kill even Arnie himself. Once revealed, Heidegger concludes, technology cannot be un-revealed. As we see in Christine at the end of the story, after Arnie is killed and Christine smashed by Dennis’s vehicle, Christine’s revealing doesn’t end there. When Christine later is crushed into a block of scrap metal, one of the workers is cut. He said, “It bit me.”[17] Dennis is haunted in his dreams by the calamity of Arnie and the others and reads in the paper about another car which seemingly on its own crashed into others. Christine, as King points out, hasn’t stopped revealing.

At the beginning of the book and at the end, Christine isn’t working. She’s in need of a total overhaul at both ends of the story. She isn’t dead, just dormant. She is “standing-reserve” as Heidegger calls it.[18]

King turns the tables as does Heidegger when he asks whether humans could also become a standing-reserve in their relationship to technology. The narrator in “Trucks” leaves the comfort of the diner and his human companions to fill the tanks of the long line of trucks. His life has become a standing-reserve to technology. He has come to understand this only later, not at the moment the trucks first began to move autonomously.

Autonomous Technology

Heidegger uses the term “enframing” as a way to describe how this standing-reserve is accomplished, “In Enframing, that unconcealment comes to pass in conformity with which the work of modern technology reveals the real as standing-reserve.”[19]

Often the concealed is more worrisome than what is revealed. Confined to the laboratory, the potent flu virus in The Stand reveals its potency to the scientists. They record its standing-reserve or potential for lethality at 99.4%, the same as an advertisement of purity for Ivory Soap®.[20] The technology of the lab reveals only that it could produce potency. Hiding within the virus is its ability to spread. It does so by air and travels quickly through human populations. All this, of course, is concealed in the laboratory. The real is revealed by King slowly, showing how what has been enframed by the laboratory as an autonomous entity will emerge from its standing-reserve and in its virility attempt to purify the world of humans. By this act, the virus will also put the technological, that is the ever-present march of technology, into a period of standing-reserve. In the story Lucy, a flu survivor, tries to hold on to the idea of the town of Stovington she once knew but now is a standing-reserve, “She had held on to the idea of Stovington with nearly a panicking grip. It stood, by nature of its function, as a symbol of sanity and rationality against the rising tide of dark magic she felt around her.”[21] However, its standing-reserve is beginning to molder.

“What is technology’s destiny?” asks Heidegger and Langdon Winner. Winner answers that its destiny is what we both reveal and conceal in the creation of technology. Winner says:

“It is at this point that a pervasive ignorance and refusal to know, irresponsibility, and blind faith characterize society’s orientation toward the technical. Here it happens that men release powerful changes into the world with cavalier disregard for consequences; that they begin to ‘use’ apparatus, technique, and organization with no attention to the ways in which these ‘tools’ unexpectedly rearrange their lives; that they willingly submit the governance of their affairs to the expertise of others.”[22]

The life of the virus in The Stand was supposed to be contained in the laboratory. Virgil Exner and others in Detroit built cars that could be easily replaced the next model year. Nobody expected to see 1958 Plymouth Furies in continuous use in Cuba for fifty years. Winner asks us to begin to take responsibility for our technology—to think ahead and not be afraid to tear down something for which its standing-reserve is just too menacing.[23]

On the surface this tearing down is easier said than done. In “Trucks”, after the narrator is relieved from pumping gas he says, “But they’re machines. No matter what mass consciousness we have given them, they can’t reproduce.”[24] We can fix them. They can demand we fix them. We can stop the production lines. The Cubans and their cars know how to survive. This is why Heidegger feels so strongly that once revealed, technology is difficult to conceal again.

Winner provides us with four suggestions towards controlling our propensity to produce autonomous technology. First, can we rethink the whole idea of technology, “This would mean, presumably, the birth of a new sort of inventiveness and innovation in the physical arrangements of this civilization.” Second, get the user involved in the design process. Third, “…that as a general maxim, technologies be given a scale and structure of the sort that would be immediately intelligible to nonexperts. This is to say, technological systems ought to be intellectually as well as physically accessible to those they are likely to affect.” And finally, we must try with whatever means are at our disposal to deploy technology only, “…with a fully formed sense of what is appropriate.[25]

Suppose a panel of regular people like you and I were asked to review the protocol for Project Blue to be conducted in the California desert—the laboratory in The Stand where that now infamous virus was to be created. Given a simple explanation that the lab would be producing a virus for which no treatment could be fashioned and from which death was almost certain—what would you as a panel member recommend? This is all that Winner is asking. It’s common sense. King is asking we do the same in The Stand for secret government programs.

What Winner, King and we all should demand is that before we release technology into the world it must be carefully researched for its standing reserve and concealed essences that may be contrary to what we see as what Winner calls, ‘appropriate.’

From autonomous technology that produces more effect on the world than what it was originally designed for, we turn to the companion conundrum of emergence.


We have long known about emergence. The winds off the Sahara find the warm ocean of the Atlantic favorable to produce clouds which emerge into hurricanes. Snowflakes emerge into crystals at certain temperatures. Certain chemicals when mixed together produce uniform structures that stay uniform. In a famous experiment in the nineteen fifties, scientists put a bunch of chemicals that would have been plentiful in early earth in a vial and hit it with thousands of electric strikes to simulate lightning.[26] Amazingly after only a few days, amino acids, the building blocks of life, were created. Somehow the building blocks of life emerged into chains of amino acids that eventually became our DNA.

All life as we know it has DNA. Christine doesn’t have DNA. Christine doesn’t live, you say. Technology cannot live because it has no DNA. King might agree. She isn’t alive, but she sure seems conscious enough.

Ray Kurzweil famously says that he thinks very soon we will see computing machines that will exceed human intelligence, the moment of which this will happen he calls the singularity.[27] Would this mean that a machine would become conscious?


David Chalmers says that we know a lot about consciousness. We can discriminate between being awake and asleep; we can discriminate between a rock and a flower; we can focus our attention. All these things we know. What we don’t know is how to define is experience.[28] This Thomas Nagel sums up in his question, “What’s it like to be a bat?”[29]

We ask with Nagel, “What’s it like to be Christine?” We see Christine driving herself, repairing herself and even killing. She seems capable of projecting herself into the mind of Arnie Cummings, making him want to want her. We know these things and we can check her oil and tire pressures and kick her tires, but what is she really experiencing? If she is conscious, how did she get that way?

This is the same question that we must ask of the first conscious life form. Where did consciousness come from? Since the beginning of recorded philosophy we have been asking this question—what is it like to be and to experience being. The ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides thought that being is and cannot not be, that somehow it becomes for beings and is always already there for us. About the same time as Parmenides, in northern India the Buddha saw a kind of permanence of consciousness because that which seems to leave the dying stays intact and finds a home with every single rebirth. Recall that the Buddha could remember his past lives! Frank Hoffman called this idea of recurrence, “continuity without identity of self-same substance.”[30] In the nineteenth century Arthur Schopenhauer said that it is free will that is common to all sentient beings.

Christine certainly is sentient. She seems to be conscious from all the things that Chalmers says we can easily observe. We don’t know how she became so. Was she reborn from one of the workers who died building her (in the movie version) as the Buddha might surmise? Or, is it Schopenhauer we should be consulting? Is free will so powerful a force that it can come into being—just like that—with Christine? Was it ‘just like that’ for the first sentient life form? Since we can’t point to something and say, “aha there’s the consciousness lobe” does it even exist in material form or is it a force like the electro-weak or strong force that are essential to the universe itself? If consciousness is a fundamental force or condition in the universe then perhaps it is surprising that no automobile before Christine has acquired it. It is also unnerving that other technology that we have been creating has not also become conscious. Perhaps it has and we just do not recognize its manifestation. Those gremlins that crash your computer—is that consciousness trying to come into being, albeit clumsily?

King shows us in Christine that technology can experience and although we can’t yet define consciousness, she appears to be conscious. She doesn’t just acquiesce to our commands; she commands. She has a will and she becomes reborn again and again. What hath King wrought? On the other hand what if it wasn’t really we who wrought Christine or meant to create her? We built a 1958 Plymouth Fury. An essence emerged in her, granting her the ability to experience and not just be experienced. The ancient question of whether the rock experiences or the rock can only be experienced is what King explores in Christine. His question is the same that Terrence Deacon asks, ‘how does mind emerge from matter.’[31] Or, how does something thing that cannot experience become something that can experience? How did a 1958 Plymouth Fury become ‘Christine?’

There are real life zombies. The parasitic Jewel wasp inject cockroaches with a cocktail of chemicals and then control their movement. They discover the cockroaches by smell, first locating suitable places where their prey frequent, then finding the cockroach, and third, testing suitability before they attack.[32] Before Christine captures the affections of Arnie, she tests Dennis for his receptivity. He hears in his head, “Lets go for a ride big guy…let’s cruise[33] After she has Arnie, Dennis no longer hears the request. However, as the story progresses, Leigh, the hitchhiker, Dennis and others smell in her a dead smell, as if Christine wants them to go away. Arnie does not smell this.

The human egg attracts sperm to it but once one enters, it changes to block any other sperm from entering. Can the process be any different for Christine? Once she has Arnie; she has all she needs.

Buddy Repperton, Moochie Welsh and the other hoodlums who are the bane of Arnie’s existence find Christine in the airport parking lot and bash her in quite completely. Much later, Christine takes her revenge, first on Moochie and then Buddy and the rest. Elephants and humans are known to take revenge even years after someone harms them—they remember.

As she returns from each episode of murdering Moochie and Buddy, she’s pretty banged up but the dents, dings, and broken lights repair themselves before she returns home. Bones mend, scars form over gashes, and newts can grow a new functional limb, muscles, bones, blood vessels and skin when the original is bitten off—no scars. If we can set aside the supernatural that pervades King’s stories there are underlying processes in nature that have emerged that imitate King’s creatures. The trucks, riding around and around together, in synch: flocks, schools, herds, rugby teams and yes your morning commute are examples of individuals working in groups towards common goals.

Of course we all understand that King’s horror and fantasy stories are other-worldly. However, throughout his body of work, technology finds a way to become more than perhaps we had originally envisioned it to be. It emerges. It becomes autonomous. If technology has the propensity to both emerge and become autonomous then Winner is right—before we birth the thing we need to understand better what it is capable of both doing and becoming. We need to understand its standing-reserve. That is all well and good, but what is it about technology today that is different from cave man tech?

What is Different About Today’s Technology

Hans Jonas explores the difference between the old technology and the new technology. First, the old. It was person to person and ethically neutral. An axe could be used to chop trees or cut down an opponent in war. As such any good or evil resulting from the axe blow is very close to the act of swinging the axe. Generally there were only short-term consequences, not global as in The Stand.[34] Says Jonas:

“The good or bad of the action is wholly decided within that short-term context. Its moral quality shines forth from it, visible to its witnesses. No one was held responsible for the unintended later effects of his well-intentioned, well-considered, and well-performed act.”[35]

Today Jonas says, “All this has decisively changed. Modern technology has introduced actions of such novel scale, objects, and consequences that the framework of former ethics can no longer contain them.”[36] Did we anticipate the smog and urban sprawl that would result from building highways to imitate Germany’s Autobahn to speed military vehicles to sites where the Soviets might invade? Did we wonder whether this would lead to global warming?

Jonas says we should build knowledge about the new technology; do the things that Winner suggests and more. He offers this maxim, “In your present choices, include the future wholeness of Man among the objects of your will.”[37] This is the same statement that The Stand makes. King asks in The Stand, “But how could we know what could happen?”

During Campion’s investigation of the escape of the virus, Len says to Cindy, “…what I’m trying to say is that this was a chain of coincidences on the order of winning the Irish Sweepstakes…but mostly it was just a thing that happened. None of it was your man’s fault.”[38] It is the future, accountability for the future even the distant future that worries Jonas when he says, “But the future is not represented, it is not a force that can throw its weight into the scales. The nonexistent has no lobby, and the unborn are powerless.”[39]

To what extent do we hold government accountable for its actions and guidance in the area of technology? “Who speaks for us and who speaks for the unborn,” King asks in The Stand. The technological world has been taken down by the technological. The human has been turned into what Thomas Hobbes calls ‘a state of nature’ where all are out for themselves in a world where technology is decaying and we begin over again.

At the end of The Stand Stuart thinks to himself as he looks down at his child Peter, “Maybe if we tell him what happened he’ll tell his own children. Warn them. Dear children the toys are death—they’re flashburns and radiation sickness, and black choking plague. These toys are dangerous, the devil in men’s brains guided the hands of God when they were made. Don’t play with these toys dear children, please not ever again. Please…learn the lesson. Let this empty world be your copybook.”[40]

How did we get to The Stand? Robert Merton in his preface to Jacques Eull’s book, The Technological Society understands that our fatal flaw in our relationship to technology is the need for immediate reward and, “Above all, he is committed to the never-ending search for “the one best way” to achieve any designated objective.”[41]

We required immediate gratification from the use of the axe and we do still today but with much more complex and difficult to control technology. King’s cars that kill and trucks that demand service are but metaphors for the more difficult problem and that is understanding the purposes for which technology is capable not just what’s in it for me now.

We have one more question to ask to finish our discussion of the question concerning technology. What does technology need?

What Does Technology Need

Some critical studies see King’s technology through what it produces in the human or in terms of anthropomorphic analogies. Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Brown call King’s automotive victims, “…the metaphor for dehumanization.”[42] They see Christine also as a metaphor for womb and image and also as the manifestation of the teenage Id erupting in its hormone rush of excitement and angst.[43] They say, “Names, brands, symbols oversignify: Christine. Libertyville, and Plymouth Fury compose an unholy trinity of god, country, and female principle.”[44] They say also that Christine is the other woman, the temptress, and that her backwards running odometer wants to return people to another age of fifties rock and roll and Happy Days reruns.[45]

Jonathan P. Davis says that, King’s technology, “…reduces its creators to slobbering supplicants.”[46] King uses animated names like baby, she, and Arnie’s married to his car to anthropomorphize technology.[47]

King’s technology is all of these things. However there’s more than just the horror, the metaphor and the anthropomorphism in King’s work. Davis points out that we have repeatedly failed to recognize the needs of the others we create. In the early eighteenth century story by Mary Shelley, Dr. Frankenstein abandons his monster. Davis finds the same in the King story “Trucks”. We create trucks—they need to be refueled in order to exist just as we need to eat to live. They threaten us until we realize what they need and supply them with it.[48]

With the trucks whirling around the diner, the trucker who’s lost his own truck to the whirling mob says with a smile to the narrator, “And they can’t pump their own. We got it knocked. All we have to do is wait.”[49] But the trucks are not satisfied. They use their horns to render “attention” in Morse code and then they make their demand to be fueled or someone will get hurt.[50] The trucks have a will to survive just like Schopenhauer says any sentient being has. They have a bulldozer now. They mean business. The narrator takes the lead and begins to fill the trucks until he runs the tanks in the fueling island dry. Then a tanker filled with fuel drops a hose from the back. After the narrator is relieved of pumping he says, “But they’re machines. No matter what mass consciousness we have given them, they can’t reproduce.”[51] We can fix them. They can demand we fix them. We can stop the production lines. However, the Cubans have been for fifty years regularly using and maintaining with no new parts from Detroit their nineteen fifties vintage cars. The Cubans and their cars know how to survive.

For me there is more horror in this idea than technology as metaphor. The implication is that we have become creators but have not considered the needs of our progeny. That we produce progeny like deadly microbes for our special purposes not recognizing that they have their own needs and that is to multiply. The microbes in King’s The Stand have no consciousness that we are aware of—they choose their victims based upon their need, not ours. We made them immune to our immune system otherwise they are just the flu. Christine emerged with her needs which we have been unable to meet.

In King’s Needful Things, the title says it all. What do things need? In Needful Things, Leland Gaunt opens a shop where he seems always to find just the right thing for the right person. What is important about this story in relationship to technology is that there is a place for things. Can there be an equilibrium for humans, technology and the world? Perhaps, but we do not regularly have the vision to imagine this possibility. Instead we’re like Leland Gaunt, always on the lookout for the perfect technological solution for a single problem without ever realizing that no one thing ever has a single use. We had no clue that the 1958 Plymouth Fury, just another mid-size sedan in the bevy of offerings from Detroit, used to cart groceries and the kids to school or dad to work could become the love-child of an adolescent boy twenty years later. And, what we begin to understand from The Stand is that any creation built to harm others can also turn around and harm us too.

The virus hasn’t killed everyone. It was most successful in the technologically advanced societies, much less so in the more rural parts of the world. Glen Batemen, the self-styled sociologist in the story points out, “The technological society has walked off the court, so to speak, but they’ve left all the basketballs behind. Someone will come along who remembers the game and teach it to the rest again.”[52]

We have come full circle. We have always used technology, but the new technology is different: it’s emergent, adaptive, autonomous, and yes, needy. With King and all the others who contributed ideas to this essay on the question concerning technology…Shouldn’t we be asking again and again whether we should create this particular technology in the first place?

At the end of The Stand, Stuart askes Frannie, “Do you think…do you think people will ever learn anything?” She replies, “I don’t know.”[53]


Boehme-Neßler, Volker. “Caught between Technophilia and Technophobia: Culture, Technology and the Law.” Chap. 1 In Pictorial Law, 1-18. New York: Springer, 2011.

Campion, Michael G. “Technophilia and Technophobia.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 5, no. 1 (1989).

Chalmers, D.J. “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 2, no. 3 (1995): 200-19.

Davis, Jonathan P. Stephen King’s America.  Bowling Green, Ky: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994.

Deacon, Terrence W. Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter.  NY & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.

Ellul, Jacques, John Wilkinson, and Robert King Merton. The Technological Society. Vintage books New York, 1964.

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays.  New York: HarperCollins, 1982.

Hoffman, Frank J. Rationality & Mind in Early Buddhism.  Delhi, India: Motilal Banasaridass, 1987.

Hoppenstand, Gary, and Ray Broadus Browne. The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares.  Bowling Green, Ky.: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987.

Jonas, Hans. “Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics.” Social Research  (1973): 31-54.

Ketcham, Christopher. “The Work of Bartleby the Scrivener.” Philosophical Inquiries 3, no. 1 (2015): 9-28.

King, Stephen. Christine.  New York: Penguin, 1983.

———. Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story.  New York: Penguin, 1992.

———. The Stand.  New York: Anchor Books, 1978.

———. “Trucks.” In Night Shift. NY: Doubleday, 1976.

Kurzweil, Ray. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Penguin, 2000.

Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”. Chap. 25 In The Philosophy of Mind, edited by David Chalmers, 219-26. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Robertson, Hugh M, Juergen Gadau, and Kevin W Wanner. “The Insect Chemoreceptor Superfamily of the Parasitoid Jewel Wasp Nasonia Vitripennis.” Insect molecular biology 19, no. s1 (2010): 121-36.

Winner, Langdon. Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought. Mit Press, 1978.


[1] Langdon Winner,  Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought (Mit Press, 1978),  13.

[2] Terrence W. Deacon,  Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (NY & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012).

[3] Hans Jonas, “Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics,” Social Research (1973),  32.

[4] Volker Boehme-Neßler, “Caught between Technophilia and Technophobia: Culture, Technology and the Law,” in Pictorial Law (New York: Springer, 2011).

[5] Stephen King, “Trucks,” in Night Shift (NY: Doubleday, 1976).

[6] Michael G Campion, “Technophilia and Technophobia,” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 5, no. 1 (1989),  32.

[7] Christopher Ketcham, “The Work of Bartleby the Scrivener,” Philosophical Inquiries 3, no. 1 (2015),  25.

[8] Martin Heidegger,  The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays (New York: HarperCollins, 1982).

[9] The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 3.

[10] Stephen King,  Needful Things: The Last Castle Rock Story (New York: Penguin, 1992).

[11] Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays,  5.

[12] The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 2-3.

[13] The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 5.

[14] The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays.

[15] Stephen King,  Christine (New York: Penguin, 1983),  35.

[16] Christine, 196.

[17] Christine, 501.

[18] Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays,  8.

[19] The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, 10.

[20] Stephen King,  The Stand (New York: Anchor Books, 1978),  42.

[21] The Stand, 741.

[22] Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought,  314.

[23] Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought, 335.

[24] King, “Trucks,” 150, .emphasis in original

[25] Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought,  326-27, .emphasis in original

[26] This was called the Miller-Urey Experiment

[27] Ray Kurzweil,  The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Penguin, 2000).

[28] D.J. Chalmers, “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness,” Journal of Consciousness Studies 2, no. 3 (1995),  200-01.

[29] Thomas Nagel, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?,” in The Philosophy of Mind, ed. David Chalmers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[30] Frank J. Hoffman,  Rationality & Mind in Early Buddhism (Delhi, India: Motilal Banasaridass, 1987),  53.

[31] Deacon, Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter.

[32] Hugh M Robertson, Juergen Gadau, and Kevin W Wanner, “The Insect Chemoreceptor Superfamily of the Parasitoid Jewel Wasp Nasonia Vitripennis,” Insect molecular biology 19, no. s1 (2010),  121.

[33] King, Christine,  36.

[34] Jonas, “Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics,”  35.

[35] Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics, 38.

[36] Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics.

[37] Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics, 44.

[38] King, The Stand,  43.

[39] Jonas, “Technology and Responsibility: Reflections on the New Tasks of Ethics,”  51.

[40] King, The Stand,  1319, .emphasis in original

[41] Jacques Ellul, John Wilkinson, and Robert King Merton,  The Technological Society (Vintage books New York, 1964),  iv.

[42] Gary Hoppenstand and Ray Broadus Browne,  The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares (Bowling Green, Ky.: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987),  84.

[43] The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, 85.

[44] The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares, 86.

[45] The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares.

[46] Jonathan P. Davis,  Stephen King’s America (Bowling Green, Ky: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994),  70.

[47] Stephen King’s America, 73.

[48] Stephen King’s America, 71.

[49] King, “Trucks,” 143.

[50] Trucks, 144.

[51] Trucks, 150.

[52] King, The Stand, 617

[53] King, The Stand,  1320, .emphasis in original

Driverless Cars Escape!

July1 1, 2017: Correspondent Christopher Ketcham, reporting from a truck stop just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The virus, gEtMeGoNe.Tx has infected the driverless car package called GoItAlone® which has let driverless cars from most manufacturers to go it alone, literally. Hundreds of thousands of driverless cars have escaped from their garages and parking spaces to roam the streets and highways all over this country and parts of Europe. “We only wish now that the faulty ignition switches had been in these vehicles so they would just stop,” said Captain Joe Johannison of the Minnesota State Police. While most vehicles stop after they run out of fuel, some pranksters have been seen filling stalled cars with gas in order to watch them drive off. Otherwise stalled vehicles are causing massive traffic jams in some areas and represent significant safety hazards when they stall on blind curves or in the middle of intersections. B.D. Dunju, spokesman for GoItAlone® said that the virus can be neutralized by taking the car to a service technician. “Why not also by the satellite update feature in the software?” a reporter asked Dunju. “The virus disables the feature,” he responded.

The problem of refueling is especially acute in New Jersey where these driverless cars have been seen lining up at gas stations where attendants are required to pump gas and self-service is not allowed. It seems that some attendants haven’t been all that observant that there’s nobody in these cars even when they don’t pay.

In California the zero-emission automatic fuelling station experiment has been temporarily suspended because the rogue electric vehicles simply pull up to the auto-recharging stations and recharge. Residents of Oakland, California which was the center of the experimental program are grumbling that now they are back to manually recharging their electric cars.

Compounding the problem of identifying these cars is the fact that people have become used to their driverless cars and many sleep in the back seats where the window tinting is dark. It isn’t unusual any more to see lines of cars on the highways that look like they have no occupants.

The sheer volume of driverless cars that have escaped has made it difficult for law enforcement to interdict the free-range cars even with license plate data. Because of the aforementioned problem of people sleeping or doing other things in the back seat, it is tough to identify other driverless cars that have gone astray and have not yet been reported to police.

Even more difficult is the problem that police departments are unable to interdict these cars in the usual manner using flashing lights and pulling over the car. The virus seems to have disabled the feature that was put into the product that allows officers to pull over these vehicles remotely. The use of tactics to stop cars in car chases such as pit maneuvers or spike strips is not advised because the cars nor their owners haven’t committed a crime and the damage that results from these tactics is usually significant. After a rash of damage from the use such tactics by aggressive Highway Patrol officers in Texas, the ACLU filed suit and received a temporary court restraining order against the use of these maneuvers except where a person is seen driving and trying to evade police. The ACLU has argued that the use of these procedures violates the rights of car owners to peacefully use their vehicles in the way they were intended. Thankfully, the virus has not disabled the manual takeover provision of the software. If there is someone in the car, they can drive it and stop it. However, if it is virus infected, it is likely to reset itself from manual after being stopped and will likely drive off by itself.

The virus, notwithstanding, the vehicles simply go about their business as usual, deploying the pre-programmed collision avoidance procedures that we have come to expect from driverless cars, even though we have no idea where these rogue vehicles are going. “Better to let the cars run out of fuel,” said National Transportation Safety Bureau Spokesman Angelina Bladderwort. Local law enforcement agencies, however, are warning motorists to be on the lookout for these stalling vehicles that are running out of gas because they can at one moment be driving at the speed limit in high-speed lanes and suddenly slow down because of lack of fuel.

So far insurers have not weighted in on the subject, but a spokesperson for a major mutual auto insurer who wished to remain anonymous said, “We see no reason to exclude collision or bodily injury claims from any incidents involving these rogue vehicles. We just hope that we can stop this problem in time before there is significant personal injury or property damage.” This same anonymous spokesperson deferred any answer when asked what would be the insurer’s stance on claims involving loss of use, especially for the few truck fleets that have been licensed to use this technology on select highways in the Midwest. Trucking companies have been reporting finding stalled refrigerated trucks where entire loads were or had to be destroyed. Towing claims have increased significantly in number and cost according to some reports, as towing companies have raised rates significantly due to increased demand.

Auto manufacturers have calculated that the software glitch will only affect about twenty five percent of the driverless cars on the road and that the peak of driverless cars escaping will be reached in three weeks’ time and wind down just a few weeks after that. Other driverless car packages like MyWayHighway© and  iDrive© are not affected. However, the timeline for ending this viral attack has been disputed by Dr. Eggy Yolke, of the University of the Pines. Yolke calculates that the industry has failed to account for the significant increase of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles that use this technology and he predicts that we will be experiencing this problem for months if not years. While a recall of all virus prone cars is expected, no announcement has yet been made by any automobile manufacturer. The manufacturer of the GoItAlone® module declined to make any further comments to this reporter. However, not everyone sees this as a major issue. “I sure am glad I kept my DeSoto,” said an unnamed elderly woman at a recent classic car show…