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This was a really interesting article from Vox about whether we are becoming too reliant on GPS. One point that seemed spot on was that by relying on GPS and not on maps and planning (at least in conjunction with it) people’s navigational senses are dulled. I am sure you have seen other applications of this – from students using calculators to do simple arithmetic, etc.

Maybe this is just me wearing ideological blinders, but indulge me for a second. Think about why else people worry about GPS? They seem to worry about being so reliant on a single system, a single technology, a fragile institution, for so much of our lives. Any shock to this system would be extremely disruptive especially since our “instincts” and senses are being dulled by our increasing reliance on this.

That story obviously has very natural parallels in other realms. Think about the fear people have of self-driving cars. Sure, they have the potential to be awesome, as does GPS, but the complete lack of control and individual feedback into that planned and pre-programmed system at a minimum makes people uncomfortable but ultimately may pose serious challenges for whether such a system could ever be successful. I am sure you have engaged in discussions over good beer about the trolley-like problems we run into when we try to program a self-driving car to avoid various impediments and people in roadways.

Now it is child’s play for me to continue in this line of thinking, but would you accept that these sorts of fears are common among lots and lots of people? I tend to think that fear of self-driving cars and fear of over-reliance on GPS or some other technology seems to cut across political beliefs, is that a decent assumption? Well, I find that extremely interesting. Think about the nuts and bolts of the concerns here – they are concerns over one-size-fits all, centrally planned situations where individuals lose autonomy.

I am not quite ready to suggest that if you are a lover of Trump and Hillary and Bernie and also are worried about GPS that you are a hypocrite, but rather I think what I am sensing is that there is a great unease about central planning and lack of individual sovereignty in all of us. The consequences of this sense, well, who knows. But as always, I wonder how there is not great internal conflict in folks who love the idea of expanded regulatory apparati, global governance or outright central planning, with these sorts of applications.


2 Responses to “Are We All Skeptical of Central Planning?”

  1. Jason Treit says:

    I’d put it down to a much older bias than mistrust of central planning. It’s a bias that travels equally well across ideologies: mistrust of specialization and trade. There is no shortage of belief in the soul-destroying essence of passing off various things in your life to markets (tending land, making clothes, building shelves, balancing accounts, correcting typos). Disdain for tools that outsource brain work goes back at least to Socrates’ invective against the technology of writing. The same logic holds for getting me from point A to B: it may be unsettling that there are people pooling capital and building machines to take that problem off my hands, yet on balance I’m thrilled to let them try.

    • wintercow20 says:

      That’s a really good point. I think the general “bias” is simply risk aversion manifest in its various forms, not central planning per se.

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