The Psychology Of Transport, Google Maps & Bear Attacks | Rory Sutherland on Modern Wisdom with Chris Williamson

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Key Takeaways

  • Economists and technologists have ignored the qualitative metrics that influence our psychological motivations involved in transportation
    • “These reductionist metrics effectively treat humans as though they were freight, they turned transport into a logistics problem which free of psychology” – Rory Sutherland
    • Google maps only provide route options for speed and price, why not ease and beauty?
    • We are hitting the law of diminishing returns in the correlation between punctuality and passenger happiness
  • Reasoning can be wrong even when it leads to the correct conclusion
    • People commonly obey without knowing why they obey
  • People don’t revert back from technology once they are persuaded to accept it
    • “There is a certain category of technology which isn’t self-explanatory but is self-revelatory” – Rory Sutherland
  • “One reason political polarization tends to be confined to the young and(/or) stupid is this: anyone over 35 possessed of any observational nous has noticed that there is no correlation between political allegiance and basic decency as a human being” – Rory Sutherland recent tweet

Intro

Transport for Humans

  • Transport for Humans: Are We Nearly There Yet? by Rory Sutherland and Pete Dyson
    • We generally over-optimize transport around speed, capacity, and function (things you can measure)
      • “These reductionist metrics effectively treat humans as though they were freight, they turned transport into a logistics problem which free of psychology” – Rory Sutherland
      • This model effectively eliminates the plausibility that transportation can be enjoyable and/or productive
    • We under-optimize transport around enjoyment, regret, fairness, and other qualitative metrics
      • SCARF – Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness
        • Humans care deeply about these things but economists fail to use them in their equations
        • Example: It makes you angrier to miss a plane departure by 5 minutes than by 30 minutes
    • We are hitting the law of diminishing returns in the correlation between punctuality and passenger happiness
      • We are willing to sacrifice slight deviations in time for comfort and features

Psychology of Electric Cars

  • Electric cars change the psychology of driving
    • Regenerative braking sends fuel back to the tank as a result of the energy created through breaking – we may not be all that mad about having to slam on the breaks
    • Due to range limitations, you drive less aggressively to preserve energy
    • “I’ve never been pissed off by someone driving an electric car” – Rory Sutherland
      • Owners of certain brands of cars often take on a unique driving personality
      • Caring about the environment is traditionally a good indication of being a good person

Google Maps

  • Google Maps doesn’t have many route variations, all of them focus on speed and price
  • It’s system ignores other psychological motives to travel:
    • Ease – sustain a single speed for the most amount of time, limited turns and stops
    • Beauty – the route that provides the most scenic view

Reasoning and Conclusions

  • “There is often a problem with perfectly well-intentioned movements” – Rory Sutherland
  • Rory’s take on environmentalism is that there is a 20% chance that Nigel Lawson is right – climate change through carbon emissions is a scientific mistake
    • But even if we’re wrong, the reduction of carbon heuristic can still be beneficial
      • Electric cars cause less noise pollution
    • Reasoning can be wrong even when it leads to the correct conclusion
  • There is a children’s poem that states: if you step on a crack, a bear will attack (or break your mother’s back in an alternate version)
    • Based on years of evolution, children are naturally afraid of wild animals
    • The poem encourages the children to walk carefully in the street as a byproduct; not because they are afraid of traffic but because they are afraid of bears
      • Heuristic campaigns are utilized in a variety of industries like advertising
      • The only way they work is if people obey without knowing why they obey

Technology

  • “There is a certain category of technology which isn’t self-explanatory but is self-revelatory” – Rory Sutherland
    • People don’t revert back from technology once they are persuaded to accept it
  • Rory provides a couple of ideas that might follow this timeline:
    • Glass-sided toaster – why would you not like to observe the whole process?
    • Owning two dishwashers – clean and dirty dishwashers that alternate as they serve as substitutes for the storage of your dishes

Rory’s Recent Political Tweet

  • “One reason political polarization tends to be confined to the young and(/or) stupid is this: anyone over 35 possessed of any observational nous has noticed that there is no correlation between political allegiance and basic decency as a human being” – Rory Sutherland recent tweet
    • There are good and bad people that exist on every part of the political spectrum
    • People on Twitter often willfully misunderstand what you’re saying

Rory’s Opinion on Covid

  • In Rory’s opinion, it seems fair to do a cost-benefit analysis of vaccinating the young but older and elderly people are being irresponsible not being vaccinated
  • He believes masking and vaccination are a duty to his fellow man, regardless of health concerns, he wants to make sure his company is comfortable
  • Rory thinks the fear of needles is actually relevant anti-vaxx reasoning that people cover up with other excuses
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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