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The logo of car-sharing service app Uber is seen on a smartphone.SERGIO PEREZ/Reuters

In the midst of Wednesday's debate on what to do about Uber, the company that is shaking up the taxi business in Toronto and other cities around the world, veteran councillor David Shiner held up a pocket calculator. Back in the day, he recalled, calculators were big, lunking machines, sometimes with a crank on the side. Now they are tiny things that fit in the palm of your hand and run on solar power. Colleagues had to gently remind him that, for most people, pocket calculators have been replaced by smartphones that do all the calculating you want.

Technology is changing the world faster than many people can keep up. City councillors are no exception. For many months now, they have been struggling with how to cope with Uber. While they fiddled, the world turned. The service that allows riders to summon a car with their phones, track its approach, see the name of its driver and pay by automatic charge has proved wildly popular with the travelling public. Trying to stop it has turned into a classic exercise in futility.

Prosecuting Uber for violating outdated taxi regulations has been a bust. As Mr. Tory puts it, banning the service would be like trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle. Regulating Uber is proving equally fruitless.

City hall considered bringing in separate regulations for companies such as Uber, but cabbies complained that the result would be an unfair two-tier system – one set of rules for them, another, probably looser set for Uber. Throngs of cabbies crowded into the council chamber and the lobby below to press their case.

So council settled on another idea: bringing in new regulations for everybody, treating Uber and the traditional cab business equally. How that would work, nobody has a hot clue. If the regulations are too strict, Uber won't play ball. If they are too loose, the result would be to water down the rules on things like the insurance drivers must carry, the fees they must pay and the training they must have to the point of uselessness. Councillor Frank Di Giorgio was right when he said that the notion of an ideal regime that would please everyone is a phantom.

Councillors gave long-suffering city staff till next Spring to work it all out. Meanwhile, they asked Uber to please halt its operations in Toronto. They may as well have asked the city's raccoons to kindly stop looting garbage bins. Uber promptly declined to put itself out of business, citing its sacred responsibility to its riders and drivers.

While council argues and the taxi industry rages, Uber will keep operating and keep attracting legions of customers. The world has turned. The pocket calculator is obsolete. All that debating in the council chamber and shouting in the gallery is just noise.

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