Fuck Scooters

Maybe one day I’ll try an e-scooter, but for now, after spending weeks reading about their sudden emergence in cities across the U.S., with writers everywhere gushing about how, actually they’re cool, and that they could develop into a viable business and ease congestion, I’ve concluded that I absolutely hate them. Fuck scooters.

Is this an annoying take from someone who hasn’t experienced the joys of zipping down the road at 15 mph, like my pro-scooter west coast colleague Andrew Collins got to experience?

Maybe it is, for you. I’m content with my perspective.

For me, it boils down to championing new-age tech ideas, like ride-hailing, bike-sharing, fucking scooters as a solution for public transportation failures. Time and again, ever since Uber barged into the room but probably before that, Silicon Valley has trotted out some form of the argument that so-called “mobility” options will be more environmental-friendly than transportation systems of yesterday, and, more notably, rein in soul-sucking congestion.

None of this, to date, has been proven true. And now with e-scooters barreling into the public limelight, scooter-renting startups are offering up the same ham-fisted official line. Instead of adequately funding public transportation, they’re effectively saying, try this shiny new toy.

In a recent piece about his transformation into a scooter devotee, Kevin Roose, a writer for The New York Times, tossed in this line (emphasis mine):

They’re lightweight and emission-free. They don’t require bulky docks or parking lots, and they’re perfect for trips that are too long to walk but too short to justify driving or hailing a car. If they take off, they could alleviate congestion and become a low-cost way of getting around cities without robust public transportation systems.

Holy shit, do I ever disagree. It reminded me of a story I heard a couple years back while I was living in Detroit.

In the general election that year, voters headed to the polls to cast ballots not just for the president, but a measure that would’ve created Metro Detroit’s first ever regional transit authority. If passed, it would’ve commenced the creation of a robust Bus Rapid Transit network, established more cohesion between the city and suburban bus systems, and, finally, put the region on some sort of path to beefing up its historically god-awful public transit system.

Voters shot it down. A friend shared their story about a voter in an outer-lying community who explained why they rejected it: It’s not just a waste of taxes, this person said. Low-income folks could just use Uber, they said.

Mind you, a bus pass there costs roughly $50 per month, and while Detroit’s transit system is a disaster, that’s a more affordable fare than daily roundtrips via Uber. Hell, you could hit $50 in a day or two taking Ubers and cabs. And I find it highly doubtful that subsidies for Uber and Lyft could lower the price enough for a low-income resident.

That’s the thing: Scooters cannot beef up transit options in places like Detroit. No Detroit resident’s going to pick up an electric scooter to get to their job in the suburbs. (Though imagining David Tracy picking up a scooter at the airport and riding along the I-75 service drive for two hours, backpack full of Jeep parts, to his home in the suburbs, is funny to consider.)

I’m not offering this up as some lame Luddite response to a new mode of transportation—there should be a platter of options to get around town. But my chief concern is that mobility solutions, like e-scooters, are being used and championed as an excuse to not adequately fund public transportation, which can actually move a mass of people at a high rate of speed.

Maybe that’s a very basic criticism, but the implicit premise of Mobility, certainly as Silicon Valley has been using it, is anything but actual public transit. Tech is the savior, the solution, the gospel, but when it comes down to it, if public transportation was adequately funded, a robust network of trains and buses could actually alleviate congestion and cost issues.

And here’s the thing. I can’t find a reasonable argument one way or another if e-scooters will one day turn a profit—which is a common criticism levied against the idea of governments funding the operations of public transit systems. Instead of the government, now we have rich venture capitalists bankrolling, controlling and subsidizing Mobility, and I’m not sure how to view that as being anything but a detriment to, uh, a much, much larger swath of the population.

Can e-scooters make money? Typically that’s something a business takes into consideration as a long-term goal. So I posed the question on Twitter yesterday, after news broke that e-scooter renter Bird reached a valuation of $2 billion, about whether it has the ability to eventually make a profit. The answers I got in return were all over the place.

Someone pointed me to Brad Stone in Bloomberg, for example. After running some rosy numbers, he concluded:

If you can deploy 10,000 scooters in a city, per our math, you have a business easily generating $100,000 a day in revenue, $3 million a month or $40 million a year—per city!

Seems optimistic, when you consider there’s numerous players vying for the e-scooter market right now.

And in Bloomberg, not even a week prior, a separate writer concluded:

If you figure that Bird might make around $2.50 per ride in revenue, there are some estimates that Bird might make $14 million a year. But after paying for maintenance, charging and overhead, there might only be $1 million left.

Not such a pretty picture!

Here’s another response:

And another:

All over the goddamn board. Everyone can put together a model, but the upshot is, it’s a total guess, just like Uber guessed it could artificially suppress the prices of taxi rides with its massive amount of funding, and snap up enough market share to start turning a profit. But nearly a decade after launching, it’s still just bleeding cash.

Could scooters work inside a wealthy Bay Area city like San Francisco? Maybe; I’m not arguing against that. But it’s so tiresome to see Silicon Valley ideas placed on a pedestal, when in reality, you could fund a standard set of public transit options—trains, buses, subways—and benefit more of the living, breathing public.

I’m sure someone’s winding up right now to point to New York City’s subway and all the bitching we do about it, but the complaints stem from the fact that an objectively sound, effective, good public transit system is falling apart from poor funding and management. When it works (and it does work!), it’s a marvelous achievement to behold. Other countries can do it. There is no reason America cannot.

Rather than float solid proposals to beef up and improve existing public transit systems, though, policymakers and the tech-adoring public flock to the possibilities of our mobility future. So, we get scooters—or, another example, projects like Elon Musk’s new hyper-speed train for Chicago, which won an actual contract to build a system that’ll be able to move as many people in total in a single hour as one train on the New York subway train. Musk has never built or operated a public transit system in his career.

Are scooters fun? That’s what everyone seems to think. That’s cool. Is it an actual solution to ease congestion and provide more affordable modes of transportation to people across the U.S.? No.

Fuck scooters.

via Gizmodo http://bit.ly/2ld36BF


The Last of Us 2’s kiss was a beautiful way to open Sony E3 2018

Ellie shares a memorable, moving kiss

Sony’s E3 2018 press conference is hardly under way, but it’s already brought us one of our favorite moments of the whole event thus far. And it was just a simple, lovely kiss.

The event opened up with a gameplay trailer for The Last of Us Part 2, which looked bloody and beautiful and a whole mess of other things. All well and good, but the cutscene that preceded and succeeded all the action is what really did it for us, because Ellie shared a loving kiss rarely seen in game trailers.

The scene features Ellie standing at a party, looking slightly awkward, hanging by the wall. But a woman — her partner, presumably — pulls her onto the dancefloor. They chat, they swirl, they look into each other’s eyes … and then they kiss.

It’s a sweet kiss, even a realistic one; and it’s between two women, which we hardly ever see highlighted in games as major as The Last of Us Part 2. And as the opening of an E3 press conference, no less!

It’s a kiss that literally transports Ellie somewhere else. The trailer then cuts away into gameplay, and the romance is shattered by a whole bunch of death. By the end of it, though, we’re back in that kiss.

We hope to see many more of those kisses in the otherwise brutal, bleak The Last of Us Part 2. And if you want to rewatch Ellie enjoying one of those rare tender moments, Dorkly’s Tristan Cooper threaded both scenes together without that depressing cutaway. That’s below.

via Polygon – Full http://bit.ly/2JGory2

Eric Schmidt Says Elon Musk Is ‘Exactly Wrong’ About AI

At the VivaTech conference in Paris, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about Elon Musk’s warnings about AI. He responded by saying: "I think Elon is exactly wrong. He doesn’t understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter. The fact of the matter is that AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity." TechCrunch reports: He acknowledged that there are risks around how the technology might be misused, but he said they’re outweighed by the benefits: "The example I would offer is, would you not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people? No, you would build the telephone and you would try to find a way to police the misuse of the telephone."
After wryly observing that Schmidt had just given the journalists in the audience their headlines, interviewer (and former Publicis CEO) Maurice Levy asked how AI and public policy can be developed so that some groups aren’t "left behind." Schmidt replied that government should fund research and education around these technologies. "As [these new solutions] emerge, they will benefit all of us, and I mean the people who think they’re in trouble, too," he said. He added that data shows "workers who work in jobs where the job gets more complicated get higher wages — if they can be helped to do it." Schmidt also argued that contrary to concerns that automation and technology will eliminate jobs, "The embracement of AI is net positive for jobs." In fact, he said there will be "too many jobs" — because as society ages, there won’t be enough people working and paying taxes to fund crucial services. So AI is "the best way to make them more productive, to make them smarter, more scalable, quicker and so forth."

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7 Negative Effects of Social Media on People and Users


If you can’t imagine your life without social media, that’s a sign that you’ve fallen a victim to the evil power of social networking. It also means that you’ve experienced one (or more) of the negative effects of social media on society.

Don’t pretend you’ve never heard of these. While social media can have a positive impact too

The Positive Impact of Social Networking Sites on Society

The Positive Impact of Social Networking Sites on Society

Social networking isn’t for everyone, but it’s now such a massive part of all our lives, whether we embrace or reject the notion, that it can no longer be ignored. But are social networking sites…
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, that doesn’t mean it’s all hearts and flowers.

How Social Media Is Bad for You

Let’s explore the darker side of social media and exactly how (and why) it’s bad for you. You’ll be surprised to learn the negative effects of social media are both physical and mental. It can change your perception of the world and yourself, and not always for the better.

Don’t believe us? Then read on to find out some of the negative effects of social media. And if you recognize any of them as your own symptoms it may be time to consider stop using social media altogether.

1. Depression and Anxiety

Do you spend more than two hours per day on social media? Spending too long on social networking sites could be adversely affecting your mood. In fact, you’re more likely to report poor mental health, including symptoms of anxiety and depression.

So how to use social media without causing yourself psychological distress

5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression

5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression

Technology can worsen depression. With tech enveloping our lives, we should be more aware of technology’s potential impact on us. There are some things you can do to lessen the burden.
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? If you turn to the same research (and common sense), the recommended amount of time you should spend on social networks is half an hour per day. So, as with so many things in life, it’s all about moderation.

2. Cyberbullying

Before social media, bullying was something only done face-to-face. However, now, someone can be bullied online anonymously. Today everyone knows what cyberbullying is, and most of us have seen what it can do to a person.

While social media made making friends easier, it also made it easier for predators to find victims. The anonymity that social networks provide can be used by the perpetrators to gain people’s trust and then terrorize them in front of their peers.

These online attacks often leave deep mental scars and even drive people to suicide in some cases. You’ll be surprised to find out that cyberbullying isn’t just affecting kids, but also full grown adults.

If you are being harassed online

What You Should Actually Do When Harassed Online

What You Should Actually Do When Harassed Online

The Internet has changed bullying. Let’s take a look at what has changed, and what you can do if you find yourself on the receiving end of cyber harassment.
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, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and that you can take steps in order to get back your dignity

Abused, Bullied & Harassed On Facebook: 6 Ways To Get Back Your Dignity [Weekly Facebook Tips]

Abused, Bullied & Harassed On Facebook: 6 Ways To Get Back Your Dignity [Weekly Facebook Tips]

Facebook isn’t a safe haven. A recent study by GMI revealed that one in ten Facebook users have experienced some form of abuse. Among 18 – 24 year olds, one in four were affected. Offenders…
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3. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a phenomenon that was born at the same time as Facebook—and it’s one of the most common negative effects of social media. FOMO is basically a form of anxiety that you get when you’re scared of missing out on a positive experience or emotions that someone else is getting.

This fear is constantly fueled by your social media engagement. The more you use social networks, the more likely you are to see that someone is having more fun that you are right now. And that’s exactly what causes FOMO.

4. Unrealistic Expectations

This one probably comes as no surprise, but social media helps you to form unrealistic expectations of life and friendships. The networks that do it most are Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Those are the social media platforms that severely lack online authenticity.

One simple way out of this is for everyone to quit lying on social media. But in the era of Instagram celebrities and YouTubers who earn millions

The Top 10 Most Popular YouTube Channels: Should You Subscribe?

The Top 10 Most Popular YouTube Channels: Should You Subscribe?

Have you ever wondered who has the most subscribers on YouTube? In this article we take a look at the most popular YouTube channels and help you decide whether to subscribe to them.
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, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

5. Negative Body Image

Speaking of Instagram celebrities, if you look at the most-followed accounts on Instagram, you’ll find beautiful people wearing expensive clothes on their perfect bodies.

Today, body image is an issue for many people of both sexes. Of course, seeing those perfect in accordance with the society standards people on a daily basis makes you conscious about how different you look from those pictures. And not everyone comes to the right conclusions in this situation.

6. Unhealthy Sleep Patterns

On top of increased rates of anxiety and depression, spending too much time on social media can lead to poor sleep. Numerous studies have shown that increased use of social media has a negative effect on your sleep quality.

If you feel like your sleep patterns have become irregular and that this is affecting your productivity, try and avoid spending a significant amount of time on social media. If you still have trouble sleeping, here are some more tricks to help you to sleep peacefully

9 Gadgets to Help You Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happier

9 Gadgets to Help You Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happier

The quality of sleep you get each night directly impacts your mood, health, and productivity the next day. Get better sleep than ever before using one of these smart gadgets!
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7. General Addiction

using smartphone

Social media is often described as being more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. With the worst social media apps being Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat when it comes to addiction.

Don’t know if you’re addicted to your social networks? Think when was the last time you went a full day without checking your social media accounts? What if your favorite social networks completely disappeared tomorrow; would it make you feel empty and depressed?

If you just realized you’re addicted to social media, don’t worry, as most of us are there with you in varying degrees. And it’s not necessarily a reason to go and wipe yourself off all those social networking platforms.

However, if you think quitting is the best solution for you, we won’t stop you. In fact, one of our writers tried quitting social media

What Happens When You Quit Social Media? I Found Out

What Happens When You Quit Social Media? I Found Out

Quitting social media is easy. The hard part is handling what comes after this “extreme” step. I should know. I deleted all my social media accounts mid 2013.
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once, and it was an interesting experience.

Social Media: Is It Time to Quit or Detox?

As with everything else, social media brings both good and bad things into our lives. At the end of the day, you’re the one who decides whether there’s more help or harm in it for you.

Maybe all you need is find the right site for you. Perhaps switching from Facebook to Twitter, or from Instagram to YouTube. Or maybe you’re done with all of them altogether and are ready to delete your entire social media presence for good

Go Anonymous: How to Delete Your Entire Social Media Presence

Go Anonymous: How to Delete Your Entire Social Media Presence

From traditional avenues to new tools, here’s an in-depth look at how to delete your social media presence.
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And if that feels a little too extreme consider doing a social media detox

How to Do a Social Media Detox (and Why You Should Right Away)

How to Do a Social Media Detox (and Why You Should Right Away)

A social media detox might sound like a punishment; but if it does, there’s a really good chance you need one. Here are the signs you need a detox and how to do it.
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every once in a while instead. Because the non-nuclear option should always be your first choice.


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The machines have taught themselves to make Mario levels

Artificial intelligence isn’t quite ready to put Shigeru Miyamoto out of a job, but it has managed to produce decent Super Mario Bros. levels with little human intervention.

Using a modern AI technique called Generative Adversarial Networks, a group of researchers devised a way to create new Mario levels by analyzing an actual one. They then figured out how to search the results for certain characteristics, such as difficulty. The research shows how AI could create games that automatically adapt to the player’s skill level, or at the very least provide inspiration to human game designers.

Computer-generated levels have been a part of video games for decades, and academics have even competed in years past to make the best Mario level generation algorithms. But in most of those cases, a programmer still had to set up all the parameters in which the computer could do its work. Over the past few years, however, some researchers have taken a different approach, creating AI that can actually learn from existing level designs to understand what a playable Mario level should look like.

“Most [previous] systems involved designing game-specific algorithms, so the twist with the current generation of research is to take a machine learning approach and train generators from example data (which might be provided by artists/designers instead of programmers),” Adam Smith, an assistant professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, who coauthored the Mario paper, says via e-mail.

The Mario project–also known as MarioGAN–is one of two recent attempts to create video game levels using Generative Adversarial Networks, a four-year-old AI technique that many scientists have regarded as a breakthrough. (The other project, as reported by The Register, generates Doom levels.)

GANs are often described as a cop vs. counterfeiter scenario: One neural network looks at a set of training data–in this case, training images derived from a single Mario level–and tries to create new samples based on the characteristics it observes. Meanwhile, a second neural network tries to distinguish between the “real” training data and the new “fake” data. In trying to fool the cop, the counterfeiter learns to make better fakes, which in this case means more realistic Mario levels. (Nintendo did not respond to Fast Company‘s request for comment.)

[Image: courtesy of MarioGAN]

The researchers then devised a way to search the latent space of the neural network for certain characteristics, such as the amount of ground tiles Mario can run and jump on, or the number of jumps required for a computer-controlled player to get through the level without issue. While the results weren’t flawless–some levels were impossible to traverse, and others had broken pipes–the researchers were able to create a level that gradually increased in difficulty. In the future, this approach could allow for an endless level that automatically gets harder over time, or one that emphasizes discovery of hard-to-reach items.

Still, the system has some notable limitations. GANs work best when there’s good sample data to work with, and both the Mario and Doom projects relied on a body of training data that exists for academic work. Although some research does exist on machine learning that doesn’t depend on direct training data, in some sense, there may not be a point in having game designers use AI to make levels if the training process involves making lots of levels themselves.

There’s also much more work to be done in getting AI to understand the full range of possible experiences that make for great level design. Optimizing for difficulty is one thing; matching the intent of someone like Miyamoto–who carefully arranged every block and goomba in Super Mario Bros.’ opening moments to elicit surprise, fear, and understanding–is another.

But perhaps that’s just another technical hurdle to overcome.

“It’s not that humans have a monopoly on this skill,” Smith says. “We just don’t have a big data set of the correct behavior to train our system on yet.”

via Fast Company http://bit.ly/2Iv6Us2

These Abandoned Gas Station are Stunning

Capturer des stations d’essence abandonnées, tel a été la dernière lubie du photographe et designer Robert Götzfried. Dernièrement, il a voyagé à travers le sud des États-Unis – de Washington DC jusqu’en Virginie en passant par la Caroline du Nord et le Tennessee – sur la route il a photographié des stations d’essence désertes. Beaucoup d’entre elles ont été fermés pour des raisons financières. Un travail à découvrir sur son site et Instagram. 


via Fubiz http://bit.ly/2G5XZLT

Navigator: Generation Lonely

Hello, and welcome to a fresh edition of Navigator! (Also, apparently, to summertime—at least on the East Coast, here in America.)

So, this week, I learned that young Americans (members of Gen Z, for the folks keeping tabs on the terminology) are more likely to feel lonely than the average American. Obviously, loneliness is a complicated and subjective experience, rooted in myriad economic, technological, and sociological reasons. But the study got me thinking about the role geography plays in fostering, or mitigating, feelings of loneliness. For me, a pastoral countryside—with its silence and space—evokes a feeling of isolation. I’ve always lived in cities, and feel like the buzz of having so many people together in the same space can blunt the edge of loneliness. Perhaps, to another person, the crowdedness just sharpens it. Case in point: Tokyo—the largest city in the worldwhere the loneliness can certainly rise above the din, and sometimes even feel deafening.

I am curious about your experiences—what role do you think geography plays in fueling loneliness? As always, drop me a line at tmisra@theatlantic.com.

What we’ve been writing:

Here at CityLab, Brentin Mock wrote about the urgent need to stop Kanye West from tweeting building a city: “Unlike his beats and sneakers—but very much like his sweatsuits—this would not be a good idea,” Brentin writes.

Other stories: Venice is gating the historic part of the city to keep tourists out. ¤ “Unfortunately, none of the Avengers thought to hit Thanos with a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.” ¤ Spain’s ghost towns, photographed by drones. ¤ The politics behind the “Little Pink House.” ¤ New Davonhaime: a conceptual city for black Americans. ¤

What we’ve been taking in:

“’We love Cairo!’ … for them, Egypt was um al-duniya, the mother of the world.” (New Yorker) ¤ Sketches from a Chennai-based artist’s favorite city haunts. (Scroll.In) ¤ A tour of Milwaukee that shines light on racist housing policy. (Fast Company) ¤ Confirmed: Vending machines are a little bit magic.” (Slate) ¤ The jazz maestro hitting the road to heal communities affected by gun violence. (The Undefeated) ¤ The feminists of Basque Country. (The Baffler) ¤  “Mr. Singh is also among the last of a vanishing breed: the sidewalk newspaper hawker.” (The New York Times) ¤ The great high school imposter of Harrisburg. (GQ) ¤ “The faces and stories in these meetings changed from week to week, but I quickly learned the metal folding chairs, and that feeling of togetherness, are heavy things that stay in place.” (Curbed) ¤

And here’s a gem CityLab’s Mark Byrnes found on the Internet:

UK-based architecture historian Otto Saumarez Smith recently came across some remarkable drawings of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation in Marseille. They were made by kindergarteners who attended the school inside the colorful concrete residential complex in its early years. If you ask me, the kids gave the famous architect’s own chalkboard drawing of the place a run for its money and some even did a better job of emphasizing the building’s social life.

View from the ground:

@paola.kola took note of windows in the Balkans, @anney_looks_up photographed a glass-heavy home in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, @misterkchung captured the density and scale of Hong Kong, and @hammeredtoast documented the view near Turkey’s Roumeli Hissar Castle.

Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground.

Over and out,



via CityLab | All Articles http://bit.ly/2FRZMnC