Everything Needs a Fast Lane

New York City, especially the theater district, is somewhat unique in that it is a place where the streets are half-filled with tourists and half-filled with natives. The natives know where they are going, and are in a hurry. Tourists walk slowly, they stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look at and photograph things. When you’re a New Yorker, tourists are the enemy.

This same phenomenon can be seen in many other places. The highways are the easiest example. Ignoring the debate about speed limits, I’m sure every driver reading this has been stuck behind  an elderly person driving extremely slowly. Everyone must suffer and lose precious time because one person is ruining things for everybody.

If you go to ride the Go Karts at an amusement park, they are stupidly safe. Their top speeds are capped by a governor. They are configured in such a way that you can make it around every corner just by steering with the throttle wide open. There is no chance of flipping over, and very very little chance of hurting yourself. They are also much less fun. Why can’t I ride dangerous go-karts at my own risk, rather than eliminating them entirely?

Notice how whenever you board an airplane, there are all sorts of slow people who waste everyone’s time? They can’t get their carry-ons into the overhead bin. They can’t find their seats. They hang out in the aisle forever. They’re slow getting through security as well, because they don’t know the drill. Frequent fliers are made to suffer because these people are so slow. Why not special lanes, or even flights, where only experienced travelers are allowed?

On Metro North trains, and many others, there are touch-screen ticket vending machines. Some people use these things all the time, so buying tickets takes a few seconds. Many people fail to use them, and cause people behind them in line to miss their train, or to spend extra money to buy a ticket from the conductor. Why not have a few machines for first-time ticket buyers where there is a person to help you and teach you how it works. Have all the other machines give a time limit before sending you to the back of the line.

Lastly, let’s bring it back to technology. Why does almost every ISP block port 25, preventing you from running a mail server? It’s because most people let their computers get filled with malware and viruses that start sending out tons of spam. The result is that good netizens can’t run legitimate and safe mail servers from their homes. How about allowing people to unblock the port at the risk of severe financial penalties if they screw up?

Life needs a fast lane. People should always have the safe option available to them. That option should even be the default, but that doesn’t mean we need to eliminate the risky options entirely. Many people aren’t afraid of danger, and aren’t afraid to fail if it means they can go faster the majority of the time.

I’m not saying we should go back to the olden days where everything was risky and dangerous, and safety really wasn’t an option. Forcing grandma and the tourists to drive in the fast lane is just as ridiculous as me getting stuck behind them. In all areas of life we need more choices for people to make in terms of risk and reward. One size does not fit all. The slow people want to get away from us just as much as we want to zoom past them. I think the net benefit to our society’s productivity and happiness would be tremendous. Let’s make it happen.

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