RW139 - Clark Griswalding

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Only wearing one type of clothing (Style)
  • Buying a shirt in every color (Style)
  • John’s TV in the closet, The Bermuda song from Letterman (Movies)
  • Watching 1970s shows on YouTube (Movies)
  • Watching the Sopranos on his phone (Movies)
  • John’s iPad, ordering a new desktop computer (Technology)
  • Wanting to put up little song snippets, Patreon (Music)
  • Jonathan Coulton’s success with music on the internet (Music)
  • Subscriptions and why some people don’t subscribe (Subscriptions are eels)
  • Generation X being extremely passive (Generations)
  • The insulting pricing structure of The New York Times (Money)
  • People thinking that music and podcasts should be free (Money)
  • The nature of money is changing (Money)

Bonus-content for Patreon supporters:

  • John needing to get a new prescription for his medication (Depression)
  • Send in questions only via email (Podcasting)
  • Does technology solve problems faster than it creates them? (Technology)
  • Does John believe in folk wisdoms? (Conspiracy)
  • Does Dan have a meditation community? (Dan Benjamin)
  • Building a small guitar amp (Music)

The show title refers to the David Letterman song about Bermuda.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Only wearing one type of clothing (RW139)

John doesn’t wear shorts that much although he has a lot of shorts for when he is on the beach or in the pool. A fellow dad at John’s daughter's school is a sports person who wears shorts all year long, but John doesn’t know what his identity is. A lot of guys like to control their environment by limiting their possibilities, for instance somebody who would only have belongings that would fit in a single bag (John is referring to Dan here, see RW81 in Objects)

Buying a shirt in every color (RW139)

(John told the same story in RL245)

At one point in 1987 John's friend Bob Wood told him he needed to go to Eddie Bauer because they were having a sale on long sleeved T-shirts at some ridiculously low price. Although they were made of T-shirt material, that kind of cotton weave, they were maybe three times thicker than what a normal T-shirt would be. One of the long-sleeve shirts was available in 25 colors, arranged on the rack as a Pantone rainbow of color, starting with blue and going all the way to yellow. They had two styles: Crew neck and mock turtleneck.

Those shirts were like $5 each or something and Bob Wood bought one of every color and didn’t ever have to think again about what shirt he was going to wear. From that point on he would just wear these Eddie Bauer long sleeved T-shirts. It solved a major problem for him! John didn’t feel like fashioning was taking up a lot of his bandwidth, but he also bought one of every color and he still has at least four of them and has worn them consistently that entire time. Only a couple of years ago they started to split and the cuffs started to get so shredded that he couldn't wear them in polite society anymore, but the shirts themselves were still intact.

Right now John is wearing one of these new soft Carry Okrey T-shirts. It is funny how clothing manufacturers convinced us that flimsy and thin was really soft. All the young people now think that their T-shirt is so soft, but it only feels soft because it is thin and shitty. It is not that John is looking for something that is not soft, but it is a trick of the light. No-one wants an un-soft shirt. You could find a terrible shirt that was not soft.

John’s TV in the closet, The Bermuda song from Letterman (RW139)

During High School John had a little black and white TV in his closet that somehow had gone unaccounted for in the house. John could watch the Letterman show from bed with the closet door just slightly ajar and if his mom got up in the night or if he heard anybody wandering around in the house he could just close his closet door and as far as anyone was concerned he was fast asleep (see RL296). There was a little peak of light under the door that would have given it away, but the closet was on the other side of his bed and he probably could have gotten away with it. The system was never challenged.

"Bermuda Bermuda, sunny sunny kind of place, funny funny kind of place" Bermuda was a song that Paul Shaffer improvised on the David Letterman Show in 1983 when John happened to be watching late at night. Dave said ”Paul, you went to Bermuda, how was it?” and Paul grabbed the piano and sang ”Bermuda? Funny funny kind of place! Nutty nutty kind of place". (see article here).

The song stuck with John because he laughed until he couldn't breathe. Over the course of his life he sang it when he was Clark Griswolding, when he stopped somewhere like ”I am checking out the Grand Canyon! Let's get going!” In those situations he will throw one run through the Bermuda song. The mind is a funny thing. John still sings it all the time.

Dan used to watch Letterman religiously. Back in High School he would go to work at his part time job and on the way home he would stop by his friend Casey’s house who worked at a gas station and was getting up to start his day. He worked some weird nighttime and would always be making eggs and bacon when John would come over.

They would watch the last 30 minutes of Carson and then Dan would drive back home and watch Letterman before he went to bed. That was pretty much every night during his senior year in High School. Dan does not remember the Bermuda song, it might have been a little bit before his time. He had watched Letterman before that, but his senior year was the time when he never missed an episode.

John also saw the David Letterman daytime talk show. It was only on for a matter of hours and didn’t run for long. One day John was home sick from school and was clicking through the channels on his little black and white TV when he came to this daytime TV show which was basically the Today show, but set up in a bright sunny studio with cooking demonstrations and the whole daytime TV thing.

Dan can't really imagine Letterman doing that, and Letterman couldn't either and neither could anyone else because the show was canceled really fast. John was absolutely dumbfounded at what he was watching. He didn't know there was a world where this crazy man was doing this show. His comedy was intact and it was the same as the Today show, but in a game show universe. John was thrilled and knew he had found his guy.

Letterman was a celebrity judge on The Gong Show before he had a show at all. They tried to have him up on the panel of The Gong Show and he was mean! It was terrible and he had to tone it way down. He started out as a weather guy, he did stand-up, and the rest is history, but John didn't live in the town where he was doing weather and didn't get a chance to see him as a weather man.

Watching 1970s shows on YouTube (RW139)

Recently Dan sent John a link to a video with Letterman on Carson where he is talking about him and Leno and not getting the show. Sadly John has seen all of those things, and sitting and watching old shows from the 1970s on YouTube feels a little sad. He is not embarrassed, it is not sad like tragic, but if there is a video of Dean Martin or Johnny Carson or David Letterman doing something that rises above the murk, John has for sure seen it.

Watching the Sopranos on his phone (RW139)

John has never watched a TV show on his phone before because it never seemed doable. Sometimes he watches crazy poker hands, like "You'll never believe this crazy poker hand!”, but John will believe it. Some kind of Tony Soprano thing went zooming by and made John watch some YouTube highlight of The Sopranos.

He got frustrated by the lack of narrative continuity and so he went back and watched episode one season one of the Sopranos on his phone and he enjoyed the experience so much that he watched episode two season one of the Sopranos on his phone and he felt like he shouldn't be watching this on his phone because it was a greatly diminished experience, but it was better than nothing. He also watched episode three season one on his phone and who knows where it will end, he could go all the way!

John’s iPad, ordering a new desktop computer (RW139)

Years ago when iPads first came out and was this is a brand new thing, The Daily Show gave an iPad to all of their people. One of those iPads migrated through space and time to John and it worked fine and was fine until John did the classic thing and upgraded the operating system and the iPad turned into one of those things you put on a table to hold a hot pan. It made him sad and mad! John could put his hands on it in two seconds, but it is not a useful device anymore.

Also John’s computer is not in any good condition. Every time he turns it on he thinks this may be the last time, but he has placed an order and the Apples are making him a computer as they speak right this second. John took his laptop to the Apple store and it is on its way to being fixed right now, but he also ordered a desktop computer. 2019 will be a banner year and he is committed to the idea that 2019 is going to be transformative. One of the things that needed to happen was that he needed to stop using computers that he found in free piles in shared housing situations and he needed to stop trading a steak dinner for somebody's old computer.

The laptop is the one that John had bought after his other laptop got stolen. His two desktop computers are both somebody else's castoff computers. The one he is looking at right now was Jason Finn's castoff computer and John spends all this time on it, it is part of his job to do these podcasts and although he wouldn’t need a $2500 computer but you could probably podcast into a zoom recorder or use a phone, but there is all the other stuff he does, like look at the Internet!

Dan thinks John would be a really good example of a person who could do everything with just an iPad. Adam Pranica does that and has a little keyboard attached to his iPad, but that is not John’s style. He is not Mr. Must-have-the-newest-computer, clearly, but he is also not the I-can-do-everything-on-an-iPad. No!

Wanting to put up little song snippets, Patreon (RW139)

John has Terabytes of little Rock songs that he has recorded. Many of those little tunes are not even snippets. The most popular Long Winters songs like The Commander Thinks Aloud or Cinnamon are not complicated and only have three chords. Each tune has one extra little teeny chord that sneaks in a couple of times, but it doesn't really count.

John thought about putting up a thing like the way Jonathan Coulton did a song a week. He wouldn't be able to promise people a fully realized verse-chorus-verse song every week, but he could just put up one of his super Rock riffs that you could hear from the lowest Patreon level. There would be another level where John would actually give you the stems for all the tracks and you could remix it yourself, like a Trent Reznor thing. You could put your own lyrics on it and just give John half of the songwriting credit.

John is afraid that 30 people would be super-excited to sign up for that but nobody else, which would feel bad because he should then just email those 30 people without the need for a Patreon. Dan thinks it would be bigger than 30, but he also thinks John would still be a little disappointed if it were 30.000 people. John says that at 30.000 he would be excited and he would say it was awesome if it were 1000 people. Even if it was 900 people he would still be okay with it.

They have 900 people supporting them on their current Roadwork Patreon, and John might get that many for his music as well. Dan is not bashing the non-Patreon listeners, but it always surprises him that it is such a small percentage of the listener base. They have tens of thousands of listeners and they have 840 people who are willing to give a dollar. Most give more than a dollar, for their credit, but it still just shocks him! When Dan finds an independent creator he likes, he can afford a dollar for them, especially if they are asking for it.

There is a guy who does videos on Minecraft and Dan can give him a buck a month for his stuff, although he is not really playing Minecraft anymore. Dan likes knowing that the guy is out there doing this stuff and periodically he will check in and he is still doing stuff and the videos are even better than they used to be. If all of their listeners gave them $1 a month, this podcast could be their main thing. This could be the thing they do.

If every single person who listened to the My Brother My Brother and Me podcast bought the theme song, John would have one of the best-selling singles in Indie Rock of his generation. They have 500.000 or 1 million downloads an episode and John’s song has been their theme song for eight years. You can download a song for $0.99 and imagine if only 1% of their listeners downloaded the song, let alone 10% percent! If 10% of their listeners downloaded the song, John would be set for the year. Looking at the statistics of John’s songs and how often they have been downloaded, that song is the theme of this enormously successful podcast, but it has not been downloaded appreciably more or less than any of the other songs on that album. It hasn't even moved the needle!

Jonathan Coulton’s success with music on the internet (RW139)

Jonathan Coulton put his music on the Internet for free right at the same moment when technology enabled the music to be good quality and there was a culture burbling up where nerds identified with one another as a single culture. The before times were only 10 years ago when the phrase ”nerd culture” didn't exist. No-one would say ”I'm a nerd” and there wasn't a feeling that comic books, superheroes, cosplay, board games, and Star Trek taken together represented a single monolithic nerdy culture. Kids younger than Millennials don't think that way either because they grew up in a world where all culture is like that. Maybe the word nerd now conveys some other meaning?

Nerd culture was coalescing and looking for a galvanizing thing to orbit around and Jonathan's songs were smart and nerd-friendly. His success at the time was so revolutionary that hundreds of artists thought they could duplicate it but no-one was able to because he landed at the exact right moment that the people that like to share stuff on the internet found a style of music that they thought their friends would like and they shared it.

It was a perfect storm! If Jonathan Coulton's music had been about sports, none of the nerds at the cutting edge of technology would have wanted to share it with each other. Those were the people who had PayPal accounts and felt like they would PayPal this guy money. PayPal was still a novelty. Wow, I get to send money to somebody? I'll do it just to see it happen!

The people who listen to Roadwork are a very varied audience. Many of the listeners are not PayPal-natives or Patreon-natives, while for a lot of people listening to podcasts now Patreon plays a role in their lives already. They are the generation of people where when their friend has a big vet bill they will send a dollar here, a dollar there. It is the same generation that stopped buying albums, the streaming generation, the generation that John used to be very critical about because they thought music should be free. A lot of them came around or maybe that was just the crest of the Millennial wave and the people who came after them recognized you have to chip in and pitch in to the world.

Those Patreon natives have their account already set up and if they like something they send a little money. This is the same generation that grew up paying for the Cloud and paying all these eels every month. 25 different companies collect $0.99 from them and that is just how they accepted that the internet works.

Subscriptions and why some people don’t subscribe (RW139)

Jonathan Coulton subscribes to everything because he wants the full functionality of the Internet. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, but also all the other sub-categories of things that are a subscription, like The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. You have to pay them every month and everything is an upgrade. ”Oh, do you need more storage? Well then upgrade to the next larger plan!” Jonathan is a technologist who tries to eliminate barriers of access to things by assuming that subscriptions to everything are part of the cost of doing business.

John is somebody based in the 19th century and every time somebody asks him to upgrade, he is ”Fuck you! Close it out! Never coming back!” because he is offended by the usuriousness of it. It is just a generational mentality because it is the future. The Adobe Audition John uses to record podcasts is a subscription. If you want to use ProTools to record, it is a subscription. You don't own anything anymore. That is a business model and we are not going back, you can't put the Genie back in the bottle!

There is a dude who is ASMR:ing his opening boxes of Disney toys and his YouTube channel makes him $1 billion a year. His supporters are people who don't have a mental stumbling block for sending him money and a lot of them are probably just stealing their parents’ phone. All of the listeners to Road Work who are PayPal natives or Patreon natives probably do support the show, but that is a smaller subset than the ones who are like John and who say ”Yeah, I want to support the show, but God, I'd have to log on to a thing and put in my information. Arrrgh! Besides: shouldn't they be making money off ads?” It is not as easy for them.

John brought up two valid but very different points: The first one is: ”I'm not a computer person, I just want to listen to my podcasts and it sounds like there is an obstacle between me and supporting these guys, so screw it! I'm just not gonna do it!” It is like ”Wait a minute! You want us to drive Downtown to go to a restaurant? We get to figure out parking and walk, and what if it is cold and we will have to have an umbrella because it could rain? You know, let's just order in!” People can’t just tap a button on their phone while they are listening and a dollar goes into someone's pocket.

The second category of people which is ”They should be making all their money from ads! I'm not responsible! I shouldn't have to give something to get this thing that is free already. If they want to make their money they have an ad now and again, so that is enough. If they wanted my support they wouldn't have the ads” or something along those lines. Those two groups are compatible mentalities.

Generation X being extremely passive (RW139)

Arguing with the generation of people who thought music should be free did not ever convince a single one of them that music shouldn't be free. They were the proto-Bernie-bros in the sense that once they had an idea of what the truth was you could not show them otherwise.

Generation X is an extremely passive generation and has always been like that in a lot of different forms. The activity, the activism, and the action that Generation X engages in is all pretty weak sauce. Partly because they praised themselves on having convictions, but also because they feel that fighting for things is futile. None of this has anything to do with Patreon, it is just an overall critique of Generation X.

John spent his whole life hating on the Baby Boomers so hard, but now he is turning his attention on his own generation and while he doesn’t hate Generation X like he hates the Baby Boomers, he is still disappointed by this ineffectual and easily forgotten generation of people, himself included. John is not waving the banner of the following generations either, but he got finally dislodged from inside the little Generation X tank where they thought they had a really clear perspective on themselves while they were actually letting themselves off the hook the entire time. They are a pretty self-serving cadre of people.

The insulting pricing structure of The New York Times (RW139)

The New York Times charges $20 bucks a month for the Sunday paper and $21.50 for seven days a week delivery. They know that all anybody wants is the Sunday paper, but they want you to subscribe to everyday. It is like the cable companies who charge you an exorbitant amount for the one thing you want which is Internet service and they will throw in ESPN and basic cable for pennies on the dollar more. John resents that! He used to subscribe to The New York Times every day, but it became a burdensome amount of clutter and he somehow couldn't just go to the Sunday because he felt it was an insulting price structure.

John doesn’t know if the New York Times has ever done the math on that psychology, but he knows he is not alone. They could maybe have 20% more subscribers if they just thought about that price structure a little bit and incentivized people to buy the Sunday paper only. They are trying to incentivize people to buy it every day and it disincentivizes John to subscribe at all.

Ten times a day surfing the Internet John wants to follow a link to The New York Times. If he paid the New York Times $0.99 however often they want it, the Internet would be more seamless for him and he would encounter far fewer firewalls. He wants to go there, he wants to have free access to the New York Times and he would read articles by the New York Times and The New Yorker. He had been subscribed to The New Yorker for 20 years, but had to stop getting the magazine because he stopped reading it.

John used to read every fucking word in The New Yorker, including all the announcements of museum openings, he gorged on it! After a while he was spending so much time looking at the Internet that the New Yorkers were piling up by the door and he had to stop subscribing, but he didn't switch over to a digital subscription because it felt like it was bad value. Every day he comes up to a firewall with this article in The New Yorker on the other side that he wants to read, but he just hasn't gotten his head around attaching two more eels to himself.

Somehow a subscription to a magazine doesn't feel like an eel and half the time your American Airlines frequent flyer miles paid for your magazines. John is sitting on this side of a wall, looking over into the garden of The New York Times, let alone the Washington Post. The Washington Post won't even let you read one fucking article while The New York Times give you five articles a month for free. John portions them out, looking at the headlines, thinking if he wants to burn one of his free New York Times articles on this dumb thing. It is so dumb, but John is as bad as anyone.

Dan disagrees. It is not like John could get The New York Times for free and they would offer him to pay whatever he wanted, even $1 a month, and he would get a whole second newspaper that is really good, stuff that he wouldn't be able to read in the regular one. It would be like subscribing to Car and Driver and also getting Sports Illustrated on the weekend. That sounds like a good deal! If they also said that there was not going to be any advertisement of any kind in The New York Times as long as you pay that dollar a month, Dan thinks there will be people that would do it.

There was a time when was the only news website on the Internet and that was it, except for local newspapers. Dan had a 1950s ranch style home that was pretty much original and he would get the paper delivered every morning and would sit down with a cup of coffee in a little armchair next to the fireplace which he used several times during the time he lived there. It felt very old-fashioned, but it was a wonderful way to start the day. He would wake up early to have those extra 30 minutes and it was a fine experience.

The idea of doing that now seems not only old fashioned, but bizarre! The idea that you would get your news from something that was written more than a day ago and was printed on paper and given to someone who had to drive through your neighborhood in the dark and throw it at your front door and then you would open the door and walk down to the end of your driveway and get it and go back inside and read it as your primary activity doesn't seem like a thing people do anymore. Everyone read the paper, the morning paper, the evening paper.

Dan knows somebody who recently bought their first house and they had figured out what their mortgage was gonna be. They knew about their homeowners insurance and about all this other stuff, but they didn't really budget for utilities, electricity, water, trash collection, recycling and all this other stuff. It is an extra $300 a month and they didn't think about it because they had been in an apartment where it was all just included, except for electricity. All of a sudden you thought you were getting this thing for one price and you are really not, or you paid nothing.

People thinking that music and podcasts should be free (RW139)

There is a sense of entitlement of ”content should be free” that is coming from the ”music should be free” thing. When Dan worked in the corporate world back in the days of the original Napster, one of his buddies wanted to have all the music. They had a super-fast Internet connection at the office and he had a dedicated Napster machine running all day. It felt crazy at the time! If Dan wanted to listen to music he had to physically go to the record store and buy the tape or the CD. Sometimes he would buy both because he wanted to listen in the car and needed the cassette tape. He wouldn’t make a copy from the CD because those CD players were garbage, or he would have his nice copy at home.

All of a sudden: ”Wait a minute, how can this even be possible? Are the Feds going to bust in here and catch me because I downloaded this old Devo album?” The majority of people were pretty excited when iTunes made it $0.99 to buy a song, but some people were resentful when Napster shut down, because ”Now I've got to pay for this crap! I don't buy music! Music is supposed to be free!” and that is still the attitude today.

Dan knows a guy who did podcasts on paranormal stuff and all of his podcasts were membership only, even before the days of Patreon. He made a decent living doing it, but he was getting hate-mail every day because people felt that podcasts should just be free because they started out that way. Podcasts have always been free and people do have an expectation that a podcast should be free. It is why podcasts are not very successful at putting themselves entirely behind a paywall. There is too much free stuff out there and why would you pay for it? It would have to be a pretty darn good podcast!

The nature of money is changing (RW139)

The nature of money is changing. There are Uber and Lyft and other people following who their model, like Postmates for instance: When John calls Pizza Dudes in Renton and asks them to send him a pepperoni pizza, they recognize from his phone number that this is John Roderick, but he still has to read them his credit card number every time. He orders from them all the freaking time, whenever he gets a pizza, because they deliver to his house. They don’t keep his shit on file because of privacy or maybe they don't have the technology and think that people would be bummed.

One of the best things about the Uber, Lyft, and Postmates universe is that John can call it up, the car comes, it drives him to where he has to go, he gets out, he goes ”Thanks!” and the guy goes ”Bye!” It is phenomenal and it has changed the nature of money. John no longer thinks of the drive from the airport as costing money, but he thinks of it costing a debit that goes through a system where he has credits and debits coming in and out. People pay him via PayPal, he buys things with PayPal, and at a certain point it is pretend-money because it is just sliders going up and down.

At SketchFest this year they figured that rather than hire drivers to carry everybody around they would just make a deal with Lyft where depending on how many days you were there at SketchFest they would give you $100 in Lyft credit or $25 in Lyft credit or whatever it was. By the end of the festival John had $150 in his Lyft account and every time he called a Lyft he got one of the black SUV because why the fuck not? He was not going that far, but just driving around San Francisco. It was not real money!

The banks and the merchants want nothing more than to put an extra two layers in between money and buying things because the less real money feels to us, the more we engage in these crazy free transactions all the time. John doesn’t even know how many services take $99 a month out of his account, and he is not a technology person. He has web hosting fees and he has subscriptions to things, but he does not think of some of them as subscriptions, like Adobe Audition, because it is something on his desktop that he uses every day. It is set up as an AutoPay and $0.99 goes out as a line item that his accountant looks at.

It still feels like money, because John is somebody who remembers money, but to someone who is working a tech job where their paycheck direct-deposits into their bank account and who buys things directly out of that same machine-money-place, it is just video game credits in their mind. Dan and John remember a time when you picked up your paycheck, a piece of paper that you took to the bank and waited in line, signed the back of it and handed it to them.

Dan still remembers when the first company he worked for got direct-deposit and he was blown away. Some people in the office didn’t want to do that because they needed to oversee the process, they needed to get it in their hand and a lot of people who would get their paycheck would get in the car at lunch and take it right to the bank. They were not going to take the chance that some computer somewhere would accidentally forget to deposit it into their account.

The other day John got a paycheck from one of the many places that pays him and there was a line item in the deductions category on the stub that said ”book file $10.000” Because it had the unusual word ”book” in the description and John’s relationship with these people has nothing to do with books he asked them about it. If it had said ”deduction paid fees system admin”, he would have been like ”Huh, I guess”, but it had ”book” and it drew John’s attention. They wrote back and said they had made a big mistake because they were doing a book deal with some other people and the title sounded like a thing that John does and so the accountants put the charge of that project onto John’s account. If he hadn't looked at the thing maybe they would have discovered their mistake, maybe not.

The generation that is entering adulthood now are never going to know money the way that John and Dan knew money. When was the last time you had change in your pocket? The next generations is never going to have change in their pocket and they ultimately won't carry money at all. They just don’t think of money in the same way. They keep making coins, although they keep trying to do away with the penny, but they haven't yet succeeded because for whatever reason there is still a demand.

When you buy a thing for $1.05, rather than just erase the nickel for you or just high five you about it they are going to reach into the cash register and give you $0.95 change. When John has those encounters with people, he sits there incredulous, enjoying the extra work that they are doing to count out $0.95 rather than just rounding it up and having the register be $0.05 off until somebody else walks out two minutes later and says ”whatever!” and throws a nickel at them. Nobody is counting those little cents! It is the plot of office space! All you have to do is take one penny from every transaction! Burn down your office! Be millionaires!

Money is fake and has always been fake. Having it be gold or the shape of a coin or something that you could put into a gum-ball machine made it feel realer than it was. It is important to recognize that money is a game. To gamify the system, which is what is happening now, is maybe more accurate than to imagine that you can have a bag of silver and that means anything to anybody. The risk of money being a game is the same as what the risk of money has always been: Poor people aren't included in the game, but poor people become a line item that just gets written off.

One of the problems about the transition to driverless vehicles and to the credit card or disruptor economy that we live in now is that in order to have an Uber or Lyft account you need good credit and if you don't have good credit, not only do you not have the money to take the ride, but you don't have access to the system at all. For driverless cars to become the prime mover of cities we will have to exclude cars piloted by human, otherwise the system won't function.

This means that from the day you can't drive your own car into town you will be dependent on a network of autonomous cars. Access to those autonomous cars will be dependent on your credit rating and you just priced poor people out of the city. Governments should be conscious of this and they are probably going to end up with an ad-hoc solution, some subsidized credit system, like pay as you go, or maybe it will be like food stamps or something where people under a certain income will get access to public transit credits, but that again is a bandaid approach to it.

We are still on this side of it, it hasn't happened yet! We could bake access for poor people into to, but we are not going to think about it because government doesn't work that way. We are going to leave it to Elon Musk and the douchebag from Uber, they are going to roll out their autonomous car systems, and everybody is going to be very excited until we realize ”Oh shit! Not everybody can use this!”, but Uber doesn't care, they don’t even care about their own employees, they are not going to care about whether poor people can use their product.

It is going to be a very fascinating transition when these public-private partnerships are going to take over transportation. Just as there is Uber X now, Uber Black, Uber Super Black or Delta sky miles, there are going to be whole tiers of travel that just aren't accessible to other people. You are going to be riding in your crammed little pod and some giant hot tub pod is gonna go by you and you are not even going to have the app that allows you to ride in that kind of vehicle.

It is not dystopian or Science Fiction, but it is very close to us now. It is very unusual to be on the cusp of such a transformative moment like we are right now. The progress during our lives so far has been a gradual and incremental growth of digital. The advent of cell phones and the advent of the iPhone are seen as watershed moments, but they weren't really. They were on a continuum because those cell phones were just phones and smartphones were just a quicker route to get to stuff that we already had access to on the Internet. Now you can look at Wikipedia from from inside your car, but it is still Wikipedia and you are still playing Angry Birds.

We are about to cross over into a universe of robots and virtual reality and a lot of us are excited about it. We are prognosticating about it, but we are not spending very much time with one another as a collective group trying to predict the inevitable pitfalls in order to build solutions into the system for at least the first generation of problems: Inequalities. It doesn't take much to understand that we do not want to devise a system where very few people control every single person's access to the actual physical infrastructure of the world. We don't want five named individuals to decide how, when, and where you get to go to the grocery store or not.

John does not own an electric self-driving automobile at the moment and he doesn’t believe anybody ever will. It is a false flag! Who is going to own one? Why would you? There will be a brief transition where Audi and Mercedes Benz will roll out luxury self-driving cars and put all this energy into the question of how to make these things safe on the road with other drivers, but that is all just bull, that is not how it is going to work! Other drivers are going away and they are going to go away fast.

The whole business of how to make autonomous cars interact with piloted cars is just a lot of wasted technology. What we are building is a world in which all cars are autonomous and they will interact with each other on a grid where they are responding to one another and they will be extremely efficient and beautiful even, and the faster we can get away with human beings driving their own gasoline-powered cars around cities, the better!

My God, we are going to look back and think ”How did we manage to live in such a dirty, archaic world!” The transition will be profound and John can't wait! We just have to get ahead of the mistakes we can already see us making. If only five companies control access to the public roads, who pays for the roads? Are the roads still paid for by taxes? That would be fine when they are a public utility, but if there are five for-profit companies that depend on the roads and no-one else is allowed to drive on them, there has to be a new way to pay for them. You will have to pay for them out of the profits of those companies!

At what point do you nationalize those companies? All the capitalists are now clenching their sphincters, but at what point does this new form of transform become a utility like electricity? Not that long ago, maybe 100 years ago, sewers and water was provided by private companies until it was understood that this is something that needs to be provided by the city, both for equal access and also for standardization. The government does a lot of things that it picked up along the way, things that were getting built and we realized we needed central ownership of them.

The Internet should be a public utility just like electricity because it is ridiculous that we pay a cable company whatever rate they come up with for what is now an essential service. Internet access is as essential as any utility for most people. You can't do work, you can't be in business, and there are people who don't have access to the Internet, but who need it.

Libertarians are like ”Government!”, but yeah: ”Fucking government, brah!” Some things are in the purview of public good and it would be very easy for the government to say they will just give everybody high speed Internet in their city. Some cities are already doing it. This isn't pie in the sky stuff! Transportation will be like that one day eventually and John looks forward to it, he just wants it to be better than he can see it is already going to be. You don't get that many opportunities to stand on one side of a threshold and say ”No no no no no no no don't! Let's just think about this two more minutes before we step through this looking glass!”, but John never gets invited to those board meetings.


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