Struck in a rut? That might be because our movements are 90% predictable

By | March 1, 2010

Struck in a rut That might be because our movements are 90 predictable

Like to think of yourself as a spontaneous sort? You are so predictable.

We are such creatures of habit that scientists can accurately predict where we’ll go and when we’ll go there more than 90 per cent of the time.

Most of us can usually be found within one to three miles of our home.

Even those with a long commute generally do the same things at around the same time each day, the journal Science reports.

In other words, most of us are stuck in a rut.

Researcher Albert-Laszlo Barbasi said: ‘If you drive for one and a half hours to work and back, three hours of your day are taken away so you have little freedom to be spontaneous.

‘You are working, and travelling home and pretty much crashing and preparing for the next day.’

Globetrotters also follow a well-trodden path, tending to follow familiar routes, rather than visiting new places.

Professor Barbasi, of the respected Harvard Medical School in the U.S., analysed three months of mobile phone data from 50,000 people.

Logged by billing companies when they made or received calls and text, it allowed the researchers to pinpoint their location to within two miles.

The researchers used this information to build up a pattern of each person’s movements during the week and at weekends.

They found they could predict where a person would be at given time and get it right up to 93 per cent of the time.

Even the most spontaneous sorts were 80 per cent predictable.

Professor Barbasi said: ‘We are far more predictable than we actually think.

‘You have a regular schedule but think there are people out there who are less regular and are very spontaneous.

‘What we are finding is there aren’t those spontaneous people out there. Each of us are very regular and that regularity makes us very predictable.

‘It seems to be something innate to how we are and how we like to behave.

via Struck in a rut? That might be because our movements are 90% predictable | Mail Online.

I wonder what my predictability score would be.  This weekend I went for the first time to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.  I try to go somewhere I’ve never been as often as possible.  Life is short.

4 thoughts on “Struck in a rut? That might be because our movements are 90% predictable

  1. Ann

    Oh, Xeno! For the first time you “went … to the Asian Art Museum” in San Francisco, no less? Do you know the history of the Chinese, as an example, in San Francisco? … But, it’s really nice that you went!

    I think it is so sad to read, but I know it’s true, commuters spending 3 hours per day going to and from work. That’s 15 hrs/5 day work-wk., 60 hrs/mo., and 720 hrs/yr. 720 hours/year = 30 days commuting every year. A person lost one year of his life commuting every 12 years he worked. If a person worked from say from the age of 21 years to 65 years (or 44 years) that about 3.5 years only commuting.

    In 3.5 years is a long time. In that amount of time a person could just about earn a college [degree]. In that time a person could write a novel or paint some wonderful paintings. In that time a person could read a lot and find out, for example, a whole lot about the history of San Francisco!

    In that time, a person could find out that the United States is about the only country in the world that has such a horrendous commuting problem. And, he might find out why the U.S. has such a problem. (And, i surely doubt it’s because American people just have a great fondness for commuting.)

    1. Xeno Post author

      I know a little history from watching Kung Fu. Chinese people in SF had difficult lives. They were always having flashbacks where an old man called them Grasshopper. 😉

      Your point is a good one. Commuting is bad for your heart due to the pollution as well. Don’t do it if you can help it. Too many of us. Jobs are in cities. Poor organization, lack of public transit, etc.

      Look here, my point is this: We need a day to celebrate randomness! It should appear on a different day each year. Some years, it wouldn’t appear at all.

  2. Ann

    Now, people will tell you this is a “conspiracy theory,” but it’s not. It is merely history. Those people who scream “conspiracy theory,” are doing so, because they want to belittle the following and make it sound like it’s nonsense, but it’s not

    After WWII, Eisenhower & others (I forgot which agency or agencies were involved) started the intra-national highway system in U.S. as a sort of defense plan. Every so many miles of highway were to be straight for planes to land and takeoff and so that military equipment and its cargo could criss-cross the country in case of an attack or war etc.

    At the same time, Levitt (I think his name was) also began to build homes in the expanding suburbs. It was a master plan for which he (and those who copied his plans) made a lot of money expanding urban areas by building a lot of cheap homes. When WWII was over, a lot of GIs needed places to live and the expanding suburbs with their easily financed homes filled their desires.

    Of course living out where there are no jobs in the suburbs, people needed transportation to get where the jobs were at that time – mostly in the cities. And this means an increase in automobile sales.

    At the same time, I think it was the Commerce Dept, of the Federal so-and-so agency was headed by a former or current head of the automobile industry during the Eisenhower administration. General Motors, Ford, Goodyear (that makes tires) and other industries including most importantly the petroleum industry all pitched in to encourage all this, because they all were profiting and continued to profit. All these industries, automobile and those associated with the automobile, construction of homes and highways etc. (as well as, indirectly, the military) all worked together to shape up the U.S. the way it is today. (Remember Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation? About the industrial-military complex? Well, this doesn’t have much to do with the military, but American corporations learned a close association with the military may be in their best interests.)

    This is why today Americans have to commute hours per day going to and from work (and most other places).
    (All this is also related to the elimination of the trolley car system, which GM et al industries played no small part.)

  3. Ann

    Oh, about celebrating randomness? Do you know that a long time ago that was (well randomness in the sense of chaos) what Midsummer’s Day was all about. That is, a long time ago, before the imposition of Christianity. Midsummer’s Day or Eve occurred during the summer solstice, when the sun (which was often a deity in many ancient cultures) appeared to stop moving northward – and time stood still (!) at least according to the best observation methods at the time.

    Summer solstice was also a period between two agricultural cycles, between the sowing, weeding etc. and the harvest. It was a time when the present went into the future, in a manner of speaking. It was a time when the crops propagated and produced the fruits for the coming harvest. And, according to many ancient cultures that which lies ahead in the future was the domain of the Gods, of the sacred, that which we have no knowledge.

    Summer solstice was a time when the sacred and profane met; it was time when the Gods and humans intermingled; it was a time when the present and the future were one and time stood still. It was a time of chaos (or real randomness) and a time to celebrate!

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