Five Reads: The End of Traffic
What follows is our roundup of five of the most compelling stories discovered over the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.
How to Make Commuting Fun
No one can say Elon Musk doesn’t have bold ideas. The supreme innovator unveiled an updated vision for his Boring Company this week, the first test tunnel in Los Angeles aimed at reducing “soul-destroying traffic.” As Electrek, a news site covering the electric vehicle market, reports, the plan includes “autonomous electric vehicles, starting with Tesla vehicles, using ‘tracking wheels’.” These retractable wheels could be added to electric/Tesla cars for a few hundred dollars so they could cruise at top speed through a network of underground tunnels. Let’s hope it works!
Speakers at SXSW 2019 will have much to discuss about plans for autonomous vehicles, with one discussion focusing on why self-driving trucks may make more sense than passenger vehicles. Learn more from the Tech Industry and Enterprise track.
Fighting Alien Caravans
President Trump’s horror of “invaders” doesn’t stop at the Mexico border. You may think you’re reading the Onion, but, in fact, the president authorized this week the creation of ‘Space Command’ at the Pentagon to prepare for extra-terrestrial military defense. This is on top of a separate proposal for “the Space Force,” which would become a sixth branch of the Armed Forces, sitting under the Air Force, similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Department of the Navy. “We’re working as we speak with leaders in both parties in Congress to stand up the United States Space Force before the end of 2020,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “While we’re taking these actions to ensure our nation’s security, and our future, we’ll be following the very best traditions of the past.”
Looking toward the best of what space exploration can bring, the Intelligent Future track of SXSW 2019 will feature the session The Legacy of Apollo and the Next Giant Leap ). As we come upon the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing on Apollo 11, this session will look to the future of human space exploration. Gen. Charlie Duke (Apollo 16 astronaut and moon walker), Gerry Griffin (Former NASA Flight Director on Apollo missions), Vanessa E. Wyche (Deputy Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center), and Bobak Ferdowsi (Fault Protection Lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission at NASA JPL) will discuss the obstacles that had to be overcome in order to reach the moon, the future return to the moon and the new horizon of Mars, and how exploring space can help make life better on Earth.
A Week Without Bad News for Facebook
It’s not this one! The grim tidings continued to pile up as the New York Times exposes ever more about Facebook’s mishandling of its users’ private information. After examining hundreds of pages of internal documents leaked to the Times, the team reports, “For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews….The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.” John Herran added his thoughts on what happens when Facebook goes the way of Myspace.
A Thriller in Saqqara
At a certain point these discoveries just aren’t going to happen anymore, so take a minute to appreciate the true wonder of the discovery of an untouched 4,400-year-old tomb in Saqqara, Egypt. Writing for National Geographic, A.R. Williams explains how the stunning find reveals clues about the life of a royal official in the court of King Neferirkare. She quotes Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who describes the site as “one of a kind in the last decades.”
A Home For the Holidays
Just in time for Christmas, here’s a truly heart-tugging story about children in need of homes and a family seeking a child. Yvonne Wenger, a Baltimore Sun reporter, courageously let a team of her colleagues into her and her husband’s life to produce “The Wait,” a multimedia story with an accompanying podcast exploring their struggles with infertility, their decision to become foster parents and their complicated road to adoption. While this story is intensely personal, it has national implications. As the Sun reports, “there is a significant shortage of foster parents nationwide and the number of children awaiting adoption from foster care has reached a 9-year high: 123,437.”
Five Reads Archive
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Ester Perel Knows Love
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.