26 December 2011


"Imagine that you are French.  You are walking along a busy pavement in Paris and another pedestrian is approaching from the opposite direction.  A collision will occur unless you move out of the other's way.  Which way do you step?"

This is the set-up for The Wisdom of Crowds ~ The Strange But Extremely Valuable Science of How Pedestrians Behave.  Our decisions while moving through crowds are frequently subliminal, based on the culture in which we grew up, on the subtle calculus of the movement of objects in space, and on the equally subtle interplay of eye contact and personal presence.  

But there is more going on, as the article explains.  The movements of individuals become naturally subsumed into the flow of groups, not unlike a collective mentality at work.  The probability of the movement of particles is overlaid by the fleeting yet sophisticated judgments of intelligent minds.  Dense crowds have a propensity to spontaneously break into lanes that allow people to move more efficiently in opposite directions.  They also have a propensity to respond in a predictable fashion to obstacles like intersections.  Interesting reading.

Speaking of crowding and compression, here is a splendid video which presents 300 years of fossil fuels in 300 seconds.  Cleverly done and intensely informative, the inevitable upshot is that we must stop thinking and behaving in reaction to events, and start thinking and behaving proactively ~ taking a hard look at the harm we've caused, where it's going, and how we can turn things around to arrive at a healthy and sustainable future.  Even if we didn't have our grandkids to consider (we do), we still owe it to our mother (Mother Earth) to make things right.

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