Traveling: Jetpacks and problem solving [1/7]






I have often heard that people love to 'travel', they love moment of it and it creates an 'experience' for them. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I love a partial idea of traveling. I like going to a museum or a beach or a hill and look around, write poetry and probably sing (read: croak), but I genuinely detest the idea of spending 8 hours in a flight or a bus to get to some place where the actual experience for me starts. That is probably one of the major reasons why I 'travel' so less. 

While thinking about this idea, I went deeper to understand what is it that delays this even more and one answer to most of my problems was 'traffic'. That's when I decided that this is it! this is the issue I need to find a solution to and then I should be fine, without traffic I can actually reduce the time taken to reach a place and that would be the best.

I used to cover around 102 Kms everyday (according to Google maps, though I think I covered a little more than this), changing 5 modes of transport (using certain modes more than twice) and a journey which would take 3-4 hours of travel depending on 'traffic'. On good days (read: Saturday, Sunday), this would be reduced to 2-3 hours. Which means on a weekly average I was spending nearly 20-26 hours in transit, that was 15.5% of my time. If I spent the same time working I would have ideally earned 15.5% more and changed a couple of tax brackets

This irked me a LOT. I plan my day, saving seconds everywhere and slotting specific time for all my tasks, this was inevitable loss of time. I couldn't keep any work for this period as I was never guaranteed a seat (although, I did optimize for this by changing timings but you always get up for another person who needs the seat more than you do and THAT cannot be planned ever).

My investigations on traffic led me to believe that the issue is that our travel is currently two-dimensional. It is on a 2D plane, you can't just hop over a traffic jam. You need to sit in your car and wait for the next person on the bike to make it through the narrow distances between your car and the next one. Anyway, leaving aside my general frustration with bikers. I was so shocked to see this only 2 dimensional travel? WHY?

On digging deeper, I realised it is worse than this. Our current travel pattern is not even 2D but nearly 1D. Because when you're on a one way, you have no where else to go. You just move in a single line, in a single direction, on defined roads and following a few rules, while flouting the others as per convenience. The first part sounded like 1984 to me, but I held onto my 'horse of existential questions' and tried to think of a solution to this single dimensional problem. After a little bit of thinking, the answer was clear. 

We needed to build a Jetpack. That came with such clarity that I just sat down and started doodling in my drawing book (I don't actually draw in it, I work in it. It is easier to complete a full idea in a page, while having sight to where you started. Should try it once!), the designs for this Jetpack which is aimed at resolving the issues with travel. I did this without any required knowledge of jetpacks or aero-dynamics, using layman logic and hubris of an engineering grad.

After a lot of research on the internet I figured out that I don't think this is it. It was disappointing but true. What I was doing was not actually innovative but a solution based on our perception of the problem. My perception was that the problem to be solved can be solved by reducing time and probably effort but what I now realised was that probably, I need to un-learn to learn more and solve better. 

My first lesson: Problem solving is not about the most evident or the most innovative solutions, it is about understanding the problem the best. 

Next stop: Teleportation, where I talk about the transitional learning and un-learning. 

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