Efficiency abstinence

Oct 042007

Over on the Phred bicycle touring list, we’ve gotten into one of our discussions of when is the U.S. going to go metric? That topic doesn’t come up as often as “panniers vs trailers”and isn’t as heated as “helmets yes or no” but it’s an oldie. (If any of my fellow Phreds have found me over here, Hi!)

Someone gave a rather good-humored response to my take on the subject, which I won’t post here due to not having asked for nor been granted permission, but I hereby give myself permission to quote myself:

No, no, I didn’t say we’d be better off. What I’m saying is the drive for greater efficiency and conformity isn’t all gain. There are usually some social losses, too.Here’s another example of how that works, from a bike ride last month:


And I had almost forgotten about this bike ride on the subject:


And here’s where to learn about some people who are very deliberate in evaluating whether to adopt the most efficient technology. They don’t all come to the same conclusions each time, but they all think long and hard about the effect of efficiency on social life before adopting any changes. But they aren’t exactly opposed to conformity, either.


Which got me to wondering — I wonder how many of the people who berate ourselves for being so backward as to not go metric in this country are also anti-globalization warriors? If people don’t want all retail trade to be monopolized by Wal-Mart, all eating establishments to become MacDonalds, all coffee shops to become Starbucks, maybe they should rethink the mania for uniformity in measurement systems, laws, transportation systems, whatever.