Saturday, August 15, 2009

Driving and Control

It is a well-known statistical fact that driving is far more dangerous than flying, on a per-mile basis.  Tens of thousands of Americans die each year in car crashes, while only a few dozen die in plane crashes.

And yet people often prefer to drive.  They feel that driving is safer.  The reason is that they feel better when they are in control of the situation.  Everyone thinks that they are above average, that their chances of dying in a car crash are lower because they are a better driver.  This control fetish shows up in lots of places.  People often have a desire to be in charge of things, and think that things will be better if they are.

I have never understood this.  I hate driving.  I would always prefer to be a passenger rather than a driver, even if I know that the driver is less competent than I am.  The increased chance of getting in a crash is outweighed by the annoyance and discomfort of having to be the one in charge of driving.  I want a car that drives itself, as soon as possible.  Even if the computer driver is more likely to get me killed than I am, I want it.  I would rather sit back and relax, and have something else do the work.

And yet, I know that most people are the opposite.  They want to be the one in control, even if the computer is safer.  They don't want to trust anyone or anything else.  This makes no sense to me.

In general, I have never understood the desire for control.  Why do so many people want it so much?  It often seems that people desire power for its own sake, rather than for anything that it might provide.  Why do bureaucrats fight so tenaciously to have more responsibility assigned to their agencies?  Why do bosses insist on micromanaging things?  They are only creating more work and stress for themselves, and everyone else.

I guess people like to think that they are important, that things would fall apart if they did not personally supervise it.  Just remember: The graveyards are full of indispensable people.  Life will go on, no matter what you do.  And the less you try to do, the more likely it is that you will enjoy life.

(Note: If you have an explicitly assigned responsibility to do something, than you should do that thing to the best of your ability.  I am only talking about things that are not part of your job description.  And if they are part of someone else's job description, than it is especially important not to interfere.)


e said...

Count me in as another who prefers being a passenger. I didn't get my license until I was a college junior. Hated driving! Saw potential death on every corner after learning just what it took to drive and besides, much preferred being free to let my mind wander or read while travelling. Now that I've driven so many long distance trips, I tolerate it slightly better... but given a choice, I nearly always choose to be a passenger. If airplanes were cheaper, I'd definitely be a lot more likely to choose to fly.

Though I think I mentioned once before that I'd be leery of a car driving me (unless it were on predetermined roads or routes, like a personal monorail)... oddly if there were a human at the wheel, I'd feel much better. Odd, yes. I guess I'm still stuck thinking humans are much better dealing with randomness on the open road.

What I really want is much further away... a transporter! Everything would be so much easier. No traffic jams, no flat tires, no licensing. And I could deal with a computer sending over bits of my body to another location, because the computer would be in a controlled environment.

Richard Bruns said...

Teleportation might never happen. It, like faster-than-light travel, is simply not possible with our current understanding of physics.

But it might be possible, within our lifetime, to have a chip implanted in your head that allows you to control, and access all the sensory data from, a mobile robot. Instead of going to a place, you lie down in a VR couch, rent a robot that is stationed wherever you want to 'go', and then experience it through the senses of the robot.