Posted by: bkivey | 10 March 2012

Two Items

I listen to the radio when I’m in the office, and occasionally something interesting will come up on the news. I don’t generally follow the news, because after a while you realize that pretty much the same things happen, only the names and places change. I did find these two items interesting.

Teenage Smokers

The Surgeon General has started a crusade to reduce teenage smoking. This is not news, because every few years someone in government will look for a Cause, and smoking is an easy target. The usual tiresome suspect has been trotted out, to wit, Big Tobacco advertising. The motivation behind the latest crusade is not that the number of teen smokers is declining, apparently it is, but that the rate of decline is slowing. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with systems analysis knows that rates of change don’t usually remain constant, and rates of change in natural systems (including ones where humans are involved) generally follow a natural log curve. As a system approaches equilibrium, the rate of change will decrease.

So, while citing advertising as the motivator behind teenage smoking, what solution might the Surgeon General’s office come up with? Why, they plan to run anti-smoking advertisements. But while announcing this strategy, a spokeswoman states that “teenagers are very skeptical of advertising.” OK, your office has just said that teenagers are influenced by tobacco ads, but they’re ‘very skeptical of advertising’, so your ads might not be effective? Say what?

A Market Solution to Control Teenage Driving

There is a car company offering a programmable key to limit the capabilities of teenage-driven vehicles. The key can be programmed to limit the top speed of the vehicle and the volume of the stereo. If I had a teen driver in the household, I’d be tempted to buy from the manufacturer just for this feature.

As attractive as this feature is, there are some implications if this catches on.

  • Insurance companies may start out by offering discounts to households with these vehicles, but may morph into a prerequisite for insuring teen drivers.
  • Rental car companies would probably find this very attractive. This could be a problem if you have to perform a high-speed maneuver to avoid an accident. Think of freeway on-ramps or some situations on the highway.
  • Municipalities might impose a programming penalty for certain offenses, like speeding or violating noise ordinances.

If a programmable key can control the car’s speed and stereo, it can control a lot of other things. I’m interested to see how this works out, but I can see where some controls are going to be necessary if this device becomes at all common.

Today in History

1849 – Abraham Lincoln applies for a patent; only US president to do so

1862US issues 1st paper money ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 & $1000)

1876 – 1st telephone call made (Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Watson)

1893 – New Mexico State University cancels it’s 1st graduation ceremony, its only graduate Sam Steele was robbed & killed the night before

1910 – China ends slavery

1933 – Nevada becomes 1st US state to regulate narcotics

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