Frisk #192

Ding-a-ling, it’s Frisk #192! 192 used to be the number for directory enquiries – it was free to use up until the 1990s, then it was turned off entirely in 2003 so that independent providers such as 118 118, Maureen and Yell could charge high rates for the same service. There are now over 200 directory enquiries providers. Which is probably progress of some sort, or something.


Tesla vs Irma
In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s trail of devastation, some fairly despicable allegations emerged – airlines quadrupling the prices of flights out of the danger zone and so forth. But automotive voltmasters Tesla came out of it all smelling pretty rosy; they offered a free range-extending upgrade to all Tesla owners so they’d be able to drive further and flee from windy peril.
But how on earth could such an idea possibly work? Well, it’s down to the fact that Tesla offer an expensive upgrade to owners which unlocks the full potential of their cars’ batteries – it adds 41 miles of range at a cost of $8,500. Once purchased, Tesla simply patch in the upgrade to the car’s brain, there’s no tech tweaking required.
In the Irma path, Tesla decided to patch this upgrade into every single one of their cars in the vicinity for free, to help people get outside the mandatory evacuation zone. An unquestionably nice thing to do. It’s raised a few questions though, not least of which is this: how does it affect the reputation of a brand so keen to present itself as friendly and helpful, when such a clear manifestation emerges of how it’s deliberately hiding its own products’ true capabilities behind a massive paywall? Every car they sell is able to achieve this sort of range, but they deliberately throttle it back so that you have to pay a lot more for the full-fat version.
The answer, basically, is that Tesla is more of a software company than a hardware company. Profit margins in tech hardware are surprisingly low, all the big money’s in the ones-and-zeroes. Google may have abandoned their ‘don’t be evil’ motto, but it looks like Tesla are ready to claim it. Their answer to all this, then, is that they’re a business, and the model has to work this way, but they’re still out to do the decent thing. And that’s probably fair enough.

The really irritating thing about social media is that most people seem to be having a bloody amazing time. You sit there at your desk, eating the limp ham sandwich you bought in the supermarket and supping a cuppa made with slightly off milk, while your dazzling screen is filled with images of your mates skydiving, bagging selfies with celebrities, dining in five-star eateries, and generally just being fabulous. The absolute swines.
It’s all crap though, really. The results of a recent study, published in the University of British Columbia and Harvard’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggests that perhaps your fear of missing out is all founded in a false view of how great other people’s lives are. 55% of respondents, for example, assumed that their peers have more friends than they actually do. They feel that they spend much more time alone than anyone else does, which generally isn’t the case. The problem with all this is that it’s like googling medical symptoms and convincing yourself you’re dying; if you see how great a time everyone seems to be having, you can’t help but feel bad about your own social shortcomings. It can lead to depression, addiction, and all manner of other dark roads.
The cheery counterpoint, however, is JOMO – the joy of missing out. More and more people are deleting all their social apps and looking up instead. Taking pleasure in your immediate surroundings is a great way to remind yourself that life isn’t a contest.

Chinese plates
It’s the kind of story that sounds completely made up, but it’s actually happening: people in China are getting into sham marriages simply to get car number plates.
This is fundamentally down to population and pollution: in Beijing, smog levels and traffic density have got so extreme that the authorities have implemented a lottery system for number plates – the lucky randoms who have them issued can bolt them to their cars and drive about willy-nilly. But only 1-in-843 applicants manages to get one and you’re not allowed to sell them on if you do have a plate. Besides being really quite useful, having a car is a massive status symbol in China, so it was inevitable that people who could afford to work the system would find a loophole. And that loophole is that you are allowed to transfer a number plate to a spouse… so, for around £10,000 (or a lot more if the plate in question contains lucky numbers), people are using sham matrimony forums to buy a marriage to a stranger and thus bag themselves the ability to drive in Beijing. Red tape, eh?

Daniel Bevis, Senior Knowledge Editor

20th September 2017