Traffic Jams and Automobiles

Fred Pohl famously said that the job of the science fiction writer was to predict the traffic jam, not the automobile.

During SoP1 I tried to incept this principle strongly with the cohort. As we gear up for SoP2 and I revisit my fortune cookie lines, it strikes me that with protocols, the job of the science fiction writer is to notice the traffic jam and predict the automobile, so to speak.

Example 1: Literal pick-up traffic jams at airports —> cellphone lots and rideshare zones.

Example 2: Package delivery pileups due to ecommerce and Amazon prime —> Package rooms, hubs, concierge back rooms

Example 3: Package theft —> doorbell cameras and smart door access

Example 4: Long airport security delays —> TSA Pre and global entry

Anytime you see an unsustainable (due to growth rate) or unstable (somebody is losing or winning too easily) pattern of chaos, it’s a traffic jam waiting for an automobile.

Protocol emergence is a kind of market response to a demand signal for “structure” (which may or may not be technically or politically feasible)

Some “traffic jams” I see now:

  1. Border crisis in the US
  2. Student protests
  3. Homelessness

When a protocol fails to emerge in a traffic jam, you get a steady downward spiral and more people simply exiting the chaos, starting with the most valuable agents. So the situation faces evaporative cooling, as value drops further and even less valuable people leave. Until finally only the people who can’t leave are left fighting too hard for too little.