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The Joy of Missing Out (nytimes.com)
231 points by jqcoffey 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments



I've regained a lot of mental peace once I quit Instagram. When you have hundreds of friends and follow random influencers, you get the impression that every single person is always on a beach in Bali, eating at Michelin star restaurants, riding Lambos and partying with attractive, successful people in the most exclusive venues in exotic locations. In the meanwhile you're a corporate drone stuck in traffic to get to your grey cubicle, dealing with a shitty boss, trying to figure out how to pay rent.

The reality is that those people who FOMO you, don't have that lifestyle. They're simply marketers, but our brains aren't super good at seeing past that. And your friends? Sure, they go to a cool place once in a while individually, but you're just being exposed to hundreds of them all signaling at the same time. Statistically speaking you WILL see your extended social circle doing something cool multiple times a day. This used to be manageable in the 150 person village age. Bob got a new goat, son of a bitch.. oh well. But at social media scale our brains simply can't handle it.

It's analogous to how regular people don't realize just how much Photoshop and photographic skill goes into making someone look as good as they do in magazines and on their IG feed. We look at them and immediately conclude that we're some kind of a sub-human degenerate species compared to them, whereas in reality it's all bullshit.

It feels SO much better to swim in one's lane (basically JOMO), not looking around to see how everybody else is doing, especially when it's not real.

I'm not a religious person, but there's something really powerful in the admonition not to covet your neighbor's spouse, house, animals... which is what I sense my brain doing on social media.

The genius of IG is that it makes people willingly subscribe to hours of marketing every day. Zuckerberg got one hell of a deal on that company, 1 bil for it has to be the greatest deal of the century.


Growing up in a Midwestern suburb where obesity was normal, I found the messaging about how our beauty standards are unrealistic and manufactured by Photoshop to be at least sort of plausible. Now I’m quite certain it’s not true. Walking down the street in San Francisco, a majority of the young adults I encounter really are slim, muscular, well groomed, and sharply dressed, embodying the “unrealistic, unhealthy” ideals of my adolescence. I wondered if this was just wealth, but it even extends to people in the service sector.

If Instagram lives are unrealistic, they’re unrealistic in much the same way as coastal megacities. It’s true that most Americans will never live like that. But those people really exist and their numbers are not small.


Similar transition here. Pretty sure it's both cultural and financial - keep in mind many service workers, e.g. waiters and bartenders, make much more in the SF area than their counterparts in middle America.

Also there is a bit of a feedback loop of Instagram highlighting conspicuous consumption / wealth and beauty as ideals, and everyone else attempting to emulate that. Keep in mind the reason there are so many influencers making money simply for being attractive and going to fancy places it that so many people get influenced by their posts


That's a valid perspective. I absolutely concede that the type of experiences you can have on IG is very different, and I can completely understand the Midwest -> NorCal transition.

To contextualize, my experience was of someone already living in the big "fashionable" cities in California. I was even living in the same building of influencers with millions of followers, having a completely different "perceived" lifestyle experience than most of them or even of my social circle in the same area.


Ask about beauty routines for these people and you'll learn the difference. The urban elite spend a lot of time on exercising, creating food habits, and fashion.


We're calling randos walking down the street in San Francisco the "urban elite" now?

The vast majority of people I know who are attractive do not spend a lot of time on beauty regimes and are not gym rats.


That's a really interesting perspective, thank you.

There definitely are some truly unrealistic standards out there, but the unhealthy or impossible are probably a small subset of the images we see these days.


In case you weren't aware, many of the Instagram users who appear to be on permanent vacation don't actually make much money from marketing and are actually part-time sex workers. Their lifestyles are funded by johns or "sugar daddies".

(I'm not making a moral judgment here, just pointing out the reality behind the illusion.)


Yep, that's a great point, very aware of it. Instagram is secretly one of the most successful marketing channels out there for sex work, but it is something most people aren't aware of or don't talk much about. Exposure to hundreds of thousands of males, constant fresh teasing content, the ability to instantly DM a "vendor" to strike a deal etc.

Always amusing to see IG models go from working at an ice cream shop one day to suddenly yachts and helicopter rides in the dreamiest exotic places the next, without any brand sponsorship or anything to sell. Most people don't bother to ask where the money is coming from. Who's paying for it? Insiders of that world have a lot of interesting stories.


This piece of information just amplified my depression when I learned about it, because of past not-income-optimized life decisions (okay, probably even more because of limited abilities and capabilities), I know know for sure that with a high probability I won't plausibly have ability to buy my way into that kind of world and yet I'm regularly reminded that it exists and not only that, but how it exactly looks like.

Of course, in the past, the equivalent me still wouldn't have had access to the world of magnificent parties and elite courtesans either. But I believe that the whole of that kind of social strata would have been much more distant, and thus less traumatizing in that particular psychosocial way. Sure, you'd see carriages passing by (or passing over you if unlucky) now and then, and maybe you'd buy a ticket to see the King have his breakfast (and it would be once in a year event to satisfy your curiosity), but that lifestyle wouldn't be marketed to you. There wouldn't be the constant visual reminders that if you'd done something differently, how different your life could be.


Why would you need to quit? Like all social media you can unfollow people. Follow what interests you. If someone gives you FOMO unfollow.


That's a good point too. I have a personal account now with maybe 40 friends where I immediately unfollow anybody who's constantly signaling a fake lifestyle through their stories. Out of sight, out of mind. Works really well.


For the same reason an alcoholic shouldn't try to moderate their drinking.


Where's the proof of that? I've known people who at some point would have met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, and yet managed to moderate their drinking on their own without quitting or going to AA or anything like that. Obviously that doesn't work for everyone but I wouldn't glibly dismiss the possibility.


I suspect (and science is starting to suggest) that addiction is more of a spectrum than a binary and my comment is really just about the people toward the far ends of those spectrums.

The fact that your friends could moderate, while there plainly exist the graves of those who couldn't, also supports this view.


Booking.com acquisition by Priceline (though now the company is called Booking Holding) is probably the only deal this century that rivals Instagram.


Not the company. Priceline Group is now Booking Holding, composed to Priceline.com, Booking, Agoda, Kayak etc etc


> Know that you likely have a problem.

> Do you own a smartphone?

> That's it.

I disagree.

I think a better question might be "Do you own a smartphone and use social media?"

A lot of the comments I see around this - especially on the comments here on this page - is around feeds from Instagram and Facebook and the like.

Yep - groomed social media posts are an unrealistic view of society. Just like movies and magazines are an unrealistic view of society too. "Man, everyone else is running around blowing up cars and shooting bad guys, but I am just a loser sitting here in the movie theatre." I guess people need to get a literal reality check.

Personally I just turn notifications from email off (and I dont use social media), and have the Do Not Disturb feature in Android on so that only calls & messages from starred contacts (wife etc) makes a noise. Zero issues about feeling like I am being disturbed by my phone. I dont think I am in denial about this...


> and use social media?

I'd argue it is not that straight cut. Just like you can tune do not disturb to allow important people to reach you, most social media sites allow fine tuning of notifications (except facebook, they don't give a shit[1]). For example, I use twitter to interact with other developers from around the world, and after configuring twitter to only notify me about interactions with people I follow, I'm never bothered by notifications from it either.

[1]: Perfectly satirised by The Onion: https://www.theonion.com/new-facebook-notifications-alert-us...


You have a problem if, multiple times per day, you open the feed and just scroll through not looking for anything in particular.

As you mention, it seems like your workflow is very action oriented. You use it to communicate with people. But if you ever find yourself just scrolling through the feed for more than 10-15m per day, then you probably have a problem.


That's right. The phone is only a tool and it's only up to you how much you let it intefere with your life.

Though, I guess for some the issue is willpower. E.g. if they use Facebook then they can't stop checking it.


Our smartphones are dopamine triggering skinner boxes.

I don't use social media on my phone at all unless you would term reddit and hacker news social media. I consider them news aggregators.

But the content I get from them is addictive and instead of keeping focus for longer form content like books, etc. I am reading hundreds of bite size content chunks.


I was in deep concentration today working on an assignment, but ironically Apple's Screen Time snapped me out of it. In all their wisdom to get me to use the iphone less, Screen Time notification popped up, bring me back.

Edit: and can't turn it's notification off, it is not in the Notification settings area. I had to turn the Screen Time feature completely off so it doesn't happen again.


At my last job they replaced the POTS telephone system that had been around for 30 years with a new POE touchscreen phone. The backlight never dimmed and it occasionally showed an animation.

I wrote an angry ticket about it after about 2 days of having it, and 3 people from the IT department and 2 people from the company that sold us the phones showed up at my desk the next day, trying to figure out if there was something wrong with my phone, because "it shouldn't be that distracting."

The only person who understood why I was pissed was the mid-level tech support guy from the phone company.

I hated that phone so much I covered it in a sheet and only uncovered it if it was ringing.

Similarly, the ringtones were all super obnoxious. When everyone had the same ring you could just tune out the ones that weren't coming from right beside you. The new phones had a huge speaker on the back and the ringtones demanded attention like a klaxon. It was maddening because the phone of someone 3 cubes behind you could get a call and it would be louder for you than it would be for them.

Also, the touchscreen took 3 times longer to use than the old design did just because buttons are faster, you can use them without looking, and the UI was slow to begin with.

I love using new technology, and I wanted a new phone because the old one was huge and took up a ton of my desk, but that phone had the worst UX. I just wanted a phone that did the same thing my old phone could do, maybe with better audio quality. I didn't want a phone that demanded my attention to do things.


> I just wanted a phone that did the same thing my old phone could do

This is what happens when the buyer (or cheque signer!) is not a user.

To make a sale, the phone vendors has to bid or propose, and for them to stand out, phone needs features. Whether those features make sense or not probably matters less than whether they "beat" the competitors' feature list.

I wonder if there's a way to delegate to the actual users of tools and equipment, the responsibility of evaluating said tool?


Yes there is trivially - give the end user the budget to buy their own. However there are some real logistical disadvantages to that approach as well and frankly many workplaces are far too hierarchally minded to the point of being insulted at the concept of asking the employees what they think.


This works great until there's a problem of any kind. Then the users of the special snowflake phones will scream about IT not helping them.

Standards exist for a reason.


What are the logistical disadvantages? Can't the buyer also take care of logistics?


> What are the logistical disadvantages?

if each user chose their own model, then the problem of integrating all the phones into the network and/or calendar system etc may be intractably hard.


If you standardize on one model, you can order in bulk (and store the excess for new employees or to replace broken units).


I thought most companies had pretty much stopped buying hardware phones and switched to soft phones to reduce costs. We've been using Cisco soft phones (Jabber) for years. It's not perfect but good enough. Users can customize ringer devices and volume.


Eh, I really depends. I think softphones are great if you use the phone infrequently, or if you use the phone so often that you always have a headset on. If you use the phone a several times a day for really short periods using a softphone is a pain.

That's not even taking the average age of the employee into account. I worked at a place where the average employee was probably 45 or so.


I idly went to Hacker News, scanned through this article, got to the part about doing things with intention rather than just floating along... which made me realize I was wasting time and so I closed the article. Except then I commented... ok to important things now.


You are conditioned. Don't feel bad. Just be aware, and that awareness will hopefully prevent you from doing things you don't want to do in the future. Good Day.


"I'm the type who'd like to sit home and watch every party that I'm invited to on a monitor in my bedroom."

-Andy Warhol


I'm a bit confused by the CEO of Google preaching for spending less time staring at your screen. Doesn't their company's value depend strongly on this metric? My guess would be that its only for show, but shouldn't the shareholders be angry about a move like this?


I would classify it under Corporate Social Responsibility. Any shareholders who would get angry at such a thing must suffer from serious short-termism.


Maybe ads are slightly more effective if you spend less time on the screen. Less ad-blindness, etc.


It's amazing how tightly our brains can hold onto other peoples' expectations for you.

For the longest time, I couldn't get over my ex. Last time I blocked her out of my life, she was doing these cool internships and immediatly had a "bounce back" relationship and people cheering her career on.

Years after blocking her out of all forms of communication, and my brain still concocts this idealized, super-successful version of her that I had to triumph over like some twisted video game.


The Internet used to be something you had to reach out to, with a dial-up connection, in order to connect to it. Now the Internet is in our pockets, follows us everywhere and nags us with nonstopping alerts.

Alerts is what creates addiction. They are rewarding/interesting only sometimes, like a slot machine.

Just disable most or all alerts. Every time you get an alert, consider if you want a similar alert in the future. If the answer is no, disable it.


This is really easy to do now on Android. Just long press the notification and you can just flip the notification toggle. The real problem though is people passively accepting their phones defaults. Users need to be educated somehow that it's in their best interest to actively curate their notifications, or better yet, put the onus on Apple/Google. What if the default for the first run of an app was to prompt you if you want notifications or not? That would certainly get rid of some cruft.


I extrapolate this to the need for slow transport.


I do think that slower transportation helps.

Cyclists tend to be more patient than drivers, based on my (biased) observations. As a transportation cyclist I don't really understand the mindset of many drivers. Their apparent need for instant transportation seems to override safety concerns, particularly the safety of others. Often drivers aren't much faster than I am, particularly given the number of stop lights on my commute. Many cyclists have pointed out the irony in how a dangerous driver who nearly runs over a cyclist often sits at the next stop light with the same cyclist stopped right behind them.

My guess is that cyclists are more patient due to both selection effects (more patient people are more likely to become cyclists) and driving actively decreasing patience.


> Cyclists tend to be more patient than drivers

As someone who walks to work, I've had an order of magnitude more issues with cyclists than cars. My favorite, which happens frequently, is the cyclists who cross against the light then complain with one finger about pedestrians, with the light, in a cross walk.

I've been hit in intersections several times. Always by cyclists, always when I (pedestrian) clearly have right of way.


Depends on the infrastructure and education. In the UK, I regularly see cyclists do stupid things. When I go to Holland, everybody respects the red lights, but I guess that's because they have amazing cycling infrastructure and also cycling is part of school curriculum


Would the fact that they're in a protected box not have more to do with the reduced concern for the safety of others that you observe?


Yes, there are many factors, unfortunately. "Being in a box" can't explain as much as I'd like. Many drivers seem to freak out if you touch their vehicles, even if there's no damage. They clearly don't want their cars damaged either.

Another major possibility is that they don't think they are driving dangerously at all. Having talked to many drivers over the years, I'm amazed by what people have claimed is perfectly safe to me. (The worst was the guy who passed me too close on an uphill part of the road. I honked at him and he stopped to talk to me. You couldn't see beyond the top of the hill and he was splitting the lanes. Yet he claimed this was perfectly safe.)


I feel that since I started commuting to work by bike about 10yrs ago, I became a much better driver. I'm more patient/tolerant of others on the road, and I pay more attention to what I'm doing and what's happening around me.

I often wonder that if all drivers had to to spend one month per year commuting on a bike, how much the average standard of driving would improve.


In the U.S. nearly all cyclists are (at least occasional) drivers, too, but the reverse obviously isn't true. I think you're right to notice that this has a pretty big impact on what kinds of arguments get through to each group.


> Cyclists tend to be more patient than drivers

Given the amount of cyclists I see blow thru red lights and stop signs every day, I'm not exactly sure I can agree with this.


When you have to generate your own kinetic energy, that's not due to a lack of patience as much as trying to minimize the amount of exertion you must do.


So breaking the law and endangering pedestrians is ok if it means you don't have to work as hard? As a pedestrian, I HATE cyclists. At least drivers seem to understand what a red light means. I've never been hit by a car, but I've been hit by plenty of bicycles who should have stopped at that pesky red light.


Let's be clear: you should dislike law breaking cyclists, not all cyclists.

As a cyclist who does not run red lights, I dislike that many people seem to think I am responsible for and/or should be punished for the actions of cyclists who do run red lights.

Plus, I suggest paying more attention to cars. The number of times I have seen drivers run red lights is definitely not zero.


> I suggest paying more attention to cars.

You appear to be suggesting that I'm being hit by cars and not noticing because I'm not paying attention. I assure you, this is not the case. I'm sorry my experience doesn't match your prejudices, but in my experience many cyclists don't care about or look for pedestrians.


> You appear to be suggesting that I'm being hit by cars and not noticing because I'm not paying attention.

This is not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that cars also pose a real threat to your life. I haven't been hit by a car either but I still worry.

I don't disagree that "many cyclists don't care about or look for pedestrians". My main point was that you should not paint such a broad brush against cyclists. Many cyclists agree with you! I have spent a fair amount of time talking to problem cyclists, and it seems to me that they would also be problem drivers behind the wheel as well. It's not cycling that makes them bad. It's their lack of concern for others.

> I'm sorry my experience doesn't match your prejudices

This phrasing strikes me as rather hostile. Again, I don't deny that you've had bad experiences with cyclists, so writing of my "prejudices" doesn't really make sense here as I don't believe what you seem to think I do.

In fact, while I won't go into details, I actually stopped talking to problem cyclists because I found them to be both stubborn and violent. I suspect my own experience with problem cyclists may be worse than yours. But again, I focus on problem cyclists, not all cyclists. I am not your enemy!


To be honest, some red lights are just pointless for cyclists. One example are pedestrian crossings with no pedestrian in sight, another are very small crossings (maybe even at night) where you can see anyone coming half a mile away, with nobody in sight.

I also hate the one where you're supposed to wait 2 light cycles instead of 1 for turning left. That is a major road so people usually follow the rule, but it's not good. At the same time the city advocates doing that twice on both sides of the bridge so you can cross at the proper side on the shared sidewalk and not ride against the (often non-existent) flow on the other shared sidewalk. Of course people still do it.


I agree that many red lights don't make sense for cyclists in an ideal world. But given the double standard being applied to cyclists, I don't want to give hateful people any more excuses.

In Austin, TX, they added signs to certain intersections saying that cyclists can use the pedestrian signal. In effect, this means that cyclists can often legally run a red light. Unfortunately I fear that some drivers don't pay attention to the signs and will think basically 100% of cyclists are illegally running the red light at these intersections. So I usually will wait for the green light, even in this case.


Those crossings are equally pointless for drivers, but we are still expected to obey the law.


I have to agree. While I have a good example from the country with a good cycling culture—I saw a cyclist standing at the crossing and patiently waiting for the green light at 2a.m. on the empty street—in my country cyclist are by far the ones with the least respect for the traffic rules. :(


It's not just cyclists: https://youtu.be/BpRfUh1Dzlw


It's a question of who is worse. The selective view you advocate is misleading.

Many cyclists run red lights in the US. But not all. Many cyclists like myself are 100% opposed to running red lights.

In contrast, the vast majority of drivers I have asked admit to regularly speeding. And I see drivers run red lights regularly as well; every time I have seen a driver run a red light that I can think of was more dangerous than any time I can recall a cyclist running a red light. Add on top of that the distracted and drunk driving, neither of which are seen much at all from cyclists. Add to all that all the unsafe passes drivers make. Add road rage. All of these are done in part if not largely out of impatience. Drivers seem much worse on average to me.

Apparently some cyclists running red lights is something which is unforgivable for all cyclists, but some drivers speeding can easily be brushed off. The double standard is clear.


Ah, cyclists. I probably only notice the bad ones. I've seen too many who feel they are above all the petty traffic law automobiles must follow. Like stop signs and red lights. I wouldn't call them patient.


I used to be a cyclist. And while I was a cyclist, I used to think the same. Then I found out how some states have laws that allow cyclists to treat stop lights and stop signs as stop signs and yields respectively, and how helps a little bit to separate car traffic from cycling traffic.

EDIT: but no, this thing about patience rings a bit false to me. Patient in the sense that I'm not in as much of a hurry to get where I'm going, yes. But stopping after having built up a nice head of speed, knowing that I'm going to have to expend more energy to get back up to speed...


I'm surprised those laws exist. Running through red lights and stop signs looks like an excellent way to get killed. I certainly didn't expect it the last time I was going to turn right on red, with my signal on, and a cyclist ran the light going past me.


Many's a time I sat waiting at an intersection with no cross traffic waiting for the light to change, those laws would just have enabled me to go on my way. The incident you describe has the cyclist in the wrong both legally (still need to actually stop at a light) and pragmatically -- when you're squishy and unarmored, being predictable is a very good thing.


> Many cyclists have pointed out the irony in how a dangerous driver who nearly runs over a cyclist often sits at the next stop light with the same cyclist stopped right behind them.

This happens to me when I walk to the subway, but I overtake the cars in the sidewalk.


in dense urban areas it's so common.. between buses and traffic light you waste so much time, then add the time to find a parking spot .. nowadays I tend not to care about that, I avoid 'fast' segments, and go diagonal in small streets, then park in cozy areas 1 mile before my destination. I get mind free trip, free parking, a little walk and no time wasted.


I meet so many people who drive all the way downtown instead of saving themselves time, aggravation and money by stopping further out and taking the subway in. It's very strange.


distaste for state change, when you're in car mode you want to stay in there for as long as possible, often to the point of losing perspective


I am honestly impressed by Chicago cyclists that will be going down their designated bright green lane. and very quickly stop and calmly tell the random tourist they nearly got run over. Drivers in Chicago basically are the worst I've ever seen. Cars should have a device that charges you 50 dollars every time you use the horn.


Some things I have in mind:

- fuel cost

- disgust for changing driving states (stopping/redlight)

- some social relativism (I'm paying attention and optimizing my driving for me and others, you MUST do too)

- bubble effect: being in closed space makes me believe it's a bit like internet comments, people just boil up freely

- maybe the bliss of speed

More generally something that gets done for you makes you irrascible faster when it doesn't happen.

My slow transporation point was larger though, as said beside, it's our relationship with space and time. We're maximizing some forms of 'pleasure' when in fact, it's all around us, you just have to walk out and pay attention.


> need for slow transport

I've recently read Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deschooling_Society) and somewhere towards the end of the book/essay he mentions that we don't really need vehicles driving faster than 15 kph and that we should build roads so that that speed won't be exceeded.


> we don't really need vehicles driving faster than 15 kph

Tangent: if you've read Left Hand of Darkness, this reminds of the Gethenians - despite being a reasonably advanced people, they never invented a means of transport that goes faster than about 25mph. There's a brief discussion in the book about this that I thought was kind of fun to read:

"Traffic is controlled, each vehicle or caravan being required to keep in constant radio touch with checkpoints along the way. It all moves along, however crowded, quite steadily at the rate of 25 miles per hour (Terran). Gethenians could make their vehicles go faster, but they do not. If asked why not, they answer "Why?" Like asking Terrans why all our vehicles must go so fast; we answer "Why not?" No disputing tastes. Terrans tend to feel they've got to get ahead, make progress. The people of Winter, who always live in the Year One, feel that progress is less important than presence."


Being faster in transporting people and things makes you better at wars and more prosperous in peacetimes (you can actually get fruit to the market before they spoil!). I don't think it's a simple matter of taste.


Well, one other phenomenon about Gethan is that they've never had a war, so it might be easier to get away with there. :)


Average speed driving through SF is 18MPH, average speed in Boston is 20MPH. [Source: http://infinitemonkeycorps.net/projects/cityspeed/]

25MPH would be an improvement for a busy metro.


As with so many other things, average isn't really a good measure here. And unfortunately I don't think mode or median are really relevant either. It's the instantaneous speed that causes problems. Zooming up the block in a minute at 40 mph and then sitting at a red light for 3, your average was 10, but if you'd hit something, the damage you'd have done would be a lot worse.


I live in a rural area in Japan. The 4 lane national highway has a speed limit of 80 km/h and has a fairly high toll. The free "highway" has a speed limit of 50 km/h. Bus fare is based on distance and so for me to go to the nearest big city (of about 700k people) costs about $25 for a round trip -- a grand total of 50 km (round trip). The train is a bit cheaper, but I don't live on the train line.

With those constraints, the impact on culture is amazing. Because it's so difficult to get from one place to another, each town has it's own character. Japan has kind of a difficult geography and the towns are forced into the valleys between the mountains -- usually the towns are all connected, because there is limited space. But, there are 4 towns in the 25 km between my town and the nearest big city and each one is completely different. Each town has their own grocery stores, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, etc, etc. Not only that, but each town has it's own specialties -- for example fish if it has a port, fruit because it is on the south side of the mountain, tea because it is on top of a flat plain with plenty of sun, etc.

When I lived in Canada, each big city was this 60km diameter disc of monoculture. Just suburban sprawl, designed to enable each person to have a 2 car garage and a swimming pool in the back yard (which you can only use 2 months of the year). It's only when you get into the older parts of the city that you start to get cultural variation and interest.

Although it seems counter productive, I'm a big fan of making it difficult (or at least expensive) to travel quickly from place to place. I like self contained communities where there is a reason to stay in the community, to meet people, to encourage small businesses, etc.

It's a foreign concept to many people, though. There is a kind of attitude of, "If I can have it all, why is that worse?" If there is a great restaurant 60km, why would you want to stop yourself from being able to get there? The more range you have, the easier and cheaper it is to get places, shouldn't that mean you have more options? But I think the reality is that such mobility only serves to consolidate resources and rob you of diversity. The great restaurant that might have sprouted in your neighbourhood will never get off the ground, because people will simply never give it a chance -- they would rather drive the 60 km for a known quantity.

(I have to say that 15 kph would bother me, though, as an avid cyclist -- hard to get a good work out at that speed ;-) ).


Sounds like a real limiter on job & class mobility though.

I mean, sure, go ahead and charge the true cost. But I think artificially limiting mobility has a lot of downsides.


While idealistic, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a partial factor in Japan’s economic flatline.

Rapid transit is a huge boon to the economy and productivity.


I'm reading a book by named Scale, and he thinks that a lot of complex systems are all about efficient energy distribution network. That would go in your direction.

That said, I despise economi-sm because I value peace of mind, cultural groups above high powered society


It definitely may be and the government has been building a faster (100 km/h) large highway for the last few years. But I think it's far more likely to be due to labour shortages. I'm not very knowledgeable about economic policy, but I'm personally not unhappy about the flatline anyway. I'm slightly worried that I can get a 25 year mortgage practically for free at some banks, but otherwise I have to say things aren't bad here. I suppose we'll find out in 20 years.


Another thing, traffic causes incredibly high waste, you spend your time trying to go 50kph then slowing, again, and again.

When you have a string of green lights, some long avenues have predictable patterns, you usually go at 40kph predictably, and it's damning how fast you when you're not interrupted. Also how enjoyable the thing is.

15kph is a bit low. You jog around 12. So it would barely be faster. Maybe 30 kph, but with different topologies.

These days I also wonder if traffic light could broadcast their timings nearby. With a bit of computation a vehicle could know in advance to slow or not in order to keep the ride as continuous as possible.

ps: interesting book


I lived in a smaller town that insisted you stop at every light. When you see the local police punching the accelerater through the intersection when it goes yellow, you know something is not set up right.


We don't really need much — humans can at least survive with very little. But what's the point of that? Rapid transportation has been a tremendous boon and without it we'd have average living standards similar to the Roman Empire.


That would be great for local travel within a community, and the effect on community design. I’d still like to go to other states and cities in reasonable times, though so perhaps there could be another mode of speedier transport available, such as trains.


I’m fascinated by entitlement of commenters in this thread. Hey, people, try to pack a day supply of food, nappies and clothes changes for couple babies and then go ahead and travel 50k on a bus with mentioned babies and your partner. Or better couple buses because in reality you need couple or more changes to get to the destination. Then we can discuss the need for speed and personal vehicles.


I can’t tell if you’re talking about me or not.

There are millions and millions of Americans who do not own their own car and could not afford to do that. They also cannot travel between cities often due to lack of realistic public transportation.

The bus system is horrible, and I would never suggest that anyone use that. I also feel that it’s within the capability of society to create a comfortable mode of public transportation for longer distances. For some reason, people have no problem grabbing their baby and hopping on a plane. Personally, I prefer to drive.


"For some reason, people have no problem grabbing their baby and hopping on a plane"

Well, this is quite different. Most probably those people drive to the airport or use taxi/uber. Then, upon arrival to the airport they get rid of their luggage - they put the luggage into neat windows and then other people take care of it for them. What they keep around is just most necessary stuff for several hours.

I can't imagine how anything like that would makes sense to be implemented for suburban travel. With suburban travel you can't also have direct roots, it simply not possible to link every destination with every destination so you will have to do multiple changes.

For example, I live in Australia in Sydney suburb - Cronulla. Should I want to travel to Blue Mountains for weekend with my family (110k) using public transit I would need to do something like that:

- Hope on bus, get to the train station. - Hope on train get to the city central railway station. - Change trains to the one that goest to the Blue Mountains - Get off the train - Get on a bus that would bring you close enough to the hotel.

Now all this happens while I manually handle luggage for my wife, myself and all the stuff that is necessary for couple toddlers for 2 days.

It will take about 6 hours in total, one way. Then repeat it backwards.

You do such a trip once and you say - no more.

I can drive there on my Getz under 2 hours with all the stuff neatly packed in the trunk.

I tell what would fix the whole mess. A fleet of electric easy to rent cars of 4 seaters and 7 seaters (large and small families). Something that would come to you house (autopilot FTW), drive you (or you drive it) to the destination and then return to the pool. You might say - Uber but it's not the same, the driver required is the most expensive part. In Australia you can have GoGet but it is not the same again - it doesn't return to the pool when you don't need it anymore and it will sit there for the whole weekend with no use.


Illich's work is interesting. On schooling, medicine, and transportation, I think he gets at a fundamental problem, highlights a great partial solution for part of the population.

But Illich also generalizes too much and has a weird reactionary twist. (It makes perfect sense to me that he was the sort of person who would devote his life to the church but subsequently run into political issues with the church.)

Schooling:

Learning Webs are basically the internet with some tokens for video-conferencing a teacher once in a while. (Proposed in the 70's, no less!)

And it's a great solution for some people in some subjects.

But many students don't have the discipline or need extra hand-holding, and so on in at least one vital subject.

For every student in some subject who learns on their own and whose frustration with the system holds them back, there's at least one student in some subject who just won't learn the material without something resembling a traditional school environment.

And the weird reactionary twist: he sort of harkens back to the good old days while ignoring the fact that we used to just not bother educating most people, and also dismisses anything that's not explicit deschooling.

I remember hearing a recording of him basically telling a teacher that the only way they can truly educate well is by totally giving up on schooling.

I lost a lot of respect for Illich's prescriptions after hearing that, even if I still think he has a great eye for some problems and potential partial solutions. Because I lived in the age of the learning web and could see in my own life that excellent teachers could overcome a lot of the barriers in the system, and there were a lot of things I couldn't learn just from books/websites and friendly folks on IRC and forums.

Also, that poetic tangent at the end of Deschooling always made me cringe.

Medicine:

You could say Illich predicted the opioid epidemic and prescribed lifestyle changes decades before modern medicine caught up, but at the same time if every doctor and medical researcher followed his prescriptions oncology would be stuck in the 70's. And a lot of his work would fit right in among anti-vaccination folks.

I mean, 90% of healthfulness is about lifestyle issues, and medicine in recent history has done a really poor job of stressing that component of treatment. But Illich kind of hard lines about the other 10% in a way that's totally unreasonable.

Transportation: Another great example of a 90% solution that goes off the rails when Illich demands that extra 10%. I'm 100% on board with biking everywhere (and I even do so in the summer, although even then often exceept 15kph). But also, it's nice to travel to different states without going on a months-long pilgrimage...

Illich was very much a brilliant reaction to the more damaging trends that started in the 1950's to 1970's, but he fell in that "extreme ideology" pit that a lot of politics from that era also suffered from.


I think faster transport could be better for this. If we had high speed trains, people could live out in the countryside, yet they could easily get to the big city in an hour or so. It would be the best of both worlds — peace and quiet (and low cost of living!) in the countryside and easy access to what cities have to offer.


Bring back the horse and carriage? Mule teams? We may have just stumbled upon the next big startup craze!

Who needs scooters and self-driving cars when you can hop on a donkey that navigates slowly and entirely for you?


I was too short above.

I see FOMO as the need for instantaneous satisfaction (abstract notion). Fast transport, as an obvious technological advance in the past, to guarantee time and space, removes us from surprise, unknown.

When going to a town not far away was an adventure in itself, today going across the globe is nearly yawn inducing.


> When going to a town not far away was an adventure in itself, today going across the globe is nearly yawn inducing.

Indeed there was novelty to even somewhat local travel, now it's routine and ingrained. And flying across the world is done in a day. Perhaps why so many are looking up at space, it's the next great adventure.


I enjoy good blackout. Especially in the late evening/early night. Lighting up candles. Looking out of the window at people doing the same.

Having only limited battery life that I should probably not use up anyways and having absolutely nothing to do.


I wrote SlowNews[1] in part to deal with the continuous influx of (addictive) content.

[1] https://github.com/srid/slownews


>The moments that we’re spending on our computer checking email slowly accumulate to hours and days, time we’re not spending living our lives.

Well, if I didn't freak the out when I read this sentence. Time to do some journaling and go to sleep.


But first quickly write a Hacker News comment!


Hum, I don’t think the FOMO is linked to Internet usage, but real life things. We do social media to kill time, not because we FOMO.


> I don’t think the FOMO is linked to Internet usage, but real life things.

Ignorance is bliss. If I don't know you are enjoying something, then I won't feel I am missing out on it.

Since folks tend to post the highlights reel of their lives on social media, we see all the fun things and compare to our own and then feel a pang of envy or regret.


> I don’t think the FOMO is linked to Internet usage…

Evidence suggests otherwise: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S235285321...


That still strikes me as highly silly. I mean people have always been afraid of missing out. From the tabloids, gossip, to the land-line era complaints about teenagers and phone bills. It is at most a slight exacerbator with the information flow in a similar way to group think and selection biases.


It's the dose, not the substance, that make the poison.

Because of the smartphone, social media is always with you, everywhere you go, and there is infinite content. That makes it pretty different from all the types of media that came before.


Art imitates life or life imitates art . . . who knows . . .




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