Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Yo, but for Help.

I may have elided some of the statutory challenges of crowdsourcing ARNG emergency response. Part of the problem is sending out uniformed guardsmen on official duty, but that's [probably] small potatoes compared to gassing up a deuce and a half or a Stryker and sending it out to pick up stranded civilians. After all, Guardsmen are part time, and are generally at liberty to help the public or not at their discretion, and there's certainly no dishonor in doing so while clad in BDUs. There is no such liberty for Guard materiel.

Recall that the underlying problem we wish to solve is how to deploy appropriate equipment and personnel to emergency situations. For evac in the midst of danger, Uber took some heat for using surge pricing (even though they later reimbursed passengers) during a hostage situation in Australia. You might imagine similar instances arising from municipal fires, earthquake, or tsunami. Folks caught in a perilous situation want courageous people to run towards danger to help them. One way to do this is to pay ordinary civilians a premium. Another way to do this is to mobilize National Guard resources. Yet another way is to pre-select volunteers for non-specialized emergency response. You don't call 911 for a ride home in the middle of an incipient riot, but who should you call? There might not be enough money in your account to get an Uber driver to show up if he thinks his car is going to be the target of an angry mob.

But a retired marine might rush in where a college kid looking to make a few extra bucks on the side would fear to tread.

By signing up to be a Help!™* driver, you agree to assist people in distress. You won't be expected to provide law enforcement or medical assistance, nor would you be expected to prevent property damage or anything extraordinary like that. You simply agree to get people out of a pickle if they ask. It's like AAA, but not just for roadside assistance.

What do you guys think? Good idea? Bad? Too easy to game? To difficult to price? Unstable equilibrium? Recall that the BATNA is simply the status quo: otherwise well-intentioned yet courageous people simply sit at home in relative ignorance, either watching from afar or having no idea that there are people in need of help.

Or is it the case that anyone in an emergency situation is always facing a dire BATNA and the only "moral" price is always and everywhere zero?

*not an actual trademark... yet

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?