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    • Here is an interesting look at how these tech billionaires are building their own versions of Utopia. Of course, this notion is nothing new. Throughout history, people with money and power have made infrastructure decisions for others. Sometimes things go right and sometimes they go disastrously wrong. But the equation will probably always remain the same.

      An example from the article:

      Elon Musk has started to build a tunnel prototype in Los Angeles. With the Boring Company, he wants to build a 17 mile tunnel from the Los Angeles San Fernando Valley to the Los Angeles International airport. There are many reasons why this isn’t a good idea, spanning from environmental hazards and risks to private land concerns. Others have argued it isn’t a practical solution for the area and that it would make much more sense to build a “light rail” to the airport, where more people can benefit. Musk has dismissed this, not wanting anything “public,” as he prefers to avoid other people in his commuting space and expects others to feel the same.

      Having lived and worked in Southern California since 1985, I can tell you that the idea of a tunnel network comes up all the time. He is already taking steps to build this with the seeming buy-in of politicians and the local government for a pilot test. 

      https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3k4bmv/elon-musk-boring-company-spacex-utopia




    • Really great question, Jain.

      I spent a few years living among the uber-rich, and through a fluke of volunteerism, ended up on a non-profit board that was overrun by them. It was terribly uncomfortable. The combination of extreme wealth, extreme sense of entitlement, extreme arrogance, and extreme competition was too pervasive for the board to function effectively. It completely backfired as board members tended to focus on different pet projects and threw out-sized funding gifts around as a way to grab or solidify power among their peers rather than for the good of the organization or its constituents. It was crazy to watch. I got out of there as fast as I could...

    • That is crazy, lidja... what you describe is exactly what I fear is happening in our own local governments. What is sad and frustrating is that most people don't pay attention to what is going on in their own back yards. I try to go to local planning meetings as often as I can and it's amazing that very few people show up, so giant development plans--most are about 10 years out--just get pushed right through without question...

    • Huh. I've tried to understand what Elon was doing with The Boring Company and I thought this TED interview was pretty fantastic: https://www.ted.com/talks/elon_musk_the_future_we_re_building_and_boring

      I was excited about it because London Underground, New York Subway, but LA seems to never get around to mass transit like that. Except for when some early billionaires got them to go the other way and destroy their mass transit. Allegedly.

      I did see a company at Maker Faire that is promoting an elevated pod-traveling-on rails system above ground. They are very early but the dream is small pods where you hail it and tell it where to drop you off based on an app, I think I remember. Solar powered. I asked why this is better than Elon's tunnels and they said cheaper to build and solar power.

      Google just told me there's another company like that, jpods:

    • what are the possible options for preventing extremely wealthy people from making poor philanthropic choices? It is their money, so doesn’t that give them the right to spend it frivolously or in a manner that’s more acceptable to the masses? Short of taking their $ from them or forcing people to have some base level of empathic fiscal normalcy, people will always have the right to do with their money what they want.

    • I agree with you in many ways. I think the author was concerned more about the fact that people use their money to make decisions for others that may affect their lives without putting it to a vote first. For example, developing large transportation or land use projects. All large scale developments have to go through a lengthy process to get a greenlight. The problem is a vast majority of people don't complain until it's too late: they don't show up at planning commission meetings when the projects are first proposed so they sail through.

    • I think historically these big projects were launched as money making ventures. Build a cross country rail system to make money on shipping fees, build a power plant to sell electricity, etc.

      I'm not entirely convinced that is the case with Elon's pet projects. Looking at all of the different things he has his hands in, they add up one thing; colonizing Mars. With only his own companies, he can launch a rocket, build a colony in tunnels, and travel around it in electric cars. Maybe I've read too many SciFi books, but it sure looks that way to me. If he pulls it off, his life will make a great book in itself.

    You've been invited!