Losing grip – RC and utilitarianism
”Utilitarianism” is not a tongue-twister first and foremost, but a book published by the British philosopher John Stuart Mill in 1863. It is one of the most influential philosophical works of the nineteenth century, and is still frequently quoted. Sometimes in even places as random as columns on RC drifting, something I am positively certain Mr Mills never would have guessed.
Anyway, in his book J.S. Mill argues that happiness is the only thing humans should desire for its own sake. This first statement naturally leads to the conclusion that more happiness is preferable to less, and that the goal of the ethical life therefore should be to maximize happiness. Simply put: when chosing between alternatives, pick the one that maximizes the amount of happiness in the world. More eloquently put: ”The Principle of Utility.” In his pursuit of happiness, Mill was a hedonist, but the principle as such could of course be used aiming for other things, like maximizing justice or minimizing poverty.
Don’t worry, I am heading towards RC related business, just give me a paragraph or two. Mills, utility – remember that and your history teacher will be impressed.
Do I agree with Mills? No, not as far as life in general goes, in which case I am a proponent of virtue ethics. However, when it comes to RC, I am a firm believer in utilitarianism. When deciding where to put my money, I try to pick the alternative that maximises happiness. What then is happiness? Nowadays I define it as ”The most fun, for the most people.” Not just the most fun for me, that is.
Bling – as in aluminum upgrades – makes me happy, but not so much my children. What is the most fun for the most people: one awesome car, or two decent ones? Easy. What is the most fun, for the most people: me spending time wrenching in the basement, or me and my children being out drifting, crawling or sailing? Easy. Replacing the broken front wheel hub of my MST RMX with a plastic part, or with the aluminum counterpart that cost three times as much? Easy too, it turns out. Plastic it is.
While I do know that no serious drifter would want to be seen with plastic wheel hubs, the utilitarian price versus fun equation gives me a very clear answer on this one. A few years ago, I would have chosen aluminum because the bling factor it gives me a lot of satisfaction. Today, it is clear to me that my children don’t care what materials my cars ar built of, as long as they are working. Plastic it is.
Do note however – should MST, Yokomo or Yeah Racing be reading this – that some aluminum parts sent this way indeed would increase the amount of hobby happiness in the world. I recognize the fact that it does make for better performance (and looks!), but not so much that I can defend going for it while still staying true to my utilitarian hobby principle.
Why then are my Axial Bomber and Yeti both jammed with upgraded parts? Simple: those rigs are far more prone to breaking, and with shipping times being weeks for me – meaning a lot of potential downtime (less fun) were I to upgrade as I go – I decided to build bomb proof from the beginning. MIP drive shafts, Blue Monkey and SSD trailing arms, Vanquish and Axial aluminum motor mounts, SSD diamond axles, and so on, and so forth. Worth it, because they just never break. Oh, well, a rod end pops every now and then, but I have a bunch of spares and they take but a few minutes to replace.
It is also because of this principle that I haven’t been able to find time to start working on my Killerbody EVO-body. Painting is a solitary business, crawling and drifting are not. But today, I finally got it out, washed it and am getting ready to spray a couple of coats of liquid mask on it. It is drying right now, and I’m soon off to see how well liquid mask passes through a 0.35 airbrush needle. I am expecting trouble, but hope to be able to solve it by diluting the mask a bit. In a week, I’ll let you know how I go.
Once the spray is on, I then plan to start working on the design, while I drink tea and chat with my wife tonight. She often says that I am a better talker and listener when I am working with my hands. Note that I again maximize hobby happiness, by combining painting and hanging out with family.
Until next week, do consider my utilitarian hobby principle, especially if you have friends and family who are eager to try out your hobby. And don’t forget to support your local bash spots and hobby stores when you can.
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