Achooo

....I'm allergic to bullshit.

I link to Satoshi Kanazawa because I find him thought-provoking, but this is just too much. I think Kanazawa must have written this post on auto-pilot, because it barely even makes sense. Conversations with other people in your car aren't distracting because we evolved to talk to other people? Hardly. I've had a number of close calls while driving because of conversations I've been having with passengers. I know that I am very single-minded as opposed to multi-tasking, so I don't find this particularly surprising. I had just been thinking about this same issue the other day, because the Coconino County Board of Supervisors had considered a ban on radios, cellphones, and other electronic devices while driving

The problem is, I doubt that using a cellphone, or having a conversation is really the root of the problem here. I suspect the problem is just people who are bad drivers? Don't believe me? Look at Kanazawa's graphs and think about this: if you are willing to do things other than pay attention to the road, how conscientious of a driver are you? Especially if those things prevent you from controlling your car. If you keep people who are not careful, or even skilled, from using cellphones, they still suck at driving. They are still going to be distracted by putting on their makeup, or eating, or butterflies outside the window. The cellphones are a symptom.

Is it possible that cell-phone conversations in a car (no matter what the device) are qualitatively and significantly different from conversations with fellow passengers because they are evolutionarily novel?  Is it possible that talking on a cell phone while driving is distracting and likely to cause an accident, not because the driver has to manipulate the device, but because telephone conversations are inherently cognitively taxing for their evolutionary novelty?  Is it possible that telephone conversations in the past century have always been cognitively taxing and distracting, but we never realized just how much because we never had to drive a car (another evolutionarily novel task) at the same time until the invention of the cell phone?  Is it possible that switching to hands-free devices while driving is not going to reduce the number of auto accidents at all, at least until we develop a new technology which can project a realistic holographic image of the person on the line in the passenger seat?

It occurs to me that it would be a simple matter to test these conjectures in an experiment.

I'd like to see that test done too, because I'm sure that the problem is that not paying attention to what you are doing is the real problem. I see that I'm not the only one to suspect that Kanazawa is a bit off. That makes me feel better for singling him out.