"lying to the plebs modifies their behavior very slightly in a good way or is it in a bad way?"
It's irrelevant, treat your fellow humans with some modicum of respect and dignity. Terry Pratchett's first rule of morality "don't treat people as if they're objects".
Anyone caught casually deceiving people for some tiny perceived benefit to either themselves or the people deserves a severe lesson in how "irrationally" angry people get when they're lied to.
You can save this page and the comments as an example to future generations of how the elites of this century had become morally bankrupt.
Beyond that, I strongly agree with your sentiment, and I frequently point out that if you were to apply standard marketing practice to your friends, you'd quickly get punched in the face - and justifiably so. To me, lying needs heavy justification - on the level of saving lives.
I like this quote: "Promoting less than maximally accurate beliefs is an act of sabotage. Don't do it to anyone unless you'd also slash their tires." 
 - E.g. evacuating a city of million+ will necessarily cause a lot of deaths and heavily disrupt regional economy, leading to further deaths and suffering. Therefore, it's IMO justified for the government to avoid triggering evacuations if the risk is low, even if that means sitting on some information.
 - https://web.archive.org/web/20130728200940/http://www.accele..., via https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/XTWkjCJScy2GFAgDt/dark-side-...
Agreed, and in case someone is looking for scientific justification, you can just look at it as specialized market economy (as quite a lot of things can be). Lying in this case reducing market information, which reduces efficiency. In this case, that translated into you wasting a small amount time and effort pushing a fake button. But multiply it across all the times you do it, and all the people that do it, and it's actually a fairly large drain overall (not to mention the frustration of expecting your actions to matter and them never seeming to).
I think the common refrain against this is that people don't act rationally or in the best interest of the whole in these cases, but I think that's more often just another case of poor market information leading to inefficiency, even if the source is different. The problem with manipulating the market by reducing information even more (deceiving people) is that if it works it likely only works while existing conditions persist, and may become much less useful later as conditions change. I.e. if people were crossing before the button was pressed and the placebo button helped, what happens when crosswalk sings start showing countdowns and people then become accustomed to noting that and waiting for them regardless if there's a button or not? Better information has make the system more efficient... except for those that still waste their time with the buttons that don't do anything, and now the prior strategy to manipulate people is making the system less efficient than if it wasn't present.
Which is all just a really drawn out way of saying and showing that treating people with respect and giving them as much information as possible (and definitely not giving them false information) should lead to better outcomes overall.
This isn't about the retirees as much as it's about society as a whole and the economics thereof.
Simply: Most cultures are now unwilling to put up with old people dying in the streets. We're even iffy on the idea of workhouses and other accoutrements of the Poor Law. Therefore, we have welfare, in multiple forms, and having a lot of people hitting welfare in their Medically Expensive Years is bad for multiple reasons.
> hiding information about a probable disaster to avoid panic
More like avoiding blame when they're culpable.
> E.g. evacuating a city of million+ will necessarily cause a lot of deaths and heavily disrupt regional economy, leading to further deaths and suffering. Therefore, it's IMO justified for the government to avoid triggering evacuations if the risk is low, even if that means sitting on some information.
Failure to prepare on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part... and if it does, I demand to know that you failed to prepare, so you can face some consequences.
do people really need another data point that interactions with government services are filled with pointless exercises and things that may or may not matter?
and it isn't negligible. what about people in wheel chairs or other handicapped situations? and how many times are people wasting time, energy, and conversation discussing traffic light buttons? it's wasteful and disrespectful.
These days, I think it would suffice for the local/national (depending on the scope) government to announce that pedestrian lights buttons are no longer working because $reasons. Rebroadcasted by media, it would reach many people, and anyone else would know where to look for answer, if they become interested in the question.
There's no real need to lie. It could be as simple as a tweet.
2. If it's overly difficult for handicapped people to press the buttons then they should never have been implemented in the first place. But considering that they exist, if they are difficult to press and pressing is required to cross, isn't that just altogether worse for disabled people than if they are difficult to press but entirely nonfunctioning/nonrequired?
If we want to get philosophical, just the existence of a police force treats people as an antagonist, and interaction between people and the police makes it clear that respect and dignity are out of the question. Nothing is more authoritarian and arrogant than the existence of the police.
But no one will argue in favor of dissolving the police, and the reason is very obvious.
My point is: people are not perfect, never has been, and never will. Acknowledging this is something basically everyone does when childhood ends and adolescence starts.
That seems specific to United States, or maybe even to United States' media coverage. Elsewhere, existence of police treats people as vulnerable and in need of protection from occasional dangers that pop up.
Impossible. Not bad or wrong or even stupid, but impossible.
If you have no police, everyone's police. How is that abolishing the police?
The thinkers analyze the role police play in modern society. This refers to modern police forces that have their most direct roots in the late 18th century.
The thinkers have a political point to make. Well and good. They'd do well to think about chains of custody and interrogation rules and why those things are important to having a society not run by capricious mobs who convict and then hold the trial.
I'm not sure how you could've assumed I meant "all" left-wing thinkers. Only that a significant amount have talked about it.
You're very much welcome to go-to Anarchist or Marxist circles and argue for the modern policing system though.
re this century, maybe this has always been the attitude but I think you see it in "nudge" ideas which came about within the last 20 years. Govt/Corp application of applied behavioural psychology combined with (at least the UK and I think Europe) an acceptance of a nanny state to a degree that would have been unthinkable previously.
I don't think there's anything wrong with incentivizing the behaviour you want to see. In the end, every modern corporation does the exact same thing as what you claim nanny states do: try to make your desire align with theirs, and making it hard to resist by exploiting superego affinity (e.g your boss presents herself as your friend so you feel bad disobeying or refusing to work overtime).
There's some blurred territory I totally agree, in between egregious deception and "expected, competitive" deception eg. make-up, presenting yourself well on a date, moderating your opinions, but this example isn't even close. Noone expects buttons to not work and there's no unavoidable competitive marketplace in public infrastructure providers where there's some massive pressure to be immoral or die.
These buttons have bothered me for a long time because it just illustrates how short sited the thinking is in our government institutions.
This small lie may reduce jaywalking by 3%, in the short term.
But for the future generations growing up in a world where the government makes buttons that don't work, public trust will erode, conspiracy theories will seem more reasonable, and most importantly government employees will have a new standard to weigh their decisions against. If lying was permissible in this case for a slight benefit the maybe a slightly more egregious lie would be acceptable in a different situation.
And on a separate note, once you expect these buttons to be fake people stop pressing them. When you then encounter a "real" button you miss an entire cycle on the crosswalk because you have been trained to ignore the buttons, and this results in people getting absolutely furious.
Found the lawyer.
Frankly, I don't think governments should engage in this kind of deceptive social engineering. If you have a problem with jaywalking, enforce jaywalking laws. Crosswalk functions should be transparent: either manual with a button or automatic without a button. It fuels resentment to be toyed with by a clever social experiment, which is a small but real erosion of the trust relationship between government and citizenry. It's a hidden cost that isn't captured in the financial bottom line (cost savings being the original argument for leaving the buttons when intersections were converted to automatic).
Once I walked up to a pedestrian scramble intersection with several people standing at it and it went around the cycle once in front of me and I realized none of them had pressed the button. I clarified aloud to them that you have to press the button as I pressed it. They exclaimed that they thought something was wrong with it as they had been waiting for 2 cycles already and didn't realize you needed to press the button.
I would imagine rather than a placebo effect, it's more of a self-selection phenomenon - rather than pressing a button making people more patient, the people who are more likely to follow "the rules" are more likely to press the button. And even if there is hypothetically a placebo effect, the result would be irrelevant if almost no one presses the button.
When I'm in the UK I will normally not press the pedestrian button (unless its the type of pedestrian only crossing which only activate with the button, not on traffic lights on a junction) . But when I'm in the US, or a different country with jaywalking laws, I will stick to the rules much more rigidly.
I also really enjoy the first time crossing a road when I get back, the taste of freedom!
Just checked it for Germany, sensibly it's fined if you walk on the Autobahn or some other street limited to cars only. Crossing any other street - even if there is a crosswalk nearby - will only be fined if you at least create a danger for someone else. And then it's all <= 10€.
I remember wondering how anyone ever got anywhere.
What people do here is continue to cross after they lose right-of-way. This means cars have to sit through 3 or 4 lights before they can turn the corner. That's half the traffic problem with downtown Seattle.
No ticket, nothing.
I'm underlining it was a tourist not because I particularly like Parisians, but because there is enough bike traffic (and little electric cars) that most Parisians know not to cross using hearing only.
I used to be a Bostonian and am a current MA resident, though I work in Cambridge. I've played more chicken on Comm Ave than I care to admit. :)
I'm from NYC and they're definitely not enforced. (Outside of rare exceptions?) They happen all the time. On the major street I live on (two lanes each way), they recently converted one lane each direction to "bus only". There's more cars than fit in one lane, and so there are /regularly/ cars blocking the box, and I've never seen any kind of enforcement, just awful effects to traffic. (Even as a pedestrian. It's hard to predict what the drivers of those cars are going to do, even if you have the signal and you're in the crosswalk.)
Part of me wonders if there's almost an aspect of not wanting to cause offense involved. If you're the person who presses the button, you're responsible for the ire of whatever drivers you delay, so you'll either wait for an gap to run across the road or someone else'll press the button and absolve you.
Amusingly, that also goes in the same order of 'who is more likely to kill you if they run into you', which may play a part.
Eitherway, I always press the button. It doesn't matter if it's rush hour, middle of the day, or middle of the night.
My safety is more important than saving a driver a minute on their journey.
Being courteous in mixed traffic is all about predicting what others will do (and choosing what you do to not conflict with that) and behaving in a way that will let them predict what you will do (so they can act in a way that does not conflict with you). Being able to predict what others want to do is very important to be a courteous pedestrian/cyclist/driver. Generally speaking I find that people who hate a certain type of traffic do so because they do not empathize with that group of road users are bad at predicting what that group will do. This consequently makes them likely to be bad drivers/cyclists/pedestrians because it is harder for them to optimize their actions to not conflict with that other road users.
I've seen many people not press the buttons thinking it's just there as a placebo, it's mostly tourists though as it's common knowledge amongst Londoners that the button signals the traffic operating system that a pedestrian would like to cross.
The only reason being that, when driving, I wish people would do the same since I always seem to get held up by a red light when the person who pressed the button has long since gone.
Some low-use crossings on busier roads (in UK) will interrupt immediately. Presumably they realise that delay causes pedestrians to choose crossing without the traffic signals assistance; and so signal controllers go for the safer option of immediately acting on pedestrian request.
See here for a comparison of old vs. new
I get why this exists in terms of not having cars on the busy street waiting for a countdown when there's no actual person there, but I find it very frustrating that there's basically zero chance that I will just "get a green" crossing the busy street, since it's such a narrow window now. And because I can't trigger the road sensor with my bicycle, it also means I have to ride up on the sidewalk to get to the button.
I would really rather it was just a timer.
There was actually a kickstarter a few years ago to build a magnetic loop you could put on your bike to trigger the sensor via a button press, but unfortunately it didn't meet its funding target and seems to have gone underground: https://www.veloloop.com/faq/
There's some pretty good information here:
But I've been lucky enough to have California government on my side, I guess.
I don't know if the button does anything else, or if it was just repurposed like you describe.
I'm gradually training myself not to jam my finger painfully against them to be "sure" I pressed.
If it turns out they're also placebos, I think I'm just going to give one a good kick next time I go by...
More on topic, I wonder if people who jaywalk don't press buttons, or people who press buttons don't jaywalk? Seems like people who are already not going to jaywalk are more predisposed to button presses, but will not cross against the light even if they don't press the button.
There are many indirect effects that may help, people feeling represented is one of them. But they are near to irrelevant when compared to that direct one.
Forget worrying about single votes: even having most of the votes isn't necessarily enough to influence things! (Referring to the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections, and to the concept of gerrymandering.)
If you have buttons that are designed to be placebo from the start, I find that unethical.
If you have buttons that work, but have to be disabled due to a change in plans, that strikes me as less problematic (but they should still eventually be removed).
So, how you get there matters.
An analysis that considers the reduction in crossing against the light without weighing the consequences of dishonesty is incomplete.
Let's take the example further and see if you can find a point where it starts to be obviously unethical, then work your way backwards on the principle discovered.
How about we lie to you about the contents of your food, in some way that manipulates you to be healthier?
Still OK with that, why don't we tell you that something is vegetarian if you can never tell the difference, by your utilitarian metric you've increased my happiness, I got to enjoy some delicious meal.
If I find out you have one day left to live and that day will be happier not knowing that fact, do I have the right to lie to you about it? The utilitarian benefit calculation goes up so case closed right?
If someone if a devout Jehovah's witness, give them a blood transplant and deny that it ever happened, do you have the right to do that?
Not everyone is on the same utilitarian value curve as you and you don't have the right to mess with and deceive them because you think you're smarter than they are. Some (most) people value truth, dignity or reality in their utility function, and you might not even be smarter than all of them.
Governments and corporations literally lie to us every day. Not causing a light to change three seconds earlier (because it will still change) doesn't violate anyone's civil liberties or religion or cause their death. Governments do manipulate things already to make people healthier and safer. Soda taxes, seat belts, food pyramids (bought by the FDA) are all examples.
In this case, most municipalities have laws against jay walking. One could argue this is just an enforcement of that law.
Placebos are psychological manipulation and that's why they are illegal in medicine in various countries.
Deception, especially in a safety-critical scenario, leads to mistrust, cynicism and even paranoid thinking.
Guess what? The antivax movement and most silly conspiracy theories are fueled by mistrust.
Like they now will make sound when its your turn to cross for people with impaired sight, but only if the button is pressed so people living nearby don't have loud crossing sounds going off all the time.
Also some now activate flashing lights surrounding the crosswalk to alert drivers.
Is lying to people for their own good ethical? You decide, I don't think there is a correct answer.
In fact the second case (not removing the buttons) can be seen as the least ethical of the two. In the first case, it is an assumed choice, you did it because you think it is for the best.
In the second case, you let money guide your ethical choices. That's essentially Black Hat's answer to the trolley problem (https://xkcd.com/1455/)
The only ethical problem here is caused if you do not use the collected data, or do not stop the study after a sufficient amount of data is collected.
EDIT: Thanks to a_c_s for pointing out that the button can work when the elevator is in emergency/service mode. More fun information on elevators, crosswalk and other buttons can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/us/placebo-buttons-elevat...
1. They work as labeled, immediately closing the door.
2. They work, but only after door has been open longer than a threshold time, or only if the door open time has been extended using the "door open" button.
3. They work, but only when the elevator is in some special mode such as fire/emergency mode.
4. They are supposed to work, but broke. A broken "door close" button does not put the elevator out of service, and might not even be noticed at all (especially if it is a category #2 button) for a long time, and so a broken "door close" button can stay broken for a very long time.
5. They would work except they have been disabled by the owner, perhaps to comply with laws, or perhaps because there were too many assholes prematurely shutting doors.
6. They are placebos.
Really? I don't think there would be any change or effect regarding microbes passed around the population if pedestrian crossing buttons did not exist. They just aren't a disease vector, or at the most optimistic are down in the statistical noise at a one in millions chance of having an effect.
If pump handles are a problem, I bet traffic buttons are as well.
When you have a cold or flu and wipe your nose, pressing a light switch transfers active viruses to the switch.
(J Med Virol. 2007 Oct;79(10):1606-10. Environmental contamination with rhinovirus and transfer to fingers of healthy individuals by daily life activity. Winther B1, McCue K, Ashe K, Rubino JR, Hendley JO.)
Flu and cold viruses found on handrails, TSA luggage trays, & buttons of airport payment machines
(BMC Infect Dis. 2018 Aug 29;18(1):437. doi: 10.1186/s12879-018-3150-5. Deposition of respiratory virus pathogens on frequently touched surfaces at airports. Ikonen N1, Savolainen-Kopra C2, Enstone JE3, Kulmala I4, Pasanen P5, Salmela A5, Salo S4, Nguyen-Van-Tam JS3, Ruutu P2; PANDHUB consortium.
Viruses contaminating touched surfaces last for about 7 days, maybe more.
(Am J Infect Control. 2018 Jan;46(1):105-107. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2017.07.014. Epub 2017 Oct 12. Isolation and identification of human coronavirus 229E from frequently touched environmental surfaces of a university classroom that is cleaned daily. Bonny TS1, Yezli S2, Lednicky JA3.
Viruses on contaminated surfaces last longer outdoors in sub-zero temperatures than in heated indoor environments
(Appl Environ Microbiol. 1983 Oct;46(4):901-5. Survival of human parainfluenza viruses in the South Polar environment. Parkinson AJ, Muchmore HG, Scott EN, Scott LV.)
Touching a surface and then wiping your eyes or nose gives you a 50% chance of getting a cold/flu
(Am J Epidemiol. 1982 Nov;116(5):828-33. Transmission of experimental rhinovirus infection by contaminated surfaces. Gwaltney JM Jr, Hendley JO.)
It's pretty impressive, or scary, when you come from a country where people respect the crossing lights, but once you're accustomed to it, you just can't stand waiting for the green light if there is no car in sight (let's be honest, no car in 30m range is enough)
There is no rhyme or reason for how traffic light buttons work in Germany. It all seems random.
If people learn the system acknowledges their needs and tries it best to let them cross safely, it might lead to much better long term compliance then some fake buttons which are bound to be exposed as fake. The whole idea of giving higher priority to cars is an insult to taxpayers walking their neighborhoods.
If we could squeeze 20% more traffic capacity from a given congested intersection with a one time investment of, say, under €200K, it would be a major breakthrough. We use a complex system that involves periodically measuring traffic flows using pneumatic tubes, then feeding that data to a computerized model that will produce the timing sequences for the lights lights and their evolution during a day. There is a crew moving around the district installing these tubes and counters for a week or so.
The current state of the art are induction loops embedded in the asphalt that measure the number of incoming vehicles and adjust the timings in real time. A purely optical detection that can work in all weather and recognize all types of vehicles or even pedestrians would be quite a feat.
Anyway, thank you for your factual and data infused contribution.