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Stairs didn’t stop the Segway

Like most people, sometimes I happen to read two unrelated things in succession and thereby draw unexpected conclusions.

Dan Cullum recently posted the widely accepted reason for the relative lack of success of the Segway:

The Segway is a great piece of technology. When it was announced, it was meant to change the way humanity moved.

The problem was the Segway wasn’t designed to handle stairs.

And stairs, well, they’re everywhere.

And then Andrew Mueller’s breathless excitement at Paris banning e-scooters:

E-scooters were always an answer to a question that presumably nobody had asked: “What would be an efficient way of making life for pedestrians miserable at best, dangerous at worst?” They have been a blight upon every city on which they have descended. In use, they are a nuisance and a menace. When stationary, they’re ugly and obstructive litter.

By declaring a stop to this nonsense, Paris has set what will hopefully be a resonant example.

Segways and e-scooters are driving at the same goal: moving pedestrians more quickly with less effort. The latter was leagues more successful than the former, yet didn’t solve the alleged ’killer problem’. You can’t ride an e-scooter upstairs, either.

It reminded me not to take the commonly accepted explanation for an enterprise’s failure at face value. It’s probably a lot more complicated than it seems.

The image at the top of this post was generated by Midjourney.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , , .

It’s not always a crisis

I was recently struck by this post on Dan Cullum’s blog. A lot of my professional time is spent explaining to people why something isn’t a crisis, and why they ought not to be panicking about it. It’s not an easy skill, but it’s one that I think I’ve become quite good at over the years.

I find it much harder to do the opposite, and convince someone that something is a crisis when they’re not treating it as one. This applies as much to things that are small and specific (‘this approach to this problem is fundamentally unsafe’) as to things that are large and general (‘the planet’s climate is becoming incompatible with life’).

This is a nut I haven’t cracked.

It strikes me that this is not dissimilar to a challenge I faced in clinical medicine. One of my strengths was my ability to reassure people, to address and calm their fears. But, like most doctors, I struggled with convincing people to change their behaviour, particularly when they judged it to be acceptable, no matter the risk to their personal health.

It’s not always a crisis, but sometimes it is, even when you think otherwise.

The image at the top of this post was generated by Midjourney.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, .

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