Friday, September 13, 2019

Shaw on dirty money

Not saying I agree with GBS on this (never entirely sure that he agrees with himself), but it does seem relevant to some recent debates.

Doesn't read Major Barbara anymore?

From Wikipedia:
An officer of The Salvation Army, Major Barbara Undershaft, becomes disillusioned when her Christian denomination accepts money from an armaments manufacturer (her father) and a whisky distiller. She eventually decides that bringing a message of salvation to people who have plenty will be more fulfilling and genuine than converting the starving in return for bread.

Although Barbara initially regards the Salvation Army's acceptance of Undershaft's money as hypocrisy, Shaw did not intend that it should be thought so by the audience. Shaw wrote a preface for the play's publication, in which he derided the idea that charities should only take money from "morally pure" sources, arguing that using money to benefit the poor will have more practical benefit than ethical niceties. He points out that donations can always be used for good whatever their provenance, and he quotes a Salvation Army officer, "they would take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hands and into God's."

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I always used pith helmets in my version, but other than that...

Christopher Ingraham is a Washington Post writer who recently wrote a memoir about moving his family to a small town in Minnesota. He makes a lot of good points but this one actually echoes something I've been complaining about for a couple of years now using basically the same language.
You know, I think a big problem with a lot of coverage of rural and small-town places is we often just send reporters in, and they go on these kind of safari expeditions - right? - and they come back a day or a week later with this, you know, the secret knowledge of these long-lost rural tribes.

And I think that kind of reporting and storytelling, it really enhances these supposed divisions between small-town America and everywhere else. And I hope if this book does anything, it demystifies small towns and rural America.
A lot of commentators have complained about these "diner stories" but the main objection often seems to be that journalists deigned to talk to the hicks. Yes, I realize that rural Americans are a relatively small group, but other, much smaller yet more affluent segments get considerably more attention.

I find these pieces so infuriating because they are shallow, simplistic and patronizing. They will give you no insights into the politics or culture of the regions. They certainly won't help you see where things are going.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Eric Levitz: "On Climate, Sanders and Warren Must Go Nuclear"

At the moment, the debate about the biggest problem facing our planet is centered on a masturbatory exercise over the appropriate tone to use when discussing the crisis, as if finding the right wording was either a necessary or sufficient condition for solving a problem. We do not have time for this.

This, on thee other hand, we should make time for. You don't have to agree with Levitz here, but you need to hear him out.

To honor its commitments under the Paris Agreement, the U.S. will need to slash its carbon emissions by at least 2.6 percent a year, every year, between now and 2025. Our nation has never come close to decarbonizing at that rapid of a pace. What’s more, to keep our promise — without making life worse for ordinary Americans — we will need to achieve such unprecedented emission cuts while sustaining economic growth and political stability. Of the United Nations’ 193 member states, 192 have never pulled off anything like that.

But France has. In fact, it pulled off something better: Between 1979 and 1988, the French cut their carbon emissions by an average annual rate of 2.9 percent. Over that same period, France reduced the carbon intensity of its energy system by 4.5 percent, by far the largest decline any country has achieved in a single decade. And it did all this without abandoning economic growth, or having to found a sixth republic, or even seeing its streets vandalized by anarcho-populists in yellow jackets.

Given the scale of this success — and the dearth of other precedents for rapid decarbonization — you might think that the French model would boast a central place in the Democratic Party’s 2020 climate debate. If so, you would be badly mistaken. France’s energy policy in the 1980s may be an exceptionally encouraging precedent, but it was also a centrally planned energy transition that involved replacing the bulk of that nation’s electricity providers with state-owned nuclear power plants. And that is an ideologically displeasing model for centrists and (some) leftists, alike.
Nuclear power plants currently meet about 20 percent of America’s electricity needs, making it by far the largest source of non-carbon electricity in our country. As we’ve seen, nuclear energy was responsible for the most successful decarbonization effort in recorded history. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified four model pathways for avoiding more than 1.5-degree warming. Three involve increasing nuclear’s share of primary energy provision by between 150 and 500 percent, while the other envisions keeping its share about where it is now. Sanders and Warren defend the expansiveness of their climate agendas on the grounds that the IPCC’s findings demand nothing less. And yet, their ostensible support for phasing out nuclear is antithetical to that organization’s own recommendations (as is Sanders’s opposition to investing in carbon capture).

It is extremely expensive and time-consuming to build new nuclear power plants. Thus, one can reasonably insist that the necessary funds would be better spent on other green initiatives. But there is no credible argument for decommissioning existing plants. And if the crisis is as severe as Sanders, Warren, and the United Nations suggest, then there isn’t really a credible argument against throwing at least some public capital at “Hail Mary” advanced nuclear technologies like small-scale reactors that could — at least theoretically — deliver safe, affordable nuclear energy at scale. The technology is simply too promising to ignore, especially considering the current limitations of renewables. As science writer (and democratic socialist) Leigh Phillips notes, “Nuclear power has an emissions intensity as low as that of onshore wind … but unlike wind can power hospitals 24/7.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

As you might guessed, I'm going to push back on the importance of this one.

And we'll be coming back to this one as well.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Of course, Nissan never bolted wheels to the sides of a Leaf and ran it down a tunnel, so they're still behind on that front

There was from the beginning a tendency to cut Elon Musk considerable slack for the bullshit because it seemed to be in the service of good causes such as space exploration, electric vehicles, and solar energy, but it was recognized as bullshit. When you got past the fanboys, serious, knowledgeable people never bought into the narrative. In emails and private conversations, they’d describe Musk as a “flake,” point out his habit of taking credit for other people’s work, remind you that most of the breakthroughs consisted of incremental improvements on decades-old tech (much of which had been liberated from TRW).

Eventually it became apparent that turning a blind eye to even seemingly benign crap can have consequences, particularly when it enables a charismatic con man with a messiah complex, but by the time the dangers became evident, the myth was too entrenched and (just as importantly) too well constructed. The lies reinforced each other. Dating back to PayPal, every accomplishment of his career had been inflated, so that now each new impossible claim was followed by a list of all the impossible things Musk has done before.

One of the key steps for the building of this myth has been equating electric vehicles with Tesla. The rise of the EV is a good thing in the short term and an inevitability in the long term (barring some big and completely unexpected breakthrough). Musk’s company made some important contributions in terms of technology and, more importantly, brand (all joking aside, opening the midlife crisis market to  EVs was a big deal)

But all too often the press treated Tesla as the EV company. Nissan (in some ways just as major a player) went largely unmentioned. Models from other companies that predated Tesla were ignored, as was ongoing work across the industry. All of this created the impression that Musk and associates had an enormous lead which helped push the stock price into the stratosphere and helped shore up the myth of the “real life Tony Stark.”

From Michael J. Coren:

    Yet Tesla’s ambitions will require more than owning the US market. Overseas, the Nissan Leaf remains the world’s most popular electric car. It has racked up 400,000 in cumulative sales, Nissan announced this March, and is on track to hit half a million next year. Since 2013, the Leaf has averaged about 50,000 in annual global sales, a number that surged to more than 85,000 in 2018.

    Unlike Tesla, Nissan has manufacturing plants around the world. Three of them, in Japan, England, and the US (Tennessee), produce the Leaf, allowing the hatchback to be modified for local markets. To keep costs low, much of the tooling and assembly lines exist in shared facilities. That’s kept the Leaf’s price at $29,990 for a standard 2019 model, and as low as $11,000 for a used model from 2015.

    While Tesla flaunts its style, Nissan owes its success to those low prices and functionality. The dynamic playing out in the global EV market resembles the war over smartphones. Apple has grabbed the high-end of the market with powerful, high-priced iPhones running its iOS operating system, while Google’s Android owns most of the rest. There’s a stark domestic and international split in market share. In the US, Apple has about 40% of US mobile operating systems. Overseas, Android commands 76% thanks to its functional, low-cost appeal (eclipsing Apple’s 22% share).
Of course, being the Apple of EVs would normally be a good thing, but when expectations are this high, any reasonable outcome is a letdown.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Thinking about how times have changed

This isn't a sentiment you associate with Southern Rock these days.

Hand guns are made for killin'
They ain't no good for nothin' else
And if you like to drink your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why don't we dump 'em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some ol' fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me

Mr. Saturday night special
You got a barrel that's blue and cold
You ain't good for nothin'
But put a man six feet in a hole

Songwriters: Edward C. King / Ronnie Van Zant
Saturday Night Special lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Thursday, September 5, 2019

We need to talk more about WeWork.

God knows, we've said our share of mean things about Uber and Lyft and Netflix and Tesla, but for all of the confusion and myth-making that drove those valuations to their current sky high values, even I have to admit that there was at least the possibility of the promise of something big behind each of those companies. The rise of the smartphone made new models of personal transportation possible. We can argue whether the dominant business model will be all-you-can-stream or a la carte or heavily tiered or advertiser-driven, but there is little question that more and more video viewing will be done online. The future of cars is both electric and autonomous.

By comparison, you almost have to admire the pure distilled bullshit of WeWork. There is nothing to ground this business model, no recent or even promised technological advance, no big innovation, nothing but the CEO babble and Ted Talk happy speak so in vogue in Silicon Valley these days.

Here via Brad Delong, Ben Thompson spells out the inevitable corruption and self-dealing that goes with this sort of scam.

The tech industry generally speaking is hardly a model for good corporate governance, but WeWork takes the absurdity an entirely different level. For example: WeWork paid its own CEO, Adam Neumann, $5.9 million for the 'We' trademark.... WeWork previously gave Neumann loans to buy properties that WeWork then rented. WeWork has hired several of Neumann’s relatives, and Neumann’s wife would be one of three members of a committee tasked to replace Neumann if he were to die or become permanently disabled over the next decade. Neumann has three different types of shares that guarantee him majority voting power.... Neumann has already reportedly cashed out 700 million of his holdings via sales and loans. Everything taken together hints at a completely unaccountable executive looting a company that is running as quickly as it can from massive losses that may very well be fatal whenever the next recession hits.... The WeWork bull case and bear case... both are the logical conclusion of effectively unlimited capital. The bull case is that WeWork has seized the opportunity presented by that capital to make a credible play to be the office of choice for companies all over the world, effectively intermediating and commoditizing traditional landlords. It is utterly audacious, and for that reason free of competition. The bear case, meanwhile, is that unlimited capital has resulted in a complete lack of accountability and a predictable litany of abuses, both in terms of corporate risk-taking and personal rent-seeking...

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Has it really been just two years since Bodega Vending forever disrupted retail?

I don't remember what brought it to mind but I got to wondering what happened to Bodega, the company that was going to revolutionize the convenience store industry and kill off the mom-and-pop store. The short answer appears to be nothing much. They appear to have burned through their PR budget about a year ago. Other than a few stories when they changed their name to the incredibly bland Stockwell, they have basically dropped of the map.

The company is still a going concern but it appears not by much. They only have presences in four cities though they promise more are coming "(very) soon." The website (which looks like something form GoDaddy) doesn't have a lot of details past that. It does have a jobs page with eleven listings of which seven are part-time.

All of which is making Helen Rosner look pretty good about now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fighting Gresham's law of journalism -- more "yes, it is just a god damn vending machine" blogging

Just to review, a few days ago, there was a great deal of fanfare around an article by Elizabeth Segran from Fast Company magazine entitled:

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the article was a bad piece of business and technology journalism. It credulously accepted what should have been incredible claims from an entrepreneur with an enormous interest in hyping the story. The response was largely divided between writers who were understandably offended by the cultural insensitivity and those who unquestioningly accepted the idea that a line of low functionality vending machines (no refrigeration, no hot food or beverages, not set up for cash transactions) presented an immediate threat to convenience stores and other small retail outlets. More than a few commentators managed to fall into both camps.

The problem here is not that all of the coverage of the Bodega Vending Machine Co. was bad; it is that the bad got most of the oxygen. This is primarily a business story (the technological aspect is trivial), and it has produced some excellent business writing, but it appears that the coverage is another example of Gresham's law of journalism: the crappy crowds out the good.

The best of the clear eyed analyses probably comes from  Helen Rosner, a smart, knowledgeable writer who explained in crushing detail the major flaws in the Bodega business plan.
Bodega’s product is, fundamentally, a vending machine. (Well, maybe it’s a mini-bar — open access to product, in fancy places, with a presumed audience that’s affluent and design-minded.) Vending machines are a unique form of commerce, mostly defined by the lack of human interaction at the point of transaction. This kind of unmanned retail operation has a long history (the vending history timeline on the website of NAMA, the National Automatic Merchandising Association, kicks off with Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty; it is delightful), with efficiency as its primary appeal. A tiny, self-contained store without an employee saves all sorts of overhead: Less required real estate, lower payroll, shockingly greater likelihood that shoplifters will be crushed to death.

These efficiencies aren’t gravy, though; they’re essential. They work by way of a simple economy of scale: If you run a few dozen machines (or a few thousand), it becomes possible to buy your products at a discount, to warehouse the products more effectively, and to both fill and repair your vending units in a more streamlined way. These businesses live or die by logistics.

This is where things seem likely to fall apart for Bodega. Even with their wifi connections and app-connected camera sensors, the units themselves are still just offering consumers a basic model of unmanned commerce — only with smaller, fancier machines to process the transactions. What Bodega does offer as a differentiator are the number of unique products per unit (100, the average vending machine has 20-40), and the promise that the products will not just be tailored to their general environments — protein bars in the gym, tampons in a sorority house — but to their specific users. A promise of “machine learning” will, as Fast Company explains, “constantly reassess the 100 most-needed items in that community.”

At 100,000 units — the scale McDonald and Rajan envision — that’s ten million items that are active at a time, plus reserve products for restocking, plus new products to introduce as the “machine learning” (I’m sorry, I just can’t) cycles out low performers. Across specialized markets and user-informed preferences, the number of SKUs (industry shorthand for a stocked product, rather than an individual unit of that product) that Bodega would be dealing with would quickly climb into the thousands.
Labor is not a minor issue, with a company like this one. “Unmanned retail” isn’t a precisely accurate phrase: There may not be a person ringing up your transaction, but there are plenty of people working to maintain a system that allows that absence — even the famous midcentury automats were just the outward storefront of a working, fully-staffed kitchen. Bodega’s warehouses will need to be staffed. The trucks will need to be driven. The Bodegas themselves will need to be manually restocked — each can, bottle, and box placed one by one onto each unit’s shelves. Many traditional vending machine companies employ restockers who double as machine repairers. Will a Bodega restocker be trained to fix a busted computer-vision camera?

Rosner closes with a wonderfully pithy and honest summary of what is probably Bodega's real business plan.
In Silicon Valley, Bodega’s success will not be measured by how well it truly replaces the stores it wants to eliminate — by how many lives it makes better, how many jobs it creates, how many communities it strengthens, or how many families it serves. Like most startups, its success will depend on whether its founders and investors make money, either by cashing in with an IPO or selling to a bigger company for a tidy profit.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tuesday Tweets

It's true that you regret things you didn't do more than things you do. Think of all of the mean things I could have been saying about WeWorks.

Nocera has long been one of the best on this beat.

Important to note that many of the areas most vulnerable to tropical cyclones also have the lowest coastal elevation.



The damage done by the lapses at the New York Times  is greatly exacerbated by its standing as the paper of record. If the paper and The Washington Post would switch positions in just this one aspect, it would do a tremendous amount of good.

Along the same lines.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Happy Labor Day

Look for the Union Label

The ILGWU sponsored a contest among its members in the 1970s for an advertising jingle to advocate buying ILGWU-made garments. The winner was Look for the union label.[9][10] The Union's "Look for the Union Label" song went as follows:

    Look for the union label
    When you are buying a coat, dress, or blouse,
    Remember somewhere our union's sewing,
    Our wages going to feed the kids and run the house,
    We work hard, but who's complaining?
    Thanks to the ILG, we're paying our way,
    So always look for the union label,
    It says we're able to make it in the USA!

The commercial featuring the famous song was parodied on a late-1970s episode of Saturday Night Live in a fake commercial for The Dope Growers Union and on the March 19, 1977, episode (#10.22) of The Carol Burnett Show. It was also parodied in the South Park episode "Freak Strike" (2002).

Friday, August 30, 2019

Townsville has always been a hub of evil science innovation

From Gizmodo:
There’s a certain allure to the geoengineering approach, particularly from the techno-optimist mindset that’s in vogue in Silicon Valley. Keeping the planet at an optimum temperature while humanity gets its shit together with carbon emissions can feel somehow more attainable than doing the hard work to cut emissions. A giant space mirror to reflect sunlight—something Yang said was among his top choices for cooling the planet because it’s reversible if something goes wrong on Earth—is a lot sexier than a closed coal plant.
“If you were to launch a satellite with expandable mirrors and you can make it so that you can bring a satellite back down if you want,” Yang said. “If you find that it’s effective, then great or if you find that is useless, then you don’t use it but then there’s no harm done.”

One of the contradictions of Silicon Valley visionaries (of which Andrew Yang is at least an honorary member) is how often the absolute faith in science and engineering to solve problems is associated with a surprisingly weak grasp of the subjects. The initial reaction to this phenomena is to assume there has to be more to it than that, some cool detail like a Lagrangian point, not enough to make the proposal feasible but at least enough to make it interesting.

But there is seldom more than meets the eye, the big, wildly ambitious ideas generally come down to nothing more than tired old sci-fi movie tropes.

If we are going to talk about giant space mirrors, we might as well do it right. Thank god for the comment section.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

This is a lot of money for an awfully short suborbital flight.

SpaceShipTwo is designed to be lofted by a carrier plane called WhiteKnightTwo. At an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters), the space plane separates from the carrier; then, SpaceShipTwo engages its onboard rocket motor to make its own way to suborbital space.

Passengers aboard the vehicle will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get to see the curvature of Earth against the blackness of space before coming back down to Earth for a runway landing.

A ticket for this ride currently costs $250,000, and more than 600 people have put down deposits to reserve a seat, Virgin Galactic representatives have said.

With all the hype, it's important to remember how little there is here. Technologically there's nothing groundbreaking while as a business model, it does offer a spectacular view and a few minutes of weightlessness, but there are other options for the latter and plenty of spectacular views closer to home, all available at a fraction of the cost. The main selling points appear to be novelty and bragging rights, both of which are likely to fade well before the investors (at least those at the back of the line) see any returns.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Bethany McLean made her name covering Enron, which is never a good sign

There's a major expose out from Vanity Fair on SolarCity. Give a read. We'll talk more later.

Until then, here are some rules I suggested a couple of years ago for dealing with reporting on Musk. There are a few points I might sharpen a bit if I were writing this today, but nothing I'd care to retract.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A few points to keep in mind when reading any upcoming story about Elon Musk

First, a quick update from the good people at Gizmodo, specifically Ryan Felton:

Elon Musk awoke on Thursday with the intention of sending Twitter into a frenzy by declaring that he received “verbal govt approval” to build a Hyperloop in the densest part of the United States, between New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. This is dumb, it’s not how things work, and requires, uh, actual government approval.

Felton goes on to contact the government agencies that would absolutely have to sign on to such a project. Where he was able to get comments, they generally boiled down to "this is the first we're hearing of it." The closest he came to an exception was the federal Department of Transportation, which replied

We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.
This is a good time to reiterate a few basic points to keep in mind when covering Elon Musk:

1.    Other than the ability to make a large sum of money through some good investments, Elon Musk has demonstrated exceptional talent in three (and only three) areas: raising capital for enterprises; creating effective, fast-moving, true-believer corporate cultures; generating hype.

2.    Though SpaceX appears to be doing all right, Musk does not overall have a good track record running profitable businesses. Furthermore, his companies (and this will come as a big slap in the face of conventional wisdom) have never been associated with big radical technological advances. SpaceX is doing impressive work, but it is fundamentally conventional impressive work. Before the company was founded, had you spoken with people in the aerospace community and asked them "what is closest to being Mars ready, who has it, and who are the top people in the field?", the answers would have been the type of engine SpaceX currently uses, TRW (which sued SpaceX for stealing their intellectual property), and the chief rocket scientist SpaceX lured away from TRW. By the same token, Tesla is pretty much doing what all of the other major players in the auto industry are doing in terms of technology.

3.    From the beginning, Musk has always had a tendency to exaggerate and overpromise. Smart, skeptical journalist like Michael Hiltzik and the reporters at the Gawker remnants have taken any claim from Elon Musk with a grain or two (or 20) of salt.

4.    That said, in recent years things have gotten much, much worse. Musk has gone from overselling feasible technology and possibly viable business plans to pitching proposals that are incredibly unlikely then supporting them with absurdly unrealistic estimates and sometimes mere handwaving.

5.    The downward spiral here seems to have started with the Hyperloop. This also seems to be the point where Musk started trying to do his own engineering rather than simply taking credit for the work of those under him. On a related note, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Elon Musk has no talent for engineering.

6.    Musk’s increasingly incredible claims have started to strain the credulity of most of the mainstream press, but the consequences have been too inconsistent and too slow-coming to have had much of a restraining influence on him. Even with this latest story, you can find news accounts breathlessly announcing that supersonic travel between New York and DC is just around the corner.

7.    Finally, it is essential to remember that maintaining this “real-life Tony Stark” persona is tremendously valuable to Musk. In addition to the ego gratification (and we have every reason to believe that Musk has a huge ego), this persona is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Musk. More than any other factor, Musk’s mystique and his ability to generate hype have pumped the valuation of Tesla to its current stratospheric levels. Bloomberg put his total compensation from Tesla at just under $100 million a year. When Musk gets tons of coverage for claiming he's about to develop telepathy chips for your brain or build a giant subterranean slot car race track under Los Angeles, he keeps that mystique going. Eventually groundless proposals and questionable-to-false boasts will wear away at his reputation, but unless the vast majority of journalists become less credulous and more professional in the very near future, that damage won’t come soon enough to prevent Musk from earning another billion dollars or so from the hype.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday Tweets





Monday, August 26, 2019

The hyperloop is a masters' class in controlling the narrative

Here's how you do it.

1. Set the topics

For a brief window a few weeks after the initial white paper, boosters of the hyperloop completely lost control of the narrative. Papers like the Washington Post published devastating takedowns which left no stone upon stone of the original proposal and the whole thing seemed dead in the water.

The lull would prove temporary and when the story returned, the pro hyperloop camp pretty much got everything they wanted in terms of setting the agenda. There were speculative pieces about what life would be like in a world of supersonic ground transportation. Stories about new startups and impressive-sounding rounds of funding. Breathless accounts of demonstrations that were limited strictly to the parts of the system that were already widely in use elsewhere. Skeptics were relegated to a paragraph or two, almost always will below the fold.

2. Create the laws-of-physics standard

Promoters of the hyperloop have managed to introduce what is almost certainly the ultimate in low bars for infrastructure proposals, the assertion that it does not violate the laws of physics.

This takes on an added degree of absurdity when applied to a maglev vactrains,  an idea that engineers have been playing around with for at least 100 years, longer if you break it down to its component parts

With no one in all that time seriously questioning its theoretical foundations.

Nonetheless, it has become one of the standard tropes of the here-comes-the-hyperloop article to haul out a physicist who assures the readers that magnetic levitation works and that vehicles traveling in vacuums don't have a problem with air resistance.

3. Work the people covering the story.

The supporters played on the press's weaknesses for tech messiahs and opinions differ journalism. There is a intense desire to believe that things like supersonic trains and Mars colonies and immortality formulas are not just possible but are right around the corner. If anything the Press is particularly susceptible to this, especially when the idea was associated with some Silicon Valley savior.

Most of the reporters on this beat were also notably weak on the subtleties of engineering. Even the best of them tended to think in terms of principles to be explained rather than problems to be anticipated, understood, and solved. Issues that would be top-of-mind for any mechanical or civil engineer like thermal expansion were almost entirely off of their radar unless one of the experts they consulted brought it up.

4. Wait out the critics

Of all the weapons in the promoter's arsenal, patience was perhaps the most valuable. With only occasional exceptions, they ignored their critics and eventually the reporters did too.

5. Keep funding "private" until actual money is involved

At first, the hyperloop was supposed to be so cheap to build and maintain that it was hardly worth talking about. Just charge passengers twenty bucks a head and you'd break even in no time. The development costs were all being handled privately. Even if the plans never came to fruition, what was the harm?

The suggestion that little or no tax dollars would be involved further shielded the proposals from scrutiny, letting them gain credibility simply by going unquestioned for so long in the public discourse. Then, slowly but inevitably, the idea of public funding started to ease its way into the conversation. Now it's public-private partnerships.  Care to guess what the next point on the line will be?