A half-century ago came the last day I straddled a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle.

Until last week, that is! Thanks to a pal who owns a pair of bikes—I got to hop onto one once more. And let me say, the current model, a Bonneville Stealth 850, is a critter vastly improved over that rawboned, primitive 650 putt I threw my denim-clad leg over, way back in the day.

But! The demand to put your nervous system on red alert, to extend your awareness out from your body in every direction for quite a distance and keep it there for the duration of a ride (this to keep your rumbling putt from becoming a rolling coffin), that’s pretty much the same.

Now: contrast the aroused state of a motorcycle jockey with the passive and distractable condition of folks presently being conditioned to let their vehicles to do all their driving for them… and it’s obvious what fine motor skills are at immense risk of being lost.


Much earlier, long before my first motorcycle ride, even before I scored my first driver’s license, as a tiny tot around age 8 or so, I felt mystified by the parade of marvels I saw all about me on Florida roadways. So, I asked my dad some questions. The first was, “When you are driving, do you have to think about everything you’re doing, or is some of it, like, automatic?” His answer was, “Both.”

The second was, “Does it ever surprise you that there’s so many cousins to chimpanzees out here, all zooming around at 60 mph, yet so few accidents happen?” And he said, “Yes.”

A quite similar level of amazement dwells within me still today.

We own neural equipment designed to help us be great cavemen—to achieve success at trotting through a forest to hunt and gather. This setup empowers us to move at a top speed governed by how fast one can run. That’s 6 to 8 mph for an average human being, or perhaps closer to 20 mph in short sprints away from a pissed-off cave bear.

Somehow, we’ve adapted that old-school neuro gear to let us keep managing our motion while we roar about on ingenious (if polluting) devices at many, many, many times our olden, leg-powered speeds. NASCAR or Formula One, anybody?

Which is why I claim that motor vehicles are proven as some of the top devices for locating and maintaining a meditative state. Way-y more effective than a zafu or a singing bowl. Speeding vehicles don’t just enable sustained bouts of sharp mental focus, they demand them. And you should cooperate in full—that is, if you hope to survive any extended bout of driving anywhere.

Hence I ask: why should we ever wish to lose such an effective tool for human enlightenment by casually tossing it aside for some zombified, robotic substitute?


Motion is magic, no doubt about it.

For our very first life forms, nutrition was a simple matter of taking in whatever stuff happened to float past you. Later, more interesting forms hit upon a notion of moving one’s self toward the stuff. So, earth evolved new and shifty creatures like amoebas, that could push a membrane out toward a potentially tasty speck—forming a psuedopod—then wrap around it and suck it back inside with all the focused lust of a preschooler slurping on a Tootsie Pop.

Bacteria got much fancier and began using flagella, tiny whips they could fling around to generate motion. These wee propeller-butts speedily grew more successful at such key tasks as eating, mating, and scooting away from threats. Except for those threats which arrived as part-and-parcel of your eating or mating experiences, of course. (In such cases, you need to pick your top priority.)

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you a step-by-step traipse up the huge staircase of evolution. Suffice it to say that evolving our IQ’s as a guide to motion became quite the desirable process. In fact, I don’t consider it an overreach to say that skilled motion is intelligence in action, and that such action will further stimulate and develop intelligence.

Most of successful living is composed of similar feedback loops.

For tool-using humans, the cerebral computation required to run after prey and jab it with a sharp stick took an immense leap forward after we started hurling those sticks through the air—as spears, atlatl shafts, then arrows. Our brains had to train themselves in dynamic trigonometry, and be able to alter our predictions and motions on the fly.

“Okay, the rabbit is running this way, no that way, it’s out of range, it’s back in range, it sees me, seems like it might freeze under that tree while it turns to look at me and tries to figure out what I am…” Etc.

Our next step after that was truly a biggie: hopping on board. Literally. We began to ride upon our somewhat guided missile systems with our own bodies. We started out on horseback, and swiftly raised the stakes from there. Think: the Baron astride an airborne cannonball in Terry Gilliam’s fantasy flick, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Because whether you’re now riding a motorcycle, driving a car, or whizzing down the street on a Class-3 E-bike, basically what you’re doing is trying to steer yourself safely while tethered atop a hurtling projectile.


Referring back to our lovely caveman bodies, they were designed to bash into things and handily survive collisions without any significant damage at a speed of, say, 5 mph. Certainly not 50 mph or more. And yet, here we go!

That Triumph Bonneville I rode back in my college days—it was truly a bad boy. It’d been stripped down, punched out and souped up for flat-track races, then re-converted to be street legal once again. Each cylinder had 225 pounds of compression. That made it hard to kick-start, but once that sucka began banging away, no other bike in town could touch it. Which tempted me into all sorts of idiotic stunts. Drag-racing other motorcycles in parking lots. Jumping over railroad embankments as if I starred in a Steve McQueen movie. Pulling a wheely away from traffic lights.

Even so, I very much didn’t wish to crack-up while going 50 mph. Or 100 mph, for that matter. And so I developed defensive techniques that I still deploy today, no matter what I happen to drive. For example, the trick of keeping a continuous, 360-degree plane of awareness—not just knowing who is before me on the road, but out to both sides and behind as well. What rigs they’re in and how skilled they seem at driving them. What subtle or unsubtle signs may exist concerning their pysches and moods. Whether I detect them glancing back and forth to their phones or a dashboard screen. How much space to leave between us to cope with the unexpected. The condition of each stretch of pavement ahead and consideration of how that might affect my traction. And so on and so on, almost ad infinitum.

Let me say this about motorcycle riding (or indeed, any other risk sport that offers serious consequence for error): if you let yourself get lost in ruminating on some unrelated topic whilst underway, you’re definitely doing it wrong. Fail to stay in the present moment, and you then set yourself up for an utter lack of future moments.

Makers of systems that deploy circuit boards, cameras, lasers, tiny radars and sensors to empower modern zombie motion claim they’re able to program all these to work in a grand and reliable synergy, one that allows you to take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, lose yourself in your so-called “smart” phone, yet still arrive in complete safely at your destination.

To which I respond: Ha!


I am in no wise a Luddite. But I’m strongly in favor of tools that add to our physical capabilities, not subtract from them. Such tools are products of what I dub Adaptive Intelligence. On the other hand, a tool that seeks to replace my link to the physical world, I dub Artificial Intelligence. I realize, depending on a particular item, there might be a high degree of overlap in these functions. But hear me out—even so, a distinction can and should be made.

The old Triumph Bonneville (or “Bonnie” as we called it) that I rode in my salad days had some unenviable aspects, for sure. Its Lucas electrics functioned intermittently on the best of days. If rain soaked the fiber air filters that fed the ticklish Amal carburetors, I had to pull them off and dry them in an hot oven before I was able to start the bike. It had lamentably mushy brakes, a dim headlight, and a stiff board of a seat—an all-day ride was akin to getting spanked with a cricket bat.

Despite all o’ that, Bonnie’s chief charm was an awesome balance and sweet frame geometry. I never rode a bike so hard that handled so well, before or since—not until last Sunday, when I mounted that Triumph Stealth 850 Bonneville. I found that, over the years, Triumph had added great brakes, and reliable wiring that included an electric starter, a cushy seat and comfy riding posture. Best of all, they retained the balance, weight distribution and frame geometry that had so impressed me five decades ago.

In short, everything they changed helped me to be a better rider; and everything they chose not to change helped me too. That bike became one intelligently adapted tool.

For contrast, let’s take a gander at the zombie driving systems that so many major car makers are shoving at us nowadays.

  • 08/16/23 – one of GM’s “Cruise” AV’s (autonomous vehicle) ignores traffic cones and mires itself in a patch of fresh concrete on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco
  • 10/02/23 – Another of GM’s AV’s runs over a pedestrian in San Francisco and then drags her body 20 feet at 7 mph. (All 1,000 Cruise vehicles are immobilized and GM’s CEO resigns.)
  • 12/19/23 – Tesla recalls two million vehicles, almost every rig that had been sold in the U.S., due to 1,000 crashes involving Tesla’s autopilot system; 40 of these had proved fatal.
  • 02/10/24 – A week after one of Google’s (“Alphabet’s”) Waymo AV’s struck a cyclist, another tried to drive into San Francisco’s Chinatown on the first night of the Lunar New Year, a situation any savvy human driver would avoid. As the car tried to force its way through the crowd, its windows were broken and it was set ablaze with fireworks.
  • 03/01/24 – The Biden administration will begin investigating Chinese EV “smart” cars that gather intelligence on drivers, their performance, their destinations, and even their preferred entertainment options.
  • 03/12/24 – The NY Times reports that many new cars can and do report driver performance to the manufacturers who then transmit the data to auto insurance companies who in turn use it to set rates—all without permission of the owners.
  • 03/19/24 – The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford’s “advanced driver assistance technology” was being investigated as a factor in a fatal rear-end collision with a stopped Honda CR-V; the second such fatal event.
  • 05/03/24 – The Journal says Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk envisions a future where robotaxi “Cybercabs” are released by their owners to ferry other passengers around under Full Self-Driving mode… even though his system shall still rely on a cheaper, camera technology involved in the full Tesla recall a year ago.
  • And a final thought I’ll leave for you at this point has no date on it, since it shall never, ever go out-of-date: Anything that can be programmed can be hacked. And that means hijacked. Which also means: a whole new category of hands-free catastrophe awaits us.


 If that long list just above makes it seem like I’m adamantly opposed to hands-free driving, I am not. In fact, I’m highly in favor of a system that allows people to pay nearly zero attention to a roadway while they nap, read a book, scroll a phone, or have a chat with the person sitting next to them. In fact, it delights me to report such a system already exists! And it’s called: public transit.

Today, China has hit a benchmark of 28,000 high-speed railway miles, constructed at a investment of some $107 billion over just the past 20 years—creating a system connecting every major city that’s hailed by its users as fast, cheap, and convenient, as well as far more eco-friendly than a horde of individual autos or air travel shall ever be. Can you imagine where we’d be in the USA now, had we taken all the engineering talent and funds being wasted on a fantasy of safe autonomous cars, and instead devoted these assets to building a system that actually made sense?

Sure, China shall use Artificial Intelligence to manage and enhance their existing system, and probably do so more and more in the future. Yet it’s also Adaptive Intelligence, simultaneously. Think of it as an ideal blend.

And if all this happens to make your head spin, I’d suggest you clear your mental air by taking a nice, simple and refreshing motorcycle ride. Or just hop on a bus—while toting along something nice to read. May I suggest one of my novels?