Technology leads, via multiple paths, to unintended consequences. Exhibit A is this news item from last month. Exhibit B is me and my wife sitting in holiday traffic last weekend. In an hour, our car had crawled about two miles along a jammed two-lane highway. We suspected, having traveled this road before, that a traffic light miles ahead was responsible for the back-up. Sitting shotgun, my wife popped open a maps app in a Quixotic quest for alternate routes.
Moments later, she said: "You could flip it and save about 15 minutes." So I u-turned.
She directed me to make a right onto a nondescript side street. That set us (and a half dozen other vehicles, presumably with the same intel) trundling along chunky junior-varsity pavement, winding through a once peaceful valley. In less than two miles, its twists connected back to our same highway somewhere farther up the queue. Of course, we had to rely on the patience of other motorists in the jam to permit our alternate merge from the smaller artery.
"Take the next exit," my wife said.
I slid off to the right, heeding my wife's and the digital navigatrix's cues. We paused at a stop sign, turned left to cross beneath the highway underpass, turned right onto a frontage way for a fraction of a mile, then right again to reach that confounded stoplight, which obligingly turned green to let a handful of cars including ours through to the now open road.
No doubt, we made up a little ground, but my inner Ethicist couldn't help but wonder: Were our tech-fueled machinations part of the problem, creating needless cross traffic that clogged the works more than necessary?