Another day goes by when I just see another damn article trolling Generation Y the millennials, or people born in 1980-1999. This recent stinking pile of “insight” appeared in my news feed and I just had it: http://www.waitbutwhy.com/2013/09/why-generation-y-yuppies-are-unhappy.html
The biggest sign that an article is just full of shit is if they both make fun of Facebook at the same time as having 3 like buttons and fb-powered comments. Hey buddy, your medium doesn’t fit your message.
In either case, here is a point by point about gen Y:
1. Gen Y would never fight in a war.
FTA: “They were raised by Lucy’s grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not GYPSYs.”
Well, duh! War sucks and is stupid. We as a world are only starting to get over our crush on war. A lack of a large war is instilling in us Gen Ys a new and better great purpose – the Great Peace. Not “peace” as in “unending sorta war on some undefined concept”, I mean Fucking Great Peace with a fucking awesome capital P. This is our purpose as a generation – this is our “struggle”.
2. “Strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback.”
This is an awesome feature of Gen Y. I plead guilty as charged. Ok, Gen X, since you are so good at accepting negative feedback, let me give you some. Your feedback sucks.
Here is an example some “negative feedback” towards women in society:
Same is true for men as well. Men are oppressing women both when men works a 60 hour week and woman stays at home and when the genders are switched. The same is true for companies who will be derided whether they charge high or low prices pay their employees high or low salaries and give shareholders high or low returns. Everything is bad in societies eye. Even politicians, who usually get a blank check on a lot of shit, are not immune to this. If they listen to the people they are pandering populists playing politics and if they don’t, they are tyrants abusing our democracy.
“Haters gonna hate” – that’s our motto, implying we are just going to ignore hate when we hear it. The idea that positive feedback is just both harder to give and is better than negative feedback is a gen Y idea. Yes we are all fucking special. Yes we don’t take criticism well. Deal with it.
Other important ways of positivity are cool mission statements and objectives. Some companies such as Google and Facebook are starting to get good at these, but not everyone is like them. A secure career is not enough for us, we need a fulfilling one. And today’s companies will give it us, whether they like it or not or they will be replaced by new ones.
3. Happiness = Reality – Expectations. Gen Y is unhappy because of high expectations.
Again, guilty as charged. However, what’s gonna happen is not lowering expectations or low happiness. Instead, we will make reality better.
Really, some of the shit Gen X put up with is unacceptable. The draft? Fuck that. Car accidents? It’s about time to get rid of those. Government that doesn’t listen to us; or the NSA, who listens a bit much? A wild suddenly electable Rand Paul appears and tries to show them who is boss. Oh, Rand Paul loses the election? Too bad, but we have plan B: time to move to Bitcoin, and replace the whole banking system. It was sub-prime anyways.
This isn’t just some “negative feedback”. We have alternatives. Gen Y is all about the alternatives. We are ditching car ownership for car2go, office work for telecommuting. We complain about the mainstream media and we actually have other places to get news, such as Reddit and Facebook. We live in a world where many, but not all negative aspects of it have better alternatives. Is it really that hard to imagine that we can do even better?
4. They want a shiny unicorn on top of a flowerly lawn.
Seriously, we will have genetic engineering soon. Unicorns aren’t that far off.
Look, at the end of the day, despite the annoying articles, Gen X is actually pretty cool. It was indeed the greatest generation before us. It has left the world in one of the most prolonged periods of relative peace, though it’s finances could use some work. We appreciate these important continuous efforts and recognize that we can do better. Ladies and gents of Gen Y, lets continue to work on this Great Peace. We got this.
An attempt to imagine the Universal Human Transport of the future.
After reading the HyperLoop paper I had conflicting thoughts. On one end, cheap transport of the future sounds awesome. Showing up California government’s expensive rail plan is even better. But it is not the future. The future of life is longevity, continuous health improvement and communication. The future of human transport is safety, comfort and sustainability.
First and foremost, any transport needs to be safe. Not the atrocious “car accident” –level safe. Not even the airplane-level safe. It should be the level of “taking a dump” kind of safe. You don’t hear on the news: “Pasha passed away during a toilet accident today. At least he died doing what he loved.” There isn’t a Toilet Safety Administration. But you hear about car accidents. And nobody seems to care. The willingness to accept car accidents as a given in this world is just PATHETIC. Transportation is a basic human activity and yet is the most dangerous thing in the world right up there with being a journalist or a billionaire in Russia.
Second, travel has to be comfortable. Not “sitting in economy class, wondering if you should’ve paid extra $100 for some dignity”-comfortable. Not “sitting in the scorching heat in traffic while cursing the sun gods with your horn, while constantly starting and stopping every a few meters” –comfortable. In fact, if you HAVE TO sit at all, the transport method is out. I need to be able to sit, stand, lie down and have sex in every position one’s yoga-practicing girlfriend can do.
9+ day, 100km traffic jam in China. Not pictured: comfort.
Third, the machine-powered travel should not compete with human–powered travel. Streets should be for people, bicycles and occasional electric wheelchairs. Machine-based transport should be either above or below ground. Anything else is not respectful enough of human life and movement.
Forth and slightly more negotiable, the transport needs to be sustainable and sturdy. Renewable energy is the future. If it can’t survive Peak Oil, a collapse of the government or a zombie apocalypse, it’s not worth building.
Telsa Model S is a good example of 1 and 4, but not 2 and 3. Sitting around for long hours whether as a passenger or a driver is not comfortable. The HyperLoop, a good example of 3 and 4, is solving the wrong problem. The correct problem is how to move around people.
The HyperLoop, instead, is trying to think about the most efficient way to move around shit. It is symbolic that some have even suggested using sewer pipe. I am sure it will do so flawlessly. If there a shortage of fertilizer in LA and the only thing that can save them is shipping 20tons of the finest NoCal shit, then HyperPoop will be most efficient pipeline to do that.
Yet trying to stuff people down into window-less HyperLoop capsules, where they have to sit down experiencing a few gs here and there and just hoping that every pipe is in alignment and that the vacuums pumps are working doesn’t feel right. It is most certainly not safe. I am no stranger to the baseline fallacy. I know that the cars are not safe and that there is a high baseline death rate for car travel between San Fran and LA, but hyperloop is not competing with that. It is competing with a bit safer, but not perfect air travel.
There are some attempts of comfort-centric transportation design that exist today. They are: party buses, some trains, houseboats and trailers. Interesting things could also be learned from some of the “shit-moving” successes, such as the shipping container.
Do you see where this “Party Pod” is going? Enough requirements, here is the interior design:
The Party Pod is around 8ft tall and wide and 15ft long, a bit larger than a normal SUV and is pill-shaped. The interior is little higher than 6 foot 4 inches, as to allow most people to stand up straight without bending. There are leather seats facing inwards, party bus style. There is a stripper pole in the middle so that the people can work out during the trip.
The floor is firm, yet covered with a carpet. Think massage table. In fact, there is a massage table built into the floor. Underneath the seats there are fridges with food, booze and whatever drugs are legal in the state you are passing through, which should be all of them. Small microwave. Why not? Mood lighting? Sure. Tint-able windows or windows with blinds. I am sure we can work this out. Small supply of nerf guns? Done. It should go without saying that there is a stereo system and a couple monitors you can hook up a computer or XBox to as well as WiFi on-board. Karaoke machine? Hope you like singing. There is air conditioning at the top and heating at the bottom for maximum comfort.
There is no driver. There cannot be an average human driver because normal humans make fatal errors, unless they are highly trained not to.
Like above, but with more party.
But how does it move around?
Hold on. I am getting to that, but one need to realize this is people-centric design, not shit-moving around-centric design. The idea is for people to WANT to spend time inside the pod. To think about what would the experience of travel be like, not how cool would it be to look at from the outside or how fast it goes. It is all about the journey, man.
Doesn’t the pod already sound like a fun place to be EVEN if you are not going anywhere? Wouldn’t you want to rent it for a few hours to have a get-away with your partner while the kids teach Grandpa to play xbox? Exactly! That’s what travel should be about. I know it’s going to be slow, but I am willing to compromise on speed for comfort and safety.
But make no mistake, I worry about getting to my place fast, but the main optimization does NOT lie in making the actual transport faster. There are significant slowness problems even if today’s mildly comfortable train/airplane transport that pretends to be fast, but isn’t. Allow me to demonstrate with an example:
Let’s say I want to get from the Facebook office in Seattle, WA to the one in Menlo Park, CA. Ok, the actual way I would go is walk down to the light rail, take the light rail to the airport, which is about 45 minutes of moving, but more around an hour if you include walking to and from, as well as waiting. At the airport I have to arrive at least an hour early before my flight, in case TSA decides if I look good enough for groping. It usually doesn’t happen, so I end up waiting in line for the TSA, waiting in line to buy food and then awkwardly sitting down on my computer figuring out if I want to buy the stupid wifi. Once the plane starts boarding, I have to stand in line to board the plane.
I then have to take my seat, which if I am lucky is next to the person I am travelling with, but if this is for work, chances are we have different assigned seating in two opposite ends of the plane. Instead I hope to sit next to an attractive and talkative girl. It never happens. Now we are already MORE THAN 2 hours into the trip and I have barely left Seattle yet. Then if I am lucky the plane will leave only 10 minutes late from the runway and arrive in San Francisco about 20 min after its scheduled arrival time. The amount of leg room in economy is annoying. The lack of good food options is annoying. They should call business class “dignity class” instead. Maybe more people would upgrade. Plane lands. 4 hours so far. If I am unlucky enough to sit in the back, add 15 more minutes to waiting around for people to get their shit and go. And if you have baggage claim, wait, WHY DO YOU HAVE BAGGAGE CLAIM? What do you mean you can’t fit your life in the overhead bin while not being allowed to carry toothpaste bigger than 3.5 ounces?
Next up is getting from San Francisco airport to the Menlo Park office. At some point I might just say “fuck it” and just take a freaking $100+ cab (a little less than the cost of the one-way flight), but for the sake of the exercise, lets go through the public transport scenario. This is where the shit really begins. I get on the rail, which may or may not take me to Milbrae. If it doesn’t, I have to switch onto another rail, which goes backwards to Milbrae. Great. I then have to get off there and rush to buy a Caltrain ticket as I watch the train I just missed leaving. Maybe a friend is with me with me, maybe not, but if yes, she is certainly tired and wants to sleep. I wait for the caltrain. I don’t know how much time has passed. I get on the caltrain. There are still no attractive or talkative girls to sit next to, nor is there wifi. At some point it takes me to Palo Alto station. At this point I have to pull out my out-of battery phone and attempt to find out which bus leaves the caltrain and goes to the office. The cab option is certainly there. I still don’t know which bus goes there because I have never gotten this far. Then I get to the office, which was my goal, but will probably spend another couple hours just resting from all the annoying standing around and waiting I had to do. If there was a hotel that is far away, then god help me.
This is the competition here:
No pinnacles of human achievement were hurt or captured in this picture.
Look, I know my life is great and it is better than standing in Soviet Union line waiting to buy bread. My point is, only marginally.
The total amount of time is somewhere north of 6 h door to door on the best days, most of which are unpleasant and spent worrying about where my next thing is. If you cut the flight from 1.5 h to 0.5h, then great, you just took away 16% of my shitty ass travel time. Probably the most pleasant part. Compare that to a 4h party bus ride to Portland when I was wondering at the end “oh do we really have leave the bus?”
Understanding that travel sucks and we need to reduce the suckiness is good goal. I get it. But I ask you to think differently. I ask you to think, what would the world look like with 0 travel suckiness?
With that in mind, here is how the pod moves:
The Party Pod has retractable wheels and an electric motor and battery. It is a self driving Pod. Something on the cost-level of tesla model s, but since the pod is larger and likely less aero-dynamic, it will probably have lower top speeds. Conservatively, it should be able to at least 45mph on its own on a party pod only city road.
But most of the time, it’s not going to be on its own, nor on a road. On the outside of the pod in both front and back are usb-style docking stations, which allow it to attach and detach to pods just like itself. This is key 1 to the entire design.
There are several methods of moving it, given the docking paradigm:
1. Highway dock
2. Rail dock
3. Pipe dock
1. Highway Dock
The docking allows it to attach to the next pod in line on, say a highway and to move in a train like fashion. This cuts down on air resistance a lot and allows the pod to move forward.
The simplest way to dock is to just pre-dock several pods at the exit and have them move on the highway when there is nobody in the way.
This would be a one-lane highway with some space for exits and entrances as to avoid any complexity of lane switching. Self-driving software could be able to handle lane-switching eventually, but I want to be 100% safe, god damn it.
The air resistance cut down will likely raise the speeds to at least 60mph. Once somebody from the middle of the train needs to exist, the pod detaches from front and back in the middle of the trip. This would require the front to speed up and the back to slow down and potentially a spring to gently push the front and back away from the middle pods. Springs will be part of the docking mechanism as a means of dissipating energy, should something happen.
2. Rail dock
The rail dock is likely the best possible dock available. Instead of driving to the Caltrain and leaving your car, now you get to just dock the Party Pod on the train tracks and go when there is enough of them to warrant moving.
The simplest way to do that is just stop the train entirely. If you want to be more efficient, you can do it while the train is moving. The point is: you, as the passenger, don’t need to do anything. You can occupy your brain with checking Reddit instead and complaining about how capitalism doesn’t give you everything you want. Actually don’t do that. Capitalism is awesome, too bad government ruins it all the time.
3. Pipe dock
You can even take a hyper-loop style design and add these pods there as well. It will be a significantly slower design than before, maybe 200 miles per hour tops. You will not need a vacuum, but you can still maintain good bandwidth by having the spacing be smaller. With no vacuum, the breaking will be a whole lot easier. You can also maglev it if you want.
4. Full stop transition movements
Well this all sounds well and good, but what if I have to do a transition from one type of train to another? If Caltrain Party Pod Line and Bart Party Pod Line both stop at Milbrae, but cannot for the life of them be convinced to work together, what do we do? What if there isn’t enough space to build some sort of cute merger?
Simple. Just use GIANT ROBOTIC HANDS to physically lift the pods and place them from one side of the tracks to another. It’s like Pacific Rim, but instead of the entire robot you just use a hand. Normally you can’t do that with cars or trains because it is hard for the robot to gently estimate how much force to apply. Too much and you crush the car. Too little and it falls out. But with standardized width and height pods, giant robotic hands can be precisely tuned and are the way to go. This is one of the reasons why the pods will likely need to have some sort of cyclindrical mid-sections.
"Giant Robot Hand" Pictured above with an optional accessory of every other part of giant robot body.
Long distance Party Pod rides, such as Seattle to Menlo Park would definitely be done with a bathroom on board, as well as drones merging with the Party Pod to deliver more food, booze and pick up the trash. It’s a little less than 900 miles, so likely to be completed in 9hours door to door. The first part of the ride is just as slow as light rail, but once it gets out of Tacoma, it can be “giant robot armed” onto a better track to go faster than 100 mph. The last section is probably slow as well for the same reason, but there isn’t going to be waiting around.
9hours sounds awful if you are thinking about a plane ride. Inside a Party Pod it sounds legendary.
But what about Seattle to New York? That will take like 40 hours or so. OOMMMG, but I JUST HAVE TO BE IN NEW YORK YESTERDAY. I ask you instead, what is so great about New York that you have to be there in 5 hours? New York will still be there in a couple days. If your work is SOO important that requires you get there ASAP, you can’t work with just a wifi connection and there is nobody at your job who you could party with for 2 days, then you need to take a cold hard look in the mirror, quit your job and become a massage therapist or a professional run-on sentence corrector.
There are a number of extra features just to add that extra safety edge. The Pod should be airtight, except for some air conditioning holes around the top. It should be able to float in water. It doesn’t have to compete with boats, but it should be able to slowly go into an area after a flood and pick up survivors. Something cars can’t do today.
This Party Pod will likely be “on paper” slower than almost all the forms of transport it is replacing. It might even be MORE EXPENSIVE. Personally I will snatch $300 Seattle to San Fran Party Pods rides right up. San Fran to LA for $200. Sure. Yet it will “feel” faster, it will feel better and it will BE better. This all sounds crazy, but 50 years from now when our grandkids are chilling in their Party Pods, they will wonder why haven’t we done this earlier.
Look, at the end of the day, I am not a civil engineer and I am sure I am looking over tons of details. That’s not the point. Actual solutions will be found by people smarter than me.
However, I am a software engineer and I know shitty thinking when I see it. I know how to profile a person’s experience and look at pain points and I know that making airplanes faster or trains faster is no-where near the highest ROI of improving travel.
I know the “investment” part of ROI sound a little ridiculous. How could I be asking people to re-build train-car connections with GIANT ROBOTIC HANDS, embrace long fun rides and give people more flexibility to work from “party”. That stuff is easy. I am trying to do something far more difficult. I am trying to ask people to give up their favorite doublethink. I am asking people raise the standard with which we even begin to approach infrastructure. WhoWillBuildTheRoads? Elon Musk will build the roads, as long as he applies the same care as the design of Tesla Model S. Just because the government built something, and claims it’s good, doesn’t mean shit. We should treat the roads with the same high standard as we treat private workplaces. If a drunk loses his finger in a factory we correctly ask: “why is your factory not drunk proof?” We should do the same for roads.
Moving around stuff and moving around people are two completely different problems. Trains moving around stuff can derail and some insurance company loses money. Tough shit, I don’t care. But people. Not users, not stuff, not cars. People, we are important. People have families who love them and will not put up with cool, but unsafe designs. At the end of the day, just because the government treats us like shit, does not mean we have to embrace it. I am a human being, god damn it! My life has value.