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Irrational Acceleration (Academic & Motor Vehicle Talk)

What do you think when you hear the word or term irrational? Do you think the word or term irrational is the opposite of rational? Do you think of a person whom is more prone to indulge in their feelings rather than exercising the colloquial term of ‘sound judgment’? Or maybe you get your head planted in the high school mindset (i.e. – an irrational person is someone who just ain’t that good at math). Whatever your thoughts are regarding irrationality, the term certainly has the ability to stir up controversy between both sexes.

I have no problem with arguing, and perhaps this is why I wrote the 1st paragraph; to prepare myself for or negate potential arguments for what I am about to say with respect to irrational acceleration, traffic jams, and motor vehicles.

The term ‘irrational acceleration’ is an intellectual notion or intellectual construct. Irrational acceleration is when a human being puts the pedal to the floor because she or he is feeling disquieted in the mind (i.e. – I have been stuck in this traffic jam for a really long time now and I feel like I am about to reef all remaining hair off the top of my scalp).

Human emotion is complex. It is biological. It is neurological. It is conditioned. And it manifests and festers in innumerous ways (more ways than you and I can count). This is what makes it so complex; the unquantifiable way is which emotion emits itself from a human being (kind of like the uniqueness of falling snowflakes?).

Complexity, especially when we are talking in the realm of emotion, can be scary. It introduces the idea of unpredictability, innovation, and to varying degrees – irrationality. Therefore, irrationality has the ability to produce frightful results, particularly on the freeway where velocities constantly change.

Which brings us back to part of the original discussion (mentioned in previous post) – traffic jams, human emotion, and irrational acceleration (irrational acceleration because it is considered to be acceleration spawned by anger, annoyance, frustration, etc). Furthermore, it is irrational because the individual allows the operation of the motor vehicle to be guided by disquieted emotion (removing higher reasoning from the decision-making process thereby reducing levels of inter-motorist safety).

 Inter-motorist safety is jeopardized by the phenomenon known as a traffic jam. A traffic jam naturally incites volatile human emotion (anger, frustration, aggravation and the like). It incites the volatile human emotion because people tend to enjoy moving about freely in their world; arriving at destination B from A in as timely and smooth manner as possible.

Time is limited. Time is precious. Time for all of eternity is our precious resource. Being stuck; not moving in time, in a traffic jam, heightens negative and impatient emotions in the human being – leading to acceleration that is irrational and unsafe.

Safety is the key. Workable solutions can be created to neutralize human emotional reactivity to traffic jams. This may well be a powerful and provocative postulation; a ideological doctrine that threatens the hedonistic views of rugged individualism. Irrational acceleration is a fix, it is a high – a psychological drug to ease the pain of congestive waiting. A burst of speed to regain control of a problem beyond our control. But is it beyond our control? Will we continue to passively accept our own irrationalities? Will we continue to ignore our irrationalities and mightily proclaim ‘I am entitled to my irrationalities, therefore I am me, in my space, on this planet; in my time’. You cannot take my irrationality away from me, it is mine and I will hold it up for all to see in all of its glory.

The accelerator is mine and we have an understanding. Me and my accelerator need not worry about every other driver and their accelerators. We will all accelerate together in one mad fit of a traffic jam. The gasoline will be chugged at the expense of the consumer and accelerated entitlement will be felt.

Unless, of course, we say ‘wait a minute’, what is going on here. Is there not a new way for us to exercise moderation of use while behind the wheel? Is there not a way for us to build new systems that will enhance and promote motorist safety while, at the same time, maintaining an extremely high degree of driver autonomy. Is there not a way for us to eliminate some irrationality and still keep the joys associated with acceleration?

There are powers out there that have the ability to squash or obliterate such an idea if it ever came close to realization; like a well-lit cigarette being thrown in a cold bucket of water. I would ask the sum of such powers; is this idea even worth considering? Or, is my head off in some half-shaped cloud?

Whichever way society decides, I will go on thinking, writing, and asking questions even if the ideas are way out in left field.

I hope you will too.

Matthew Polkinghorne

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