Monday, December 21, 2009

Rubbernecking and Curiosity

Let me be perfectly clear: Drivers attempting to gawk at the aftermath of a traffic incident can be dangerous. Wikipedia quotes a study finding that rubbernecking led to 16% of all "distraction related" auto accidents. Truly, that's too bad.

But imagine a world in which humans did not have the innate tendency to look to the side of the road. Imagine a world in which we weren't so curious about something for no instrumental reason.

I don't think we as a society would have advanced far. So many of our inventions have been due to chance, when unknown explorers sought uncharted territory. If you took away our insatiable curiosity, what else would we lose along with it?

So, as I rubberneck the rubberneckers one more time, I think to myself: Maybe this is a mistake. But all in all, the human tendency to want to know what is going on in the world is a good thing. And for that, I pay my respects to the blind god of natural selection.

(Thanks to Chris Whitney for a convo about this)