Rush hour brain drain

I was in a car during rush hour, and I thought about all of the drivers in the cars around me. Each driver was focusing a major part of their attention on following the car in front of them without screwing up. Which is important, of course.

But it’s only important in the context of a system whereby driving is the only practical way to get from one place to another on the roads. Let’s imagine for a moment that there was some reasonable alternative.

Suppose, for sake of argument, that all cars were self-driving, and that the people in those cars could focus their attention on whatever they wanted to. That would free up several hours a day per person per car.

If you add up all of that collective brain activity, it represents an enormous potential resource. Right now that resource is being pretty much squandered.

Even if you discount the quality of life issues, there might be some reasonable way to measure the economic impact of recovering all of that potentially productive brain time. I suspect that you would end up with an extremely high financial value.

When we measure the potential positive impact on the economy of any transition to self-driving cars, it might make sense to factor that in. If we did so, a world of self-driving cars might start to look like a very good deal indeed.

3 thoughts on “Rush hour brain drain”

  1. If you start to optimize any transportation system to move the most people with the least amount of space and energy – you eventually wind up with a train.

    Trains are something the east coast does way better than the west!

  2. Good point, and also there is room for both. Trains cannot get you door to door, unless you live in a dense Urban location.

  3. I don’t use much of my brain for driving (I’m afraid to say). Following the car in front already gives me good quality thinking time, possibly second only to being in the shower.

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