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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Waze of the Future Is Spontaneous Order

Waze shows us that capitalism and individualism do not entail isolationism, or every man for himself—far from it.

I recently started using Waze on my phone. This app has been around since 2012 but, due to the slow rate that new technology finds me (or that I find it) it, was new to me only a few weeks ago. Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app. Essentially it links together users who are in a given area and allows them to share real-time information regarding everything from traffic, to road hazards, to police traps (arguably the greatest hazard of all).

Similar to Google Maps, just by driving with Waze open on your phone, you are sending real-time info about traffic back-ups or slow downs. You can also actively report driving conditions and then corroborate what others have reported. For example, if you see a tree down over the road you can report that there is an “object in road” (or on the shoulder) and then as others drive by they can verify whether it’s still there or not. You can do this for objects, weather, roadkill, potholes, stopped vehicles, construction, accidents, and even sneaky policemen waiting to take your money.

As Waze shows us, capitalism and individualism do not entail isolationism, or every man for himself—far from it.

With over 50 million users worldwide, Waze has a multitude of regions and areas with enough drivers to give you a very clear picture of traffic, hazards, and alternative routes. There are around 1.3 million users in the LA area alone. The more you contribute and the more people who verify what you report as actually being there, the higher your ranking becomes and the more weight your reports carry within the Waze community. There is also now a separate app called Waze Rider in which Waze users can share rides with people following similar routes.

Cooperation and the Sharing Economy

This app really embodies the modern sharing economy that we live in today. It’s also a great example of how the market brings people together and incentivizes them to cooperate and work together to everyone’s benefit. Here’s technology that can save you time and money as well as make your drive safer—all for no charge, thanks to people voluntarily contributing and helping out. This spontaneous order is the way of the future and it’s apps like this that bring that future closer.

This just goes to show how exciting the world we live in today is. With all the pessimistic shouting and strategically cultivated fear out there we tend to forget that the world is constantly getting better for everyone and, in terms of wealth, we live in a totally unprecedented time in history. If we would just step back, concentrate on our own passions and productivity, stop trying to control the actions of others around us, and let the market reign supreme, we would see an even further unprecedented growth in wealth and cooperation.

As Waze shows us, capitalism and individualism do not entail isolationism, or every man for himself—far from it. What these ideas call for is interacting and cooperating with others simply on your own terms: to hold your judgement as supreme for things regarding yourself, and respect the judgement of others in issues regarding themselves. In many instances working together with others is in your best interest and technologies like Waze, Uber, Airbnb, Quora, Ebay, and a plethora of others all better allow us to do that: to help and interact with and profit from others (and vice versa) on our own terms.

  • Ryan Miller is a University of Michigan graduate, freelance translator, and aspiring blogger. He is also a Praxis participant in the September 2016 cohort.