I read an article about Craigslist and found a particular opinion very interesting. Here is the quote:
Universal search subverts craigslist’s mission to enable local, face-to-face transactions; it increases the risk of scams and can be exploited to snatch up bargains, giving technically sophisticated users an advantage over casual browsers
How interesting. Many Internet and new tech application tried hard to make things easier and more convenient for people, but in a marketplace like craigslist, that convenience and ability to “snatch up bargains” is not necessarily a good thing. By giving the power to a small group of people actually hurt other people.
Hospital Reservation System
We had a Shanghai Medical Card (issued by a public service platform 91985.com), and by paying a small annual fee, you can make hospital reservation online. It is extremely convenient for us, because it is so hard to make a reservation at the hospital gate (I talked about the long lines in this article Hospital is Badly Needed). When we make the reservation with a click of mouse to directly go to the Zhongshan Hospital nurse station to pick up our number, and by pass the lines to directly see a doctor, many others asked me where I got the ticket, and I taught them to use the website. I didn’t think too much about it when I enjoyed the “benefit of high-tech”, and wondered why other patient would rather spend 8 hours to wait in line instead of going online.
Inspired by the craigslist’s approach and seeing the long line myself, I now feel happy that Shanghai has forced the online reservation system to discontinue its service. It is not about application of new technology, it is about fairness in this society.
How Technology can Solve Social Problems
I am not anti-technology and anti-Internet person (look at my professional life!), but we can either let technology solve the root cause of the problem or just make a workaround to create unfairness.
In the hospital example, the key problem is the high demand for doctors vs the very limited supply of resources. If technology can solve this problem (more efficient patient handling, and diagnostic), that is great. When this is still the biggest problem, and it is getting worse, to allow some people like myself who can use Internet and know the trick to make reservation does not make sense.
Many people complained about there is no online train ticket reservation system. I believe it is partly because of this reason. When there is more supply than demand (there are just few days in the year), that makes a great sense (just like the airline industry). However, in times like Spring Festival, how can it be allowed for someone to make reservation online with 5 minutes to snatch those tickets, while millions of others waited in the train station days and nights but still cannot get a ticket?
Money and Fairness
We just talked about technology. Money is the other factor that can brake the fairness.
If a person has the money to afford a Rolex watch, it is OK, since that is part of the fairness of this market economy. It does not revoke other people’s right to buy a cheap watch.
In the race for the same social resources, like education, and healthcare, if someone can pay more money to get to the SAME hospital or the SAME school, that breaks the fairness. Again, in this case, I don’t think there is any problem if someone can AFFORD a private school, or private clinic, since their money helps to DEVELOP social resources, not SNATCHING from other people’s hand.
What do you think?