Monday, January 21, 2008

Brain power outage

Some years back (the 70's?) new cars started coming out with an obnoxious alarm that went off when seat belts weren't locked. Fortunately disabling it was a 2 minute job that didn't even require any tools.

Around the same time I worked as a summertime engineering intern for a state govt organization. It was mandated from upon high that in the summer the office could be kept no cooler than 78 degrees. And anyone who ever checked the thermometer in the office would have found us in compliance. But if they looked carefully they'd notice that the little thermometer bulb had been shifted upward against the background markings so that it indicated 78 when it was about 72.

Now we see something like this again - this silly idea of giving the govt an override on your thermostat.

Even if this silliness had gotten off the ground, did anyone think about it at all? Just wait until the first time someone causes a fire trying to stay warm with a disabled heating system, or dies from the heat because the AC doesn't work.

Of course the govt would deny responsibility vehemently, like Ralph Nader groups argued that they couldn't be held responsible for the fact that the airbags they fought so hard for could kill or even decapitate smaller people and children. (Gosh, what could be wrong with having an explosive pointed at your face, anyway? - their hearts were pure!).

Practically speaking such a regulation would probably do little more than cost a few extra bucks and the inconvenience of disabling the old device. Maybe enough suckers good citizens would play along to make it useful for handling peaks.

But there's a far better idea, using price signals, right here.

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