A cautionary note for America

We must get smarter if we hope to prosper in the the 21st century, an era that might prove unkind to fools.

The pedestrian ‘push’ buttons at New York’s intersections don’t actually work. They were deactivated in the 1970s when computer-controlled automatic traffic signals were installed but left in place because removing them is too costly. Apparently most ‘close door’ buttons in lifts don’t work either. But give us a button and we’ll press it, not because the button works but because the sense of being in control makes us feel good (when subjects are crammed into a lift for example, those closest to the controls show lower stress levels).

Feeling in control doesn’t mean that we are in control, but who cares?  As Slartibartfast said in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “I’d rather be happy than right!” 

— “The lunatics are running the asylum”, Dylan Grice, Société Générale, 2 September 2010

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