— An initial observation is that the type of concerns I express are not simply stated in “economic” terms.—
If so, then it becomes very hard to speak sensibly about anything being “more” or less harmful. “Economic” terms are simply our best guesses at trying to quantify value so that we can compare it: we might have to come up with some neat tricks to value in your concerns, but it’s not impossible, and if we don’t do so, then we are stuck basically venting at a wall, with no way to compare harm to benefit in any meaningful fashion.
For instance, that report spends most of its time trying to value human life, as one of the major costs of cellphone driving is the cost to human life. We might claim that human life is of infinate value: but this is ridiculous: no one lives their life like that, and plenty of people take risks to their life for certain benefits. Neither is life cheap. The above study uses the metric of about 6.6million per life.
—It seems to me that efficiency is increasingly valued as a goal in itself.—
People say this a lot, but I think it’s mostly wrong. If people are increasingly concerned about efficiency, I still doubt that it’s because it’s a “goal in itself.” The whole point of efficiency is that it allows you to do more with less: meaning that you have the chance to do more overall.
—What do we intend to do with all of this time we are “saving?”—
That’s sort of irrelevant. People will do what they value the most: it’s their choice. But it seems safe to assume that the choice to have more free time is a choice that it’s worthwhile to offer people.
—Of course alternatives would be to change your home or workplace to reduce your commute. And you suggest the benefit of coordination. Spontaneity and unpredictability can be quite rewarding. Moreover, the folk I see on the commuter train, or walking down the sidewalk, do not seem to be satisfying a need for accessibility as you describe.—
But these options are STILL open, even with the existence of cellphones. That’s sort of the point. If people choose to use cellphones the way they like, the general assumption is that they want to, above all the other options. Perhaps you’d enjoy other things: but only this person is the most likely best judge to figure out what choices best fit their preferences.
—I’m suggesting that the manner in which cellphones are far too frequently used devalues in-person communications and the full experience and appreciation of one’s current surroundings.—
Maybe: but again, there’s a good preliminary reason to think that even if this harm exists, it’s outweighed by the benefits. What’s that reason? Simple: that people choose to do it at all.