Sunday, November 26, 2017

Different Kinds of Minds (Uber Edition)

I have written before about how both F.A. Hayek and Richard Feynman had commented on how people can think differently. SEE: Hayek and Feynman on Different Types of Thinking.

An example, of how people's minds can work differently, was recently driven (no pun intended) home to me when I was with two other people and I  had used my cell phone app to call for an Uber driver.

For those of you who have never hailed an
Uber car, the best way to spot the car is via the license plate number, since many Uber cars look alike. In its confirmation to your cell phone, Uber sends you the license number.

I always look at the first 3 digits of the license plate number and then look for the car.

The two people with me also looked at the number, but somehow conversation occurred where I learned they both looked at the last three digits of the license plate number, not the first three, to spot the car.

I am simply stunned by this discovery. I thought everyone looked at the first three numbers, except for an obsessive who probably memorized all the digits. But the idea that there are people who look at the last three numbers, I just can't square this in my mind.

To me, it seems they are skipping over the first digits to get to the last three digits, which seems to me "more work." Or they are "backing into" the last three digits by reading left to right, which seems akward to me.

But for some reason, there are people who have minds that are looking at the last three digits of Uber license plates, not the first three digits.



  1. My natural strategy is to begin differentiating from right to left.

  2. Well I think you could use phone numbers as a model.
    Back when we had wired phones, not cells, this was the norm.
    For example: (123)456-7890
    123 = here. duh.
    456 = smaller chunk
    7890 = singular. That's the precise Uber ID.
    This is how we learned. Maybe not so valid in a more homogeneous world, but...

  3. When I've been in CA I didn't pay attention to license plate numbers to understand the system there, but in IL it's the last digits that you need to look at. The first few digits are the series and the last digits are the serial or unit number. There can be tens or hundreds of thousands of cars with the same first few digits. There also seems to be a regional component where a series is distributed heavily in a certain area.

    Currently the state is replating and in the chicago area there so many cars with plates starting with AL, AJ, AH, AK, etc.. that the first two digits are entirely useless for unique identifiers.

    The last few digits will only occur once per series, thus if sorting from the end far fewer matches will need to be processed.

  4. Well, if you are a retail stocker, you're typically matching the last 3 digits of a UPC with the tag on the shelf. You can't use the first 3 as they are far more likely to be found in many other barcodes. So perhaps something like that is in their background.