By Tom Standage
Shrewdpermanent, savvy solutions to common questions, from the hugely well known Economist Explains and day-by-day Chart blogs, a deal with for the realizing, the uninitiated and the downright curious
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Extra info for Go Figure: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know
This was unfair. He was making a philosophical point about the nature and limits of knowledge, building on an old saying, attributed to Socrates, that a wise man knows what he does not know. Socrates never actually put it in those words, but it is not a bad summary of his views. In Plato’s Apology he is depicted exploring the nature of wisdom and concluding that it is dangerous to assume that being knowledgeable in one area makes you wise in others. Socrates believed, in other words, that wisdom entails understanding the limits of one’s knowledge.
With deaths reduced by half since 2000, they are well on their way. The next step might be to reduce human error even further, for instance by enabling cars to warn against drink-driving via built-in breathalysers. Faster implementation of new safety systems, such as warning alerts for speeding or unbuckled seatbelts, would also help. Eventually, cars seem likely to do away with drivers altogether. This may not be as far off as it sounds: several models can already drive themselves in some circumstances, such as on motorways, and self-driving cars have far fewer accidents than human-operated ones.
In addition the “1033 program” allows the Defense Department to distribute surplus equipment to local police departments for use in counter-terrorism and counter-drug activities. The American Civil Liberties Union found that the value of military equipment used by American police departments has risen from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013. And that equipment has been used. In 1980 SWAT teams across America were deployed around 3,000 times. Deployments are estimated to have risen nearly seventeen-fold since, to 50,000 a year.