Have you ever just watched the movement of ants? They're fascinating in their perceived lack of interaction with each other as they singularly move to complete their assigned task; yet taking into account the movement of others in relationship to their own to create seamless, efficient lines of communication without which has the potential to destroy the very logistics which enable them to survive.
When I'm behind the wheel of a vehicle, I employ the Nash equilibrium:
If we all go for the blonde and block each other, not a single one of us is going to get her. So then we go for her friends, but they will all give us the cold shoulder because no one likes to be second choice. But what if none of us goes for the blonde? We won't get in each other's way and we won't insult the other girls. It's the only way to win. It's the only way we all get laid.
Rather than choose to be hell-bent on constant speed 'because I'm right' or 'because I have the right-of-way' I've found that I'm more efficient and make more ground by not only anticipating other's moves, but more importantly so, reacting to them. In merging traffic for instance, whether I with it or it with me, I vary my speed accordingly by either accelerating or slowing to slip between cars, or more easily allow them either in front of, or behind me more easily. Not only is ignoring this overly simply concept rude beyond words, but by helping them, you help yourself. Driving in traffic is a corporative effort - no one 'wins' if one person chooses not to participate, but everyone has the potential to lose.
And the only reason to not do so, is selfishness. It always amazes me how many people expect other's to be understanding and accommodating when they themselves are not. I run into all sorts of craziness everyday, and post about it often:
- The lady who slowed down on the highway entrance ramp, just before entering a two-lane road filled with vehicles moving at a high-rate of speed (I was behind her.)
- The guy who was going the posted speed limit in the left hand lane with a 'WWJD' bumper sticker on his truck (He'd get the fsck out of the left hand lane, that's what Jesus would do!)
- People who 'slow down' if someone comes upon them too fast (rather than, you know, move over?)
- Drivers in large vehicles who believe that the 'Law of Tonnage' is an *actual* legislative writ which is judiciously levied.
Why the Nash equilibrium works with respect to traffic:
What Mr. Nash recognized was that in any sort of strategic interaction, the best choice for any single player depends critically on his beliefs about what the other players might do. Mr. Nash proposed that we look for outcomes in which each player is making an optimal choice, given the choices the other players are making.1
You're not the only one on the road. And anytime you selfishly do something because you're "right" you're automatically wrong - because you've failed to make your optimal choice based on what others drivers may do. So even though you can take solace in the fact that you won the battle, in the game of life, you've lost the war.
I apply these same rules in every increasing level of the game. Earlier this week traffic between work and home was moving unusually fast. Someone was coming up on me really fast - I looked down and noticed I was driving 100mph. I can only imagine how fast the person who was closing the gap between us was doing. Thankfully, it was a no-brainer; I did what I always do in these situations - I moved over.
1 The New York Times "Business" Section.