Free, Cities, and Selfish

12/10 - What's Next

Hey there! Hope you have a great week 😇

Let me know if I can be particularly helpful with anything, enjoy the content!


Articles to Read.

Who is J.D. Power, and what do his associates do?

How James David Power III created the only car ranking company you’ve ever heard of.

So J.D. Power and Associates began with Power and his wife mailing out surveys and tabulating the results at their kitchen table. It wasn’t until 1973 that they gained national attention for their work. When looking at the surveys, Julie found that one-fifth of the rotary engines on a Mazda R100 were failing somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 miles. The survey concluded that the engine’s failure was due to bad O-ring gaskets. Even if you’re not sure what all of this means, it’s easy to see how this information — sputtering engines, faulty parts — was sensational enough to make the Wall Street Journal front page, which it did.

The Irresistible Urge to Build Cities From Scratch

Master-planned cities are all the rage in the developing world. Reality may get in the way of their ambitions.

Here’s a taste of what’s going on, and it’s by no means comprehensive. In Lagos, Nigeria—the most populous city in Africa—developers have dredged the Atlantic Ocean to create an island called Eko Atlantic, which they envision as a Manhattan-style financial hub for the continent. Forest City, a $100 billion luxury development with room for 700,000 people, has sprouted in Malaysia. Ghana has Hope City (future home of the tallest building in Africa), and Rwanda is promoting Vision City (free Wi-Fi and solar-powered streetlights are sketched into the plans).

Perhaps the boldest of these utopias is taking shape on an expansive, khaki-colored field of dust between the Nile and the Red Sea in Egypt. In the past couple of years, Cairo has become the world’s fastest-growing megacity, which is bad news for Cairenes, because their metropolis was already mortally overcrowded. Among urban planners, an aspirational rule of thumb says you should allow about 16 square meters (53 square feet) of green space for every person. In Cairo, each person gets about 0.3 meters.

What Do Our Oldest Books Say About Us?

Our current relationship to the written word could not be more different. We remain in the age of mechanical reproduction, the name famously given by the theorist Walter Benjamin to the way that works are replicated via photography, the printing press, and film. In his 1936 essay on the subject, Benjamin wrote, “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

Tomorrow’s Advance Man - Marc Andreessen’s plan to win the future. (long read)

In “Why Software Is Eating the World,” a widely invoked 2011 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Andreessen put the most optimistic spin on Silicon Valley’s tendencies. The article proclaimed that tech companies are consuming vast swaths of the economy, from books and movies to financial services to agriculture to national defense—which Andreessen saw as the healthful scavenging of a carrion way of life. On Twitter, he pursued the theme: “Posit a world in which all material needs are provided free, by robots and material synthesizers. . . . Imagine six, or 10, billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be,” particularly as “technological progress is precisely what makes a strong, rigorous social safety net affordable.”

Selfish Writing

Writing is the ultimate test of whether your thoughts make sense or are merely gut feelings. Feelings about why something is the way it is don’t need to be questioned or analyzed in your head because they feel good and you don’t want to rock the boat. Putting thoughts onto paper forces them into an unforgiving reality where you have to look at the words as the same symbols another reader will see them as, unaided by the silent crutch of gut feelings. It’s hard to overstate how important this is in an industry where distinguishing what’s true from what you want to be true determines a big part of success.

Most investors I know are voracious readers. They want more than just new information. They want a different perspective, or a new way of thinking about a topic they’re already familiar with. That’s what the best writers provide.

America Probably Has Enough Parking Spaces for Multiple Black Fridays

Even the biggest shopping day of the year can’t fill up the enormous oversupply of parking lots that ring U.S. shopping centers.

Is post-Thanksgiving shopping mayhem a fading American holiday tradition? This year, even as overall spending increased between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores reportedly fell by as much as 9 percent compared to 2017.

The United States has as many as two billion parking spots for about 250 million cars, a ratio that many planners and economists describe as overbuilt. “The area of parking per car in the United States is thus larger than the area of housing per human,” writes Donald Shoup, the UCLA transportation scholar and founding father of parking economics, in the introduction to his most recent tome, Parking and the City. He estimates that 14 percent of incorporated land in Los Angeles County is devoted to parking, as is nearly 5 percent of urban area in the Upper Great Lakes region, the book states. The total area of paved lots in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin is roughly equivalent to half the area of Rhode Island.

Future Shock in the Countryside

Earth’s rural areas are being transformed by climate change and technology.

As temperatures rise in countries of temperature complacency, infrastructure will begin to deteriorate. Electricity demands will cause brownouts, extinguishing the lights and the sight of eclipsed cities from the air. But it will also bring fans to a halt. The very young, the infirm, and the very old will die first, as they did in the European heat waves. In a rural setting, the story told from above will be one of absences: herds of animals missing from traditional migration routes and villages lying eerily still and silent.

More to Check Out: 
- Visualizing US Poverty Rates
- Tide Detergent Will Now Come in a Box
How much is enough?
Can Judging Be Automated?
Bill Gates’ Perspective on the Silicon Valley TV Show


Kudos (to people in the community).

  • My friend Noah just launched Glimpse - a newsletter that helps you discover exploding trends before they take off. Really awesome.

  • My friend Johnathan launched a podcast…check it out!!

  • My other friend Noah has been live blogging from the ’18 UN Climate Change Conference, COP24 Katowice.


My Update.

  • 1.5 more weeks until the end of the semester. Time is flying, just have to get through finals.

  • In a few weeks, I’ll be headed to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Bruges, Brussels, Budapest, New Delhi, Tirupati, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, and Hong Kong. Let me know if you have recommendations!

Thanks so much for reading! Find me on twitter : )