Dynamic Standard Setting

Off and on I wonder a bit about how quickly standards can change, and what it would mean if we could change them very quickly.  My usual example for this would be highway speeds.  There isn’t much point in driving 70 mph 15 miles down the highway just to join a 3 mile blockage of stop and go traffic.  The authorities could, presumably signal everybody upstream that it’s in their best interests to drop down to 45 mph.

Of course you can see also the traffic calming ideas, the architecture of control ideas, some of the ideas about calming traffic via the intervention of individual drivers.  Obviously such a systems can be implemented along the lines of libertarian paternalism.

Dynamic standard setting is like dynamic pricing.  IT tech makes it easier to implement.  You could replace all the speed limit signs with electronic signs much as the store I was in the other day had replaced, in the shoe department, all their price labels with electronic ones.  Of course pricing and standards have changed dynamically long before we had IT.  Other stores just put up 30% off signs.  I don’t doubt that if the highway authorities communicated that “southbound travelers on 128 are advised that to practice 30% reduction in speed” much of the benefit could be achieved.
These musings are triggered by an idea the California regulators have floated to do something analogous with the thermostats in new buildings.    The scheme would allow them to signal the buildings to back off on their electricity consumption when the traffic jams occurs in the electricity distribution network.  Lauren Weinstein’s reaction to this suggestion is delightfully over the top.

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