Roads, cars, and WIP limits

From a Wired article about how building more roads creates more traffic:

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

Now, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Maybe traffic engineers in U.S. cities happen to know exactly the right amount of roads to build to satisfy driving demand. But Turner and Duranton think that’s unlikely. The modern interstate network mostly follows the plan originally conceived by the federal government in 1947, and it seems incredibly coincidental that road engineers at the time could have successfully predicted driving demand more than half a century in the future.

A more likely explanation, Turner and Duranton argue, is what they call the fundamental law of road congestion: New roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.

The article goes on to point out that adding alternative means of transportation like trains, buses, and other public transit options has the same effect. It frees up more capacity on the roads and induces more demand.

The idea that this sort of induced demand means that building more or bigger roads will lead to more traffic and therefore to more congestion is not a new one to me. However, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it was only while reading this article that I realized there is a pretty straight line from this notion to the kanban/lean principle of limiting work in progress.

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I am spending the morning walking every Mac user in the office through disabling auto-start of their camera when joining a meeting. Thanks, Zoom!
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Facebook and Google are monopolies and they are using their monopoly power to harm consumers.

From a New York Times article about Andreas Mundt, Germany’s lead antitrust regulator:

As American regulators and lawmakers intensify their scrutiny of Big Tech, there is a lot of discussion about whether or how they could accuse the companies of violating antitrust law. Often, regulators look to whether a company is causing consumer harm — a standard that can be hard to prove when a service is free.

The response from Mr. Mundt is simple. The only way to take on Facebook and some of its peers is to attack what they value most: data.

He argues that the companies are so dominant in their core businesses that consumers, if they want to search the internet or be on social media, have no choice but to share their personal data. The data then strengthens the tech companies’ position over rivals even more — and therefore is anticompetitive, Mr. Mundt says.

Robert Bork would have us all believe that 1) monopolies are fine so long as they do not harm consumers, and 2) the only sort of harm a monopoly can cause to consumers is to raise the prices those consumers have to pay. By this logic, technology platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon do not cause any harm to consumers. The services that Facebook and Google provide to consumers are free, while Amazon offers goods at generally lower prices than other retailers.

What is missing from the Borkian analysis—which has shaped antitrust law (or the lack thereof) in the United States for the last few decades—is that we consumers are not getting these goods and services for free. We are giving the tech platforms our personal data, which is obviously worth quite a bit of money. If this personal data were not worth anything, these companies would not be spending billions of dollars on infrastructure and software designed for the express purpose of collecting and analyzing it.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if Facebook and Google are able to leverage the ubiquity of their platforms to extract for free from consumers something of value—our personal data—that is harm.

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In which I indulge my fondness for outdated gear

I probably should not be looking at vintage stereo receivers on eBay, but the brushed silver faceplates, wood-grain enclosures, and amber- and green-lit analog meters are just so pleasing.

Plus, this sort of equipment reminds me of wandering the TV and stereo departments of mall stores when I was a kid.

Sadly, this kind of stuff is harder to justify than the row of old typewriters sitting on the shelf in my home office. At least with those, I can get some actual use out of all of them.

When I rule the universe, there will be a special level of hell reserved for the guy (because of course it’s a guy) who blasts up and down my street at 60 miles an hour in his huge pickup truck every morning at 6:30 AM.
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I got home from vacation yesterday to find that my PenBBS 309 had arrived while we were away. I filled it with Irushizuku Kon-Peki this morning and have been giving it a trial run today.

I like it pretty well so far.

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The particular melancholy of starting to pack up and head home from vacation

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