Thursday, December 27, 2018

Of all the strange turns in the story of the Elon Musk Boring company debut, this may be the funniest and the saddest.

From the Chicago Sun Times

After a bumpy, but exhilarating California test ride, a delegation of city officials returned home Wednesday more convinced than ever that Elon Musk’s plan to build a “Tesla-in-a-tunnel” high-speed transit system between downtown and O’Hare Airport would be “transformational for Chicago,” as one said.

Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin, who led the Chicago delegation, said he wasn’t scared when the TeslaX he was riding in descended into the tunnel, and he didn’t suffer from motion sickness after the choppy, 45-mile-an-hour ride.

That’s less than half the speed that the visionary billionaire of Tesla and SpaceX fame has promised for the $25, 12-minute ride from downtown’s Block 37 to O’Hare Airport aboard an electric vehicle seating sixteen passengers.

“The tunnel is well-lit. You can see the turns in front of you,” Rivkin said. ” … You just get a sense of the simplicity of the whole thing. It’s a tunnel with a Tesla in it.”

There is a memorable anecdote in Cialdini's Influence. In the chapter on commitment, consistency, and cognitive dissonance, as memory serves, he describes seeing a mathematics professor completely dismantle a guru pitching a TM course only to see a number of people sign up anyway. When Cialdini asked some of them if they found the mathematician' s arguments, they said it was the opposite. They were starting to have doubts and wanted to make a decision before they changed their minds.

That always struck me as a little on the nose. Cialdini always builds his case with extensive evidence presented along multiple lines of attack – – sound theory with reasonable evolutionary support, controlled experiments, observational data, historical records, successful established business practices, and relevant news stories – – so an unconvincingly apt personal anecdote doesn't undercut the bigger picture.

(Much of my antipathy toward Freakonomics comes from the fact I picked it up expecting the same standard of proof.Instead, the authors seemed to treat their assertions as unquestionably true.)

After reading this, however, I'm less inclined to think that Cialdini gilded the lily. The main difference is the considerably lower level of self-awareness from the elected officials.

To be blunt, there is no rational way to come away from Musk's tunnel debut more enthusiastic about the project. There was no good news there.

1. The reviews were brutal.

2. The new proposal is slower with much lower capacity than what was promised.

3. After two years of promises, the company appears to have made no technological advances at all. No progress in tunneling techniques. Seemingly no work at all on the rest of the system. Nothing.

We have reached that point in the Musk narrative where what should cause doubt only adds to the faith of the faithful.

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