Friday, April 04, 2014

Is That A Reg Flag?

I am adopting a slightly different meaning to the phrase "red flags"; which in colloquial usage refers to a warning signal or something that demands attention. Although my modified meaning also can be seen as a warning signal; the new meaning I am ascribing to the phrase is based off the Red Flag Traffic Laws

The Red Flag Traffic Laws were laws in the United Kingdom and the United States enacted in the late 19th century, requiring drivers of early automobiles to take certain safety precautions, including waving a red flag in front of the vehicle as a warning.

The law as defined from Wikipedia. Emphasis mine.

An interesting part of the enactment:
  ...[a person] shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives, and shall signal the driver thereof when it shall be necessary to stop, and shall assist horses, and carriages drawn by horses, passing the same.

To people of today's world; this policy definitely sounds absurd and backwards. But at the time it was put in place, it was done so as to address a real concern; safety to others in a world where self propelled locomotive is about to become more common...

But the absurdity of it is not my primary concern but the limitation the policy would have placed on the expression of a new technology. For one, having someone always in front of the locomotive means that the locomotive theoretically is not allowed to move faster than a particular speed. A big advantage of having a self propelled locomotive is then lost! Why have a car when you can only drive at a much slow pace?

And this is where my new internal usage of Red Flags takes it meaning. It expresses propositions, way of thoughts, policies that stifles the expression of innovation not with the intention of doing so but as a result of taking actions that intends to protect a valid concern.

And some characteristics of these kind of thinking; "these Red flags" can easily be spotted by taking a look at some of the characteristics of the Red Flag Traffic Law itself:

  1. The law was put in place in good faith. The intention was not to stifle expression of an emerging technology; but to protect the populace. But the outcome, invariably  limited the expression of a new technology
  2. The law was focusing on established way of life instead of embracing and exploiting a new way.
  3. Although the concern expressed by the law is valid; it tried addressing these concerns from the same paradigm level.

Making sure all self propelled locomotive have a hoot would have been a solution that sufficed. This is how addressing the concern from a different (or higher) paradigm would have largely addressed the concern without having to put an artificial limitation on the workings of the self propelled locomotive.

So when we are confronted with any new concepts; innovations or technologies that has the potential of disrupting the safety of well established way of doing things and we have a strong urge to put things in place that would address these concerns; we need to be aware that our actions might lead us to just be enacting our own versions of the Red Flag Traffic law. We don't want to do that.

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