I took a seaside walk with my cousin a few weeks back. As we discussed the heavier side of man’s social challenges, nature suddenly called upon me. Far from any buildings, businesses, or public restrooms, I tactfully asked my cousin if she’d mind me disappearing for a minute. She was fine with it. My good intention was that I didn’t want my cousin to see me pee into the Pacific Ocean.
Walking back in her direction, I pondered how many micro organisms in the reef I just peed on were killed by my good intentions. I contemplated the impact that I might have had on the sub-local environment. My cousin, a wildlife biologist, chuckled at my suggestion. In truth though, I probably killed something, even if small and insignificant.
We can’t help it, even with the best of intentions, we’re just born destroyers. We begin destroying the world around us as immediately as we are born.
Two people, with the best of intentions, decide they want to have a child. The the first diaper to be soiled by the new baby has an environmental impact — both when it is manufactured and when it gets discarded. At the young age of 7-minutes old, we don’t think about that negative impacts of our parent’s good intentions, but that’s how soon it begins.
The pain medication that gets shot in a mother’s back prior to her giving birth has consequences. The consequences of the medication being manufactured, the consequences when it hits the mother’s blood stream, and the consequences of the needle when it’s discarded.
The doctor who delivers the baby wakes up from a dead sleep, possibly a pharmaceutical induced sleep, at 2am. He drives to the hospital to deliver the baby, groggy and perhaps not fully alert. He is a cornucopia of potential destructive consequences despite that his good intentions are to deliver a healthy baby. If he’s in an accident and gets injured along the way, or worse, if he kills somebody else, who’s fault is it…? Fundamentally, it’s the new parent’s fault, for choosing to have a baby.
That’s a stretch, I know, but all of life, the good and bad of it, can be distilled this way.
A couple of days ago, while riding along the Rio Salado river project in Tempe Arizona , I was thinking about all of this on another level. That horrible axiom goes through my mind all the time when I ride…
‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions…’
That aphorism is most often an ignorant battering ram people use when arguing against moral stances in favor of altruism, empathy, charity, and civility. An inarguable fact is that good intentions may not always lead to good results. Very often they don’t. Good intentions can lead to terrible things, I was reminded of that yesterday by a friend in the Midwest.
However, since mathematics and statistics can only predict the future so well, most anything one does born of good intentions is probably as much guesswork as it might be predictable, based on any calculations performed ahead of time. That is, good intentions are very often a throw the dice.
In his book, Enlightenment Now, Professor Steven Pinker was quick to add in a current ‘unintended consequences’ scenario just before his publishing deadline. It had to do with a driverless car accident in Phoenix in 2018. An Uber driver in a self-driving car, struck and killed a pedestrian — while she watched a streaming video on her cell phone. Hey, the car was supposed to do the driving, right…?
Following the incident, and with the best of intentions, Uber suspended its self-driving car testing in the state of Arizona. Clearly that seemed like the right thing to do from both a publicity point of view and from one of safety. Though it is nearly impossible to calculate, the self-driving car testing, which continues today in other cities and with other companies, probably still saves many more lives than it takes — overwhelmingly. Using simple calculations, Pinker argues that by stopping the driverless car testing in Arizona, and again this is impossible to calculate accurately but reasonable to suggest, it likely opened the door to more fatalities, not less.
By stopping the testing, drivers who are not in self-driving cars and also not paying attention, are a greater risk than those in self-driving cars who are not paying attention. Let us not forget that a large portion of the motivation behind self-driving cars was to substantially cut down on road fatalities. It would have been possible for Uber to continue the driverless car program in Arizona while simultaneously conducting investigations on how to improve the program and minimize, even more, the potential for unnecessary fatalities.
Regardless of which side one is on — shutting down the wireless driver program while conducting the investigations, or continuing the program while conducting investigations, both camps have good intentions.
Most of the good in the world, possibly all good in the world, starts with good intentions. At best though, good intentions are a throw of the dice. Good intentions need to be driven by good effort, consistency, and need to be followed up on regularly to ensure integrity. Even so, actions born of good intentions are always a gamble.
Bad intentions though, to be successful, don’t require as much. Bad intentions simply need to be shared — they spread so easily. Let’s face it, it just feels good to do bad things. The dice of bad intentions…? Well, they are much more accurate then the dice of good intentions.
As far as the road to hell goes, well, I’ll argue until my dying breath that its paved by one thing and one thing alone — people who go through life expecting and regularly taking from the world more than they are willing to give.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 5
15.7 mph avg
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from Emmylou Harris. Enjoy…
2 thoughts on “Of Good Intentions And Born Destroyers…”
Wonderful piece, Roy!! What can I say other than I agree with it and have had many of the same thoughts. Loved the bridge photo!
PS: Well, I can say this. I have a friend who just started college. He is taking English Composition 1. Because he is Vietnamese, even though he was born in the US, his grasp of English is weak for a college student. I was thinking that reading your writing would be very educational for him on many levels.
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Excellent. And, it is the reality of thinking with depth. The enrollment in a specific bus line to the exclusion of all others … pave that road baby. Thank you Roy!
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