Different Solutions to the Same Problems

Just a few miles from Shenzhen, you pass into another world of governance - HK. Everything's done differently there. The way everything is designed is different, laws are all different, etc. Although there are some political / historical differences between the two places, it can't explain how different they are today.

The environment is almost the same - the same cars drive the roads, same weather, same resources, etc. The differences they do have are in things like the amount of money the government has to spend on public works, in culture, language, history. But it's still surprising how different the place manages to be. There's just no possible reason to suspect that there is a genuine reason to have so many differences.

For example, in HK when you cross the road, there is usually a little island with fences halfway across, with another set of pedestrian signals for crossing the second half, slightly offset so it doesn't overlap the first one. In Shenzhen, they never have this. That doesn't make sense - either this is really a better, safer way for people to cross the street, and it makes economic sense to build these, or it doesn't! Either Shenzhen should start building these, or HK should stop. Now, there is a way for this to be consistent - that HK has more money to spend on things of lower utility. Or, that it's inefficient to build the islands, but that HK people are now so used to them, stopping building them on new road would cause more problems than not having them causes in SZ. But it's a lot more likely that it is just two systems locked in, neither one checking reality.

Or how in some mainland China cities, there are little food sellers everywhere, chuar places, baked sweet potatos, etc. In others, there are none - they've all been kicked out of town. Which one is better? I guess it's up to the town?

As a general rule with exactly the same environment, you can't really have multiple equally good solutions. It's possible that there could be two different strategies for things like designing traffic flow, I guess, but it's unlikely that they'll be the same - it's much more likely that one will be better.

That's not to say that everywhere in the world should have the same systems - there is history to account for, already-built machines & infrastructure, costs to change, costs to change people's minds & expectations.

But, it's still surprising how little honest comparison is done on how different solutions actually work.



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3/22/2013 6:52:13 PM
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