California is considering a law restricting the use of cell phones while driving in some way. I don't know any of the details; I haven't paid very close attention, since i don't have a cell phone. I read a silly column in the paper today where people wrote in describing rude and dangerous behavior of cell-phone users on the road and in other public places.
Of course it isn't the fault of the phones that people use them in obnoxious ways. The phones just give people a choice to act obnoxiously, and people often make poor, or at least selfish, choices. I wouldn't even say that most people make bad choices most of the time, but when even a few people do occasionally in cities the size we have it's very noticeable. It holds up lines at stores, annoys (or amuses) train passengers, or occasionally even causes car accidents.
This is not, of course, a phenomenon unique to the cell phone. Look at the case of papyrus (recurring theme alert!) and the rise of the throw-away society. Cheap transportation and suburban sprawl. Every advance in computer processing power and storage capacity has lead to programmers and users eventually exhausting it and demanding more. Or, as Aaron Sheldon pointed out to me yesterday, the introduction of new Internet addressing standards and the wasteful way that addresses are allocated in the early phase when addresses are plentiful. When we can do something with short-term appeal we tend to do it, not worrying about the consequences of everyone in an entire society doing it, or of even ourselves doing it repeatedly (if a business is always driven by short-term profit-now interests of shareholders and never thinks of the future eventually it'll go down).
I do it: I drive instead of biking to work when my legs are sore. I write things down on little pieces of paper that will be thrown away, and toss out enormous piles of newspaper every few weeks (that is seriously a massive amount of waste, especially considering that the accuracy of the Merc-News is somewhere on the level of Slashdot). I run everything I need now on a four year-old computer, but will I in four more years (if I was stuck on the Windows upgrade treadmill I'd need a DX9 video card and a bigger hard drive just to run Vista)? On my (non-routable) apartment LAN the region behind my secondary NIC in my main computer enjoys a whole 16 addresses when only one computer can be physically connected in its current configuration! And the LAN is only a Class C! Oh no! IP address exhaustion on 192.168.0.0/24!
But these aren't really the ones that get me. Every time I give myself the choice to eat a ridiculous amount of cookies I do it. If I have the choice to avoid people as the path of least resistance I'll do it every time (sometimes I'll even come up with good excuses, too). I don't want to feel like I'm forcing myself to be the person I want to be, it should be what I want to do! Perhaps the feeling of force is just the long-term wisdom beating up the short-term desire. But that long-term wisdom needs some beefing up, all over the world, because nine times out of ten it's getting its ass kicked.