Elon Musk is the head of a spaceflight company, an electric car manufacturer / solar energy effort, and a brain-computer interface project. Recently, though, he added a tunnel boring company to that already crowded plate. This past weekend he spoke about The Boring Company, as he’s calling it, for the first time in public with Chris Anderson, the curator for TED Talks.
It wasn’t a hard-hitting interview — while Anderson got Musk to share some details about the tunneling project, he also teed up many of the billionaire CEO’s favorite talking points, and his followups were often “whoa” or “wow.” You can watch the full video above, but here are our 10 biggest takeaways from the conversation.
Musk wants the tunnels to span the country on a deep level
Musk said that there’s “no real limit” to the depth of his proposed tunnels. “The deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall, so you can alleviate any arbitrary level of open congestion with a 3D tunnel network.” This, Musk said, is how to get around the most popular rebuttal so far: that underground tunnels will simply spread the congestion to a new place without completely solving the problem of traffic. Musk thinks it will be possible to create “any arbitrary number of tunnels, any number of levels” in order to reduce congestion on the surface.
There needs to be a massive cost reduction before a tunnel network gets built
Anderson mentioned that this project sounds expensive, and Musk agreed. “We need to have at least a 10-fold improvement in the cost per mile of tunneling,” Musk said. He thinks there are two things that will allow The Boring Company to achieve that kind of cost reduction.
One is to cut the typical diameter of a tunnel “by a factor of two or more” to 12 feet. “A single-lane tunnel would have to be 26 or 28 feet in diameter to allow for emergency vehicles and ventilation for combustion engine cars,” Musk said.
Read more at The Verge.
When I first meet Representative Maxine Waters, she is sipping tea. It’s almost too perfect. She’s sitting, quietly, behind a curtain on-stage at the D.C. restaurant and performance venue Busboys and Poets. She doesn’t see me for a split second; her eyes are focused on some point in the middle distance, her lips graze a mug of hot tea. She seems, in this moment, turned inward, contemplative. She reminds me of the “That’s none of my business” meme.” You know the one, Kermit (or any number of other celebrities) sips from a mug after throwing a little shade, vowing not to get involved in whatever drama is going down.
But then I remember two things: Representative Maxine Waters is no one’s meme and, honey, she is here to get involved. She isn’t sipping tea, she’s spilling it. Buy shares in Lipton, everybody.
It’s odd to say that Rep. Waters isn’t a meme; since her quickly aborted press conference on James Comey and her subsequent appearances on All In with Chris Hayes in which she talked about the Kremlin Klan, the Internet has been obsessed with her. She’s shown up in videos, in GIFs, and above all, in memes. I have a shirt with her face on it, for goodness sake. You probably do, too. But despite this sudden popularity, meme-fame is not her end-game. And behind the viral videos, the over-the-glasses scowls, and the alliterative catchphrases, there is a black woman who is passionately, tirelessly fighting for the future of this country.
But that doesn’t mean she won’t let you call her Auntie.
It feels a bit like going to see the wizard, when they lead me backstage at Auntie Maxine’s Tax Day Open Mic, an event her staff has put together as part meet-and-greet, part-rally. She is larger than life in every respect; what if she turns out to be just another politician when the cameras are switched off? I step on-stage, she turns her eyes to me and lights up. Y’all, Auntie Maxine hugged me. I’m sure you heard my soul shouting all the way in Bethesda. “Where did you learn to write like that?” she asks as an introduction. I babble an answer that sounds something like “I dunno, the streets” and try to recall any of the 10,000 questions I have for her. True to form, however, she’s got more to say.
Read more at Elle.
A year or so ago the term modest wear would have drawn puzzled looks. But what a difference a year – or, in fact, a few weeks – makes.
This month, Vogue Arabia launched its first ever print issue, with Saudi Arabian princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz as its editor in chief. Days later, Nike pioneered a hi-tech hijab for Muslim female athletes. London has seen its first modest fashion week. Big brands such as DKNY, Mango, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta and Uniqlo have all offered modest fashion lines to women, and Debenhams has just become the first department store to sell hijabs on the high street.
Yet the latest talking point in fashion circles has been the appearance of The Modist, a luxury e-commerce venture which launched, quite intentionally, on international women’s day. Fashion that caters to women who want to combine their faith or modesty with contemporary style has emphatically arrived.
The founder and CEO of The Modist is 38-year-old Ghizlan Guenez, of Algerian background, who presents her new company more as a philosophy than a fashion destination. And of course Guenez, who has a private-equity background, knows this is where the big money lies. Global Muslim expenditure on fashion is set to rise to $484bn (£398bn) by 2019, according to Reuters and DinarStandard, a research and advisory firm.
Read more at The Guardian.
In a medical first, surgeons have used a robot to operate inside the human eye, greatly improving the accuracy of a delicate surgery to remove fine membrane growth on the retina. Such growth distorts vision and, if left unchecked, can lead to blindness in the affected eye.
Currently, doctors perform this common eye surgery without robots. But given the delicate nature of the retina and the narrowness of the opening in which to operate, even highly skilled surgeons can cut too deeply and cause small amounts of hemorrhaging and scarring, potentially leading to other forms of visual impairment, according to the researchers who tested out the new robotic surgery in a small trial. The pulsing of blood through the surgeon’s hands is enough to affect the accuracy of the cut, the researchers said.
In the trial, at a hospital in the United Kingdom, surgeons performed the membrane-removal surgery on 12 patients; six of those patients underwent the traditional procedure, and six underwent the new robotic technique. Those patients in the robot group experienced significantly fewer hemorrhages and less damage to the retina, the findings showed.
The technique is “a vision of eye surgery in the future,” Dr. Robert E. MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who led the study team and performed some of the surgeries, said in a statement. MacLaren presented the results Monday at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), happening this week in Baltimore.
“These are the early stages of a new, powerful technology,” said MacLaren’s colleague Dr. Marc de Smet, an ophthalmologist in the Netherlands who helped design the robot. “We have demonstrated safety in a delicate operation. The system can provide high precision [at] 10 microns in all three primary [directions], which is about 10 times” more precise than what a surgeon can do, de Smet said. (The three primary directions are up/down, left/right, and towards the head/towards the feet.)
Read more at NBC.
Lacey Baker is a recent transplant to New York, but you wouldn’t know by the way she skateboards on the Lower East Side, easily navigating potholes and cracked pavement in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. Dressed in black jeans and a loose black T-shirt, with short-cropped yellow hair as bright as a tennis ball, she comes to a stop in front of Colman skatepark. School is just getting out on one of the first nice days of spring, and high school boys begin streaming in. She’s got a torn ligament in her ankle – she rolled it skateboarding in January, and hasn’t been able to do much beyond pushing around since – so instead of joining them on the court, she stares through the gates, her eyes following the boys as they cut through the park. A kid rides by and she gives him a nod, the universal skater acknowledgment, but he stops. “Wait, I know you,” he says. “You’re famous!”
With a shaved head and androgynous look, Baker, 25, is known in skateboarding as much for her outspokenness against the misogyny of the corporate industry – which she has called “a bunch of dudes making decisions and judgments” – as her technical finesse on a board. And both as a queer woman and a person who doesn’t necessarily identify with a traditional view of femininity, she’s brought a rebellious approach to a sport that has largely become accepted by the mainstream, becoming one of skateboarding’s youngest outsiders. Yet with a kind manner and an infectious sense of humor, Baker’s got a focus and drive that make her a beloved figure within the scene. “She’s a ball of joy, so much fun to be around,” says Vanessa Torres, her teammate on Meow skateboards. “Her talent is undeniable.”
Since skateboarding first became a trend a half-century ago, women have been participating, but few have achieved prominence. From Patti McGee balancing on the tiny boards of the 1960s, to Cara-Beth Burnside shredding bowls in the 1980s to Jamie Reyes and Elissa Steamer leading the charge through the 1990s, a few women have become pro, though not nearly at the rate of their male counterparts. Most companies have neglected the female skaters, showering endorsements and sponsorship cash on generations of teenage boys while sponsoring no more than a dozen women. But thanks to an increased awareness of women in the industry – due in a large part to social media – Lacey is part of the generation of women to who are going to break through together. “Where we’re at versus like the men’s side of things is actually kind of cool,” she says. “It’s one of the first generations, and now the generations to follow are gonna be a lot more saturated. And the more visibility there is for women skating, the more people are going to realize, ‘Oh, this is actually like a thing.’ It’s something that should have never not been taken seriously.”
Baker started skateboarding a few months after she started walking. She was two, briefly living in foster care in Southern California, and couldn’t stop staring at the half-pipe set up in the backyard. “I was obsessed with watching my foster brothers skate,” she says. “They asked me what I wanted for Easter and immediately my answer was skateboard.” She got the board, and took it outside right away. “I remember it was early as fuck in the morning, they set my board down and I’m like, I’m doing it!” In reality, she wasn’t doing much – she was standing on the skateboard in the center of the half-pipe, not moving at all – but it was a solid start. “That’s where I fell in love with it,” she says. “I’ve been skating ever since.”
Read more at Rolling Stone.
Text of the Amazon Inc. founder and chief executive’s 2017 letter to shareholders, edited for space but retaining context by New Times Always!
I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1. To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.
How do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization? Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense:
Customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high velocity decision making.
There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality. Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.
Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight.
As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it’s the second.
Another example: market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers – something that’s especially dangerous when you’re inventing and designing products. “Fifty-five percent of beta testers report being satisfied with this feature. That is up from 47% in the first survey.” That’s hard to interpret and could unintentionally mislead.
Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.
The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind. These big trends are not that hard to spot but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace. We’re in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence. At Amazon, we’ve been engaged in the practical application of machine learning for many years. Some of this work is highly visible: our autonomous Prime Air delivery drones; the Amazon Go convenience store that uses machine vision to eliminate checkout lines; and Alexa, our cloud-based AI assistant. But much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface. Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more..
Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations. Speed matters in business – plus a high-velocity decision making environment is more fun too.
First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.
Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes. This isn’t one way. If you’re the boss, you should do this too. I disagree and commit all the time. We recently greenlit a particular Amazon Studios original. I told the team my view: debatable whether it would be interesting enough, complicated to produce, the business terms aren’t that good, and we have lots of other opportunities. They had a completely different opinion and wanted to go ahead. I wrote back right away with “I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made.” Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment.
Fourth, recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned. No amount of discussion, no number of meetings will resolve that deep misalignment. Without escalation, the default dispute
resolution mechanism for this scenario is exhaustion. Whoever has more stamina carries the decision. I’ve seen many examples of sincere misalignment at Amazon over the years. When we decided to invite third party sellers to compete directly against us on our own product detail pages – that was a big one. Many smart, well-intentioned Amazonians were simply not at all aligned with the direction. The big decision set up hundreds of smaller decisions, many of which needed to be escalated to the senior team. “You’ve worn me down” is an awful decision-making process. It’s slow and de-energizing. Go for quick escalation instead – it’s better.