A High-Speed Rail Pessimist
Michael Schrage examines the various roles of models, prototypes, and simulations as collaborative media for innovation risk management. He has served as an advisor on innovation issues and investments to major firms, including Mars, Procter & Gamble, Google, Intel, BT, Siemens, NASDAQ, IBM, and Alcoa. In addition, Schrage has advised segments of the national security community on cyber conflict and cybersecurity issues. He has presented workshops on design experimentation and innovation risk for businesses, organizations, and executive education programs worldwide. Along with running summer workshops on future technologies for the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, he has served on the technical advisory committee of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Schrage helped launch a series of workshops sponsored by the Department of Defense on federal complex systems procurement. In 2007, he served as a judge for the Industrial Designers Society of America's global International Design Excellence Awards.
Question: How viable are high-speed trains?
Michael Schrage: Speaking as somebody who will probably be taking the Acela some time this week, it would be nice if we had higher speed trains, let alone high-speed trains. I think that when you do back of the envelope, capital internal rate of return calculations and the number of people moved and the value of these things, it really doesn't work out very well. I am not an optimist on light rail or high-speed rail. I think I would rather invest in a counterpart of Ryanair, than in fixed track locations. I think it may work for Asia and Europe, but people are closer together, the city densities are different, the lifestyles are different, the cultures are different. And I'm one of these old fashioned people who take culture and lifestyle differences very seriously.
I believe that regions and states and cities should be doing experimentation. But it's been my unfortunate observation that a lot of what people call experiments are really ways of throwing money at a problem. One would think that California would have all manner of dedicated, faster rail. But you look at the economic success that Bart is not in the Bay area, despite the fact that there are good population densities, despite the fact that there's a variety of different ways to create complements between the rail and the car, and they haven't managed to pull it off. And I don't think people in California are stupid, so there must be other reasons.
Question: How viable is shared mobility?
Michael Schrage: Yeah, people are doing the Zip car thing, they're doing the bike thing. I know that they've tried this in Paris and have discovered that sometimes people aren't as well behaved or as altruistic or as nice as they should be.
Let me say something politically incorrect and I'm going to argue that some communities will do the shared thing very, very well. If you held a gun to my head, I think that many of these things will go over well in Denmark and parts of Sweden, rather than in parts of Paris.
I think shared mobility is a perfect example of something that technologically we could do with a snap of our fingers. The problem ain't the technology, it's--altogether now--the value and the politics, it's the differences in lifestyles. Do I think shared mobility will do gangbusters in Tokyo and Kyoto and large parts of Shanghai and Beijing? You betcha!
By the way, the reason why it's going to do really well in Beijing and Shanghai? Is if you don't share nicely, they're going to put you in jail. That's just not going to happen in America. No matter how much certain people want it.
Recorded on January 22, 2010
Michael Schrage would rather invest in a counterpart of Ryanair, than in fixed track locations: "It may work for Asia and Europe, but people are closer together, the city densities are different, the lifestyles are different, the cultures are different."
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.
Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco!
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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