Tom MacWright


“I’m sleep-deprived, so please plan to write all my answers,” she emails me. “Make them a bit quirky yet deep, moving, indelible.”

Jenny Holzer Made Good Things Out of Horror. My appreciation of Jenny Holzer’s art goes pretty far back. I loved this interview.

Then in the late 1940’s, the nation embarked on the course that led to the perception that public housing doesn’t work: the construction of enormous high-rise projects. It wasn’t just the architecture, or the mere presence of Government subsidies, that caused these places to go so horribly awry. There was also a big change in the tenant population, from carefully screened working people to the very poor. Because of changes in Federal rules, people who got jobs actually had to leave the building, and it became nearly impossible to kick out tenants who were criminals.

The Public Housing That Succeeds via Alex Baca is a cutting look at what’s wrong with public housing in the US.

In 2016, Lyft’s co-founder, John Zimmer, spun a fantasy on Medium in which driverless vehicles would account for the majority of Lyft rides within five years (i.e., 2021). For backup, he cited Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose own ability to turn his own fantasies into reality lately has come into question.

Lyft’s IPO disclosure shows it’s not close to profitability and has no good way to get there includes this, one of many failed predictions about self-driving cars. Remember October 2016, when Elon Musk said a Driverless Tesla will Travel from L.A. to NYC by 2017?

Hedge-parking: where your vehicle overbooks a number physical parking spaces based on your preferences of timing, location, flexibility and willingness to pay, but is unable to offload the unused spaces on the open market by the time comes to actually park.

Twelve Concepts in Autonomous Mobility by Jan Chipcase, accomplished researcher and also maker of fancy messenger bags. It’s a fun read in part because it highlights how absolutely insane cars are as a format, regardless of whether they’re self-driving or not. The analysis of parking, as a market, a public good, or a government-subsidized giveaway to the rich, makes clear that it’s already a bad idea.

Most people, given the choice, will continue to take the path that avoids being judged. Calling our products “developer kits”, “innovator editions”, and “beta” has been an explicit strategy along those lines. To avoid being judged on our software, we largely just don’t ship it.

John Carmack’s letter to Oculus in 2015 is a kind of leadership tone I’ve rarely heard. I don’t think it’s entirely correct or admirable – revering executives is rarely a good idea – but it does push back on vagueness and corporate speak in a rare way.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

From Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a book for teens I read last month.

Americans love to tell themselves lies about class. And of course, wealthy Americans like to tell the biggest lies about class. And I feel like having this money, it was like I was a secret trust-fund kid. I hadn’t grown up with that kind of money, but the fact that I got it in this weird and unexpected way wound up giving me insight into the bubble that people who have a lot of available money live in. I’d like to say that it made me realize how soulless it is inside that bubble. But in fact, it’s super nice inside that bubble. And I only wish that my own version of the bubble had been bigger, such that I feel like I could still be living inside it. But it doesn’t quite feel that way.

From Financial Windfalls: 15 Stories of the Money That Changed Everything.

She brought up transportation issues. We both nodded vigorously at the problem of the subway system in New York. Public transportation is no great shakes in New Orleans, but the city is bikeable, it’s walkable, and we are both fortunate enough to have cars. When I read tales of my friends’ morning commutes in New York on social media, and see the crowded platforms on their Instagram stories, I often worry the world is coming to an end, and this is just one of the signs of the apocalypse.

From Bright lights, small city. I’ll close with this one. There’s a lot to unpack here. It’s from another article about someone moving from a major city (New York) to a minor one (New Orleans). The ‘exodus’ from major cities is something I have strong feelings about because I see it in the lives of my friends and in the ghosts of my future. And it’s hard to tell how it’s different from white flight, and how transplants will grapple with their inevitable effect on the cheap cities they occupy. But moreso, how moving to low-density transit-weak places like New Orleans is just returning to car-dependent lives that hold a lot more responsibility for the end of the world than the inconvenient but exceedingly energy-efficient transit systems in a place like New York.