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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

O, the Power of Conformity

O, the Power of Conformity

Author: Reilly Capps/Tuesday, April 8, 2014/Categories: environment

We are all conformists. 

That can be a good thing … we all play by the same rules, it lets society function. You can't have NASCAR races in the McDonald's drive-thru…

Or it can be our ruin … the Khmer Rouge had a bit of a conformist streak. Fraternities, too. (Not that I'm comparing the two.)

So lets talk about where conformity helps. The company Opower had a successful
IPO yesterday, running its valuation to a billion dollars. That's not enough money for Mark Zuckerberg to pick up out of a puddle, but still. It's good. 

Opower works by getting people to lower their electricity consumption, using the most low-tech method imaginable. It mails out notices to homeowners letting them know how much power they used, and also how much power they used
compared to their neighbors. Nobody wants to be the biggest electricity waster on the block. Consumption tends to decline. Opower said it saved its customers 1.9 terawatt hours of power last year. Less carbon blankets the Earth. Everybody wins. 

Second, let's talk about where conformity hurts. Giant SUVs were once mega-popular in the U.S. Eventually, owning them became nearly as uncool as having real ivories on your piano. (Almost.) Today, SUVs, still hot sellers, are smaller and more fuel efficient.

In China, though, one of the most conformist societies on the planet, the smaller-is-better ethos hasn't gotten there, yet. They may still be going through their "bigger is better" phase. SUV sales there are through the roof, and sales of Ford, maker of two of the most popular SUVs there, are up
50 percent. 

What does all this mean? You might think that, with the advent of technology that allows us to express whatever we want, however we want to, that the impulse to conform would dissipate. It hasn't.

Compared to the 60s, 70s and 80s, we're more conservative and less flashy than we have ever been. Out music is safe. Our haircuts don't change much. The radical future? Sure, we have hand bricks that can summon a limo, but we want more than ever to be like everybody else.

-- Reilly Capps 


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