Photo by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

Free Speech Rules

Avi Bar-Zeev
4 min readMay 2, 2022

BREAKING NEWS: Elon Musk announced today that Tesla vehicles will support the U.S. First Amendment and save lives by the self-driving and nearly silent cars automatically shouting offensive epithets at nearby people on the street.

The particular epithet per person (the “PEPP”) will depend largely on computer vision analysis of the target’s racial, religious or apparent sexual characteristics.

“We’ll keep it to the purely legal slurs,” Musk tweeted. “And only for people standing in the way of the vehicle, not behind it. Unless it’s reversing. This will almost certainly save lives.”

Though the fictional scenario above would be totally insane IRL (but not totally unimaginable at this point), let’s be honest: who hasn’t wished for at least a car horn that explicitly told another driver to fuck off?

But there’s something truly disquieting about the idea of furthering a society fueled by outrage, by the loudest voices beaming hatred at people who have already been marginalized for generations.

It’s the same flawed logic that thinks the only way to defend kids from an epidemic of school shootings is to arm teachers. What’s next: arming kids?

And yet it’s real life too. I’m not a constitutional scholar, or even a lawyer, but my own education was enough to learn that the First Amendment is meant to keep government power in check, not to keep oppressing people. Freedom of expression, especially of the press, is necessary to Democracy.

Trevor Noah said it well at the White House Correspondents dinner this week when he ended a very funny monologue by reminding us of the obligation of journalists to use their powers (in the USA and wherever it applies) to expose bad government and not simply inflame or distract people.

Likewise, the 2nd amendment might, at least at one time, have been used as a check on government abuse, as well as a convenient way to keep the local slave populations subdued. If you doubt the second aspect, go re-read the history with an open mind. The debate at the time was not subtle. Ask why images of men on horseback rounding up brown-skinned people is still triggering.

Can the same principal be used both to free us and keep us enslaved?

Avi Bar-Zeev

XR Pioneer (30+ years), started/helped projects at Microsoft (HoloLens), Apple, Amazon, Keyhole (Google Earth), Linden Lab (Second Life), Disney (VR), XR Guild