Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Traffic as a Metaphor for Life

Now that I've been back in the full-time workforce for almost half a year, driving in rush hour traffic a couple of hours a day five days a week, except on those days when I can blissfully take the train because I don't have to drop Thumper off at school, I find myself thinking about this article almost every day. It uses flowing liquid as a model for how traffic behaves and makes some conclusions on how we can improve our lot in heavy traffic. Actually, it concludes that we can't do anything to help ourselves, but we can help those poor suckers stuck behind us.

It goes on and on and on, and I know none of you are going to actually read it, but the gist is: leave large following distances. Even in slow traffic. Even when that guy is passing on the right and merging left just before the lane closure, the lane closure that you saw signs for 2 miles back and changed lanes to avoid, but he kept right the hell on going and now he wants in front of you after speeding up the right lane, like the rest of us jerks don't matter at all. Even then: large following distances. For each of the problems that heavy traffic presents (spikes of hard acceleration/deceleration, closing lanes, blocked lanes), the solution is the free movement of cars from lane to lane, which in practical application is: large following distances.

I blogged about this article before, and what I like about this philosophy is, regardless of whether its application actually makes things better, it removes the urge to drive competitively, to teach that other guy a lesson by sticking as close to the bumper of the car in front of  as you can and not letting him in. Despite that urge, you and I both know in our hearts that that guy doesn't learn any lesson. No one learns any lessons about cooperative action by having that cooperation withheld. He just calls you names and moves on with his day, probably forgetting all about you long before you've forgotten about him.

So in summary:

Stop worrying about what the other guy is doing, and stop trying to take away his ability to do it. We all benefit.

The end.

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