I was pulling into Walgreens yesterday when it hit me how perfectly aligned everything was and how many pre-destined turns I made to get there. From the invention of the turn signal to the perfectly spaced lines signaling a parking spot, I realized we’re living in a perfectionist world in many ways. I took a lot of sociology classes in college and learning about social norms proved to be more fascinating to me than laws. After all, laws seem to be just social norms that have been accepted by enough people to be made permanent. What and who determines whether a social norm actually should be made permanent though? Leaving room for true and faster iteration in politics is an interesting idea although I’m happy we don’t push out new laws in government like so many technology companies do with code. Especially after reading this article titled “Don’t support laws you are not willing to kill to enforce“, my view of laws drastically changed. Combine that with basic psychological principles of classical conditioning and laws soon look like the ultimate tool of social learning and negative reinforcement.
^ Those thoughts swirled in my head while I was sitting in the parking lot realizing how many things were put in place in order to simplify things and make everything more effective. It’s almost as if my neighborhood (and many neighborhoods) were created and controlled by perfectionists and control freaks who desperately wanted everyone to color inside the lines. I’m admittedly a perfectionist in many ways but have found that that’s the minority of people. For some, it’s too much to remember and too much to take in all these rules. Prime example, a friend of mine drove down a one way road down town when I was in the car with him last week because he couldn’t take in all of the directions thrown at him from too many signs. He genuinely didn’t see the tiny one way sign hanging by the green light.
My grandmother lived on an 180 acre plot of land. Growing up, I learned to drive there starting at the age of 8 (we had to put pillows on my seat so I could see over the steering wheel). This was an awesome way to learn how to drive both because I was so young and because there was very little stimulus distracting me (other than my mother telling me what to do and where to go). The reason I bring this up is that dirt roads were created and worn down based on where I decided to drive. Every year I would return to drive more and the road I had the summer before could be recreated. The path was created based on where I needed to go. I imagine this is how society used to be way back when. It allowed for more flexibility but I can imagine people go lost a ton more. On the flip side, just because you use a path doesn’t mean you need to pave it. This ties loosely into the principle of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I think we’ve reached a point of over stimulus in most parts of our society. Driving on the highway is overwhelming between your GPS yelling at you, trying to check to make sure the signs match up, checking the speed limit, and trying to avoid being distracted by billboards. When it comes to design, I preach “simplify, simplify, simplify” and I wish that was the case in more parts of our world. I spoke with a friend yesterday about learning and memory classes we took. We both sat in fear talking about how if you stop learning new things and doing new things, your brain just basically rots (not actually but you get my dramatized point). Even just taking a different route home and thinking about how to get there can help stimulate the brain. Nowadays, we have apps for everything to free up our brains to
think about more important things watch more Netflix? It’s almost like everything is set up to shove us in a repetitive path instead of having to really think. It’s quite bizarre when you really think about it! How can we break this? Are we controlling things too much? Seeing as, “every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s” I think this is a real problem and I’m wondering when we’ll begin to look at how our society is set up as a possible cause for this.
Maybe to verify your human when you log into a social media account, we can make it so that we have solve a puzzle or a riddle to verify we’re human (and to get our brains to work harder). It’s an interesting thought to turn the mundane into something that requires actual thought to help boost confidence, boost thought processes, boost creativity, etc.
As for me, I’ll be trying to take new ways home from now on.