I do not use Facebook

I have been on Facebook and truly enjoyed staying in touch with many of my friends. Hearing the buzz and enjoying the “ambient intimacy” is truly amazing. Knowing what everyone around me is up to, where they travel, what they do, read, think, etc. It is great way of being there, or at least, feeling as if one is out there with all the friends. However, Facebook has some serious flaws and I have decided we should part our ways.

It was not easy to break off from the experience. But, there are several reasons why I have decided to quit. One is that Facebook blurs the boundary between the friends I really want to stay close with, and the ones that might be more attuned with Facebook itself. What it means is that I end up socialising more with people that just are on Facebook, instead of spending time with friends I care more about, who are not on Facebook. The balance needs to be brought back.

The second reason is, that as with everything else that we do, our decisions and actions influence everyone else. I think the way Facebook has started, how it operates, and what its founders represent is not something I would not give my thumbs up. Therefore, it would be hypocritical of me to use the service it despite my moral objections to what this service represent, and how it came about.

The third reason is, that Facebook just got it wrong. I support the opinions that a completely new, alternative model is required. Therefore, if I continue using Facebook I’d be voting for status quo, instead of progress. Everyone should quit, so that others have incentive to work and provide something better.

How has it been without it? I do miss it sometimes; I do miss some of the friends that my quitting Facebook make “inaccessible” anymore to socialise with. But hey, I’ve re-established email correspondence with some of my close friends, and in a long run they are going to be more rewarding, perhaps deeper relationships. Media and technology should work for us not us for the technology.


Who can constitute a passenger?

The children argument

This is an appendix to what I’ve written before about Dunedin ride share scheme. A friend provided me with a sketch of an arguments about why children might be excluded from the scheme. The argument goes like that:

“children do not own cars and do not drive cars and they do not contribute to the traffic, therefore they should be removed from the carpool scheme as their participation does not INCREASE the number of unused vehicles in the city.”

The argument is actually a special case of a more general argument:

“any person who does not own a car does not contribute to the traffic, therefore they can be removed from the carpool scheme as their participation in no way INCREASES the number of unused cars in the city.”

I think this argument is irrational and will actually lead to more people owning more cars. Let me explain why.

Let us imagine that there are two students’ flats on the outskirts of the city. In the flat A there are 4 girls, each of which is a driver and owns her own car. In the flat B, there are also four girls, but only one owns a car and she has a driving license. The other three do not own cars and may not have driving licenses. As before, we have a single parking spot left and all 8 girls decided to come to town. We have the following situations:

  1. All girls from flat A came in their own cars. Cars on the road and trying to park: 4. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if 1 car can park: 1 person. Unhappiness if the car cannot park: 4 people (3 are always unhappy: only 1 car can park – limited resource). Number of cars left unused: 0.
  2. All girls from flat A came in a single car, leaving 3 cars by their flat. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if they can park: 4 people. Unhappiness if they cannot park: 4 people. Number of cars left unused: 3.
  3. The driver from flat B came in her car, and all the 3 flatmates took a bus. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 1. Happiness if the car can park: 1 person. Unhappiness if the car cannot park: 4 people (3 are always unhappy, taking the bus regardless). Number of cars left unused: 0.
  4. All girls from flat B came in a single car. Cars trying to park: 1. Number of people trying to park: 4. Happiness if they can park: 4 people. Unhappiness if they cannot park: 4 people. Number of cars left unused: 0.

Remember, there is only 1 empty space left, so we have to decide who gets the preferential treatment. Who is entitled to use it, so that we maximise the happiness and the use of the limited resource (our one single parking space). Let us put any moral considerations aside and look exclusively into practicality of the scheme (in other words let us be free to discriminate).

In cases 1 and 3, if the driver is entitled to park, the overall happiness value would be 1, which is pretty poor. If we compare it to cases 2 and 4, where the happiness value is 4, we have a clear winner. Ride share works. Clearly, we should give preference to 2 and/or 4 by implementing carpool scheme and discourage single-occupant vehicle usage. A simple ride share scheme would eliminated any incentive for cases 1 and 3 to occur. Done. Easy.

Benefits of maximising unused cars

Now let us take a closer look into cases 2 and 4. These cases are almost exactly the same, but, in the case 2 we have 3 unused cars parked by the flat. So we could be tempted to claim that we could achieved MORE by giving preference to girls from flat A, because we have INCREASED the total number of unused vehicles in the city in this case. This claim is correct: in the case of flat A we have an increased number of unused cars in the city.

We have 2 possible ride share options to decide:

  • [A] We DO NOT give preference to Flat A. There is NO preference of WHO constitutes a Passenger.
  • [B] We DO give preference to Flat A. The preference is for DRIVERS who OWN their cars. Rationale: increased number of unused cars in the city.

The example above shows the paradox. Let us see what will happen, if we were not to give preference to flat A (option A above)? The following assertions would be true:

  1. Girls from flat A have a strong incentive to sell their unused vehicles and share a single car for their commuting. If they cannot park or travel in special lanes why bother owning so many cars? Better to sell some of them and share a smaller number of cars for commuting and travel.
  2. Girls from flat B would have strong incentive NOT TO PURCHASE vehicles for themselves. They would continue to share the single vehicle that they currently own in their flat.

Conversely, what will happen, if we were to give preference to flat A (option B above)? It would be correct to assume that:

  1. Girls from flat A have now a strong incentive NOT to sell their cars. They need to OWN cars and NOT USE THEM to be able to participate in the scheme.
  2. Girls from flat B have a strong incentive TO PURCHASE their own cars, and become drivers, so that they can start participating in the scheme.

The effect of option A and B above is quite the opposite to what it supposedly intend to do. It sends a message about benefits of car ownership and being a driver.  Besides, the argument of maximising the number of unused vehicles is irrational and has nothing to do with a carpool scheme as such. Why should it matter how many cars are not being used? The goal is to have LESS cars on the roads, less cars parked by the properties, and less cars parked in the city. The goal is to have LESS cars. Period. Not to have MORE unused cars. Option B does not work. It provides incentive to increase the total number of cars.

Children revisited

So where does it leave the  children? Flat B example is equivalent to the household with a single mother and 3 children. Same as flat B a “mom with kids” do not “leave” any unused car behind. So even if the argument was correct and there was a benefit of maximising the number of unused cars and restricting the scheme to drivers and car owners only, a flat with single mom and 3 kids would be indistinguishable to a flat with 4 adults out of which only 1 owns a car. Therefore, the Rule [1](a) restricting the age of the scheme participants is NOT justified by the argument itself, and it is illogical to claim that “children do not contribute to the traffic….”. Most passengers in the ride share scheme do not contribute to the traffic – this is what the scheme is.

Summary

Option A, even though does not directly reduces the number of unused vehicles, overall reduces the incentive for car ownership. And this is what I think what carpooling is all about. The only long term and rational choice is to chose option A, where car owners and drivers are not in any way treated preferentially. “Second passengers are considered any living person. Additional passengers may be adults, children or infants.”

If either of the parents can share their car with the children and take part in the scheme, the scheme would provide a strong incentive to encourage a single vehicle per household. If we take that out we encourage families to own multiple vehicles per household.

Everywhere else in the world the authorities made the rational choice of making “any living person” to constitute a passenger. Not only does it make perfect sense in the context of equality and human rights, but it makes sense in the context of what carpool scheme is all about too. Not in Dunedin.


“The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche, 2008. Revised and updated version of 2002 edition.

page 17, on unconscious, living corpses… “Most of us do live like that; we live according to a pre-ordained plan, We spend our youth being educated. Then we find a job, and meet someone, marry, and have children. We buy a house, try to make a success of our business, aim for dreams like a country house or second car. We go away on holiday with our friends. We plan for retirement. The biggest dilemmas some of us ever have to face are where to take our next holiday or whom to invite at Christmas. Our lives are monotonous, petty, and repetitive, wasted in the pursuit of the trivial, because we seem to know of nothing better.”

page 19, on Active Laziness… “there are different species of laziness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern style is like the one practiced to perfection in India. It consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea, listening to Hindi film music blaring on the radio, and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issue.”

page 20, “Sometimes I think that the greatest achievement of modern culture is its brilliant selling of illusions and its barren distractions. Modern society seems to me a celebration of all the things that lead away from the truth, make truth hard to live for, and discourage people from even believing that it exists.”

page 35, “Usually we assume we must grasp in order to have that something that will ensure our happiness. We ask ourselves: How can we possibly enjoy anything if we cannot own it? How often attachment is mistaken for love! Even when the relationship is a good one, love is spoiled by attachment, with its insecurity, possessiveness, and pride;”

page 121, “In Tibetan ego is called dak dzin, which means “grasping to a self.” Ego is then defined as incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of “I” and “mine,” self and other, and all the concepts, ideas, desires, and activity that will sustain that false construction. Such a grasping is futile from the start and condemned to frustration, for there is no basis or truth in it, and what we are grasping at is by its very nature ungraspable. The fact that we need to grasp at all and go on and on grasping shows that in the depths of our being we know that the self does not inherently exist. From this secret, unnerving knowledge spring all our fundamental insecurities and fear.”

p.124, “Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to. As you listen more and more to the teachings, contemplate them, and integrate them into your life, your inner voice, your innate wisdom of discemment, what we call in Buddhism “discriminating awareness,” is awakened and strengthened, and you begin to distinguish between its guidance and the various clamorous and enthralling voices of ego. The memory of your real nature, with all its splendor and confidence, begins to return to you.

You will find, in fact, that you have uncovered in yourself your own wise guide. Because he or she knows you through and through, since he or she is you, your guide can help you, with increasing clarity and humor, negotiate all the difficulties of your thoughts and emotions. Your guide can also be a continual, joyful, tender, sometimes teasing presence, who knows always what is best for you and will help you find more and more ways out of your obsession with your habitual respones and confused emotions. As the voice of your discriminating awareness grows stronger and clearer, you will start to distinguish between its truth and the various deceptions of the ego, and you will be able to listen to it with discemment and confidence.

The more often you listen to this wise guide, the more easily you will be able to change your negative moods yourself, see through them, and even laugh at them for the absurd dramas and ridiculous illusions that they are. Gradually you will find yourself able to free yourself more and more quickly from the dark emotions atht have ruled your life, and this ability to do so is the greatest miracle of all.”

p.126, “Listening is a far more difficult process than most people imagine; really to listen in the way that is meant by the masters is to let go utterly of ourselves, to let go of all the information, all the concepts, all the ideas, and all the prejudices that our heads are stuffed with. If you really listen […] those concepts that are our real hindrance, the one thing that stands between us and our true nature, can slowly and steadily be washed away. […] ‘If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.’ The beginner’s mind is an open mind, an empty mind, a ready mind, and if we really listen with a beginner’s mind, we might really begin to hear. If we listen with a silent mind, as free as possible from the clamor of preconceived ideas, a possibility will be created for the truth of the […]”