Little Boxes Made of Ticky Tack
abby Friday everybody the Information Four. One your weekly podcast from the information dot com a news site covering the tech industry and all other industries that are being transformed by the rapidly evolving world of technology. My name is Tom Dotan. I'm the host of the show Most of the time we have other people sub in. But usually it's me and I'm also a reporter at the information so we've got a different episode for you this week. Normally I talked to or someone else does talks to a couple of reporters who wrote some of the big stories wrote during the week and we give it behind the scenes. Look on how it was put together and other elements that give you a deeper understanding of what we wrote about this week though. It's something very different. We have two segments and first off. It is going to be Corey. Weinberg one of our reporters who's talking to connor a reporter at the New York Times. Who recently wrote a book about the Housing Crisis in California and why this has been such an unsolvable problem and it is exacerbated so much by the laws and personalities and just general nature of California and the reason. We're having this on the show at one because connor you know is a friend of the show and we love to support other people who do great work but there's a lot about technology in his book that really explains why. Silicon Valley and the rise of the tech industry has been both a major cause of the housing PR problem. But also you know the people within the tech industry who feel that. They're trying to solve it. Corey writes a lot about this topic and so he and Connor had an excellent and long conversation about About his book which by the way it's called Golden Gate so that's the first segment of the show. And then second off we have Jessica Interviewing Robin Murdoch of accenture and that conversation was part of our sponsored partnership with the firm. We are working with accenture on events in London and Japan in the coming months. Stay tuned for more details and this conversation with Robin is about their data and studies about autonomous vehicles and trends in the autonomous driving world. And how consumers would react to various technologies. So it's a different show but it's still a very good one. That's a long intro. Let me just get now to the first off. Conversation with Connor and Corey. We have in in house. Connor Doherty Report York Times Connor just came out with the book. This week that we dealt with a particularly important topic for For our audience to grapple with and that's about the state of Bay Area Housing Connors Book is called Golden Gates that have a subtitle fighting for housing in America. Okay it's finding for housing in America all of America and we're we're supposed to be learning about sort of sort of an American housing fight through the Lens of cal sort of Understanding California and as I'm sure your listeners know anyplace that this was a large tech cluster or even really acknowledge cluster. Even finance. There is housing problem. I mean just good on the list rates. Seattle Portland Austin Minneapolis. I mean just pick it and this problem though not as bad as the area is there and I actually did travel a lot for the book. Went to Minneapolis Vancouver. I went to a bunch of different places. Boston and I ended up leaving a lot of that stuff out and the reason was this is ultimately a local problem. It's a local problem with national implications. When you start asking the question how do I solve this? Where can I make a difference? Where can tech companies? Whoever engage their side of this debate it turns out that the local legislators place right and I think the reason why I think your book add to and I finished just finished last weekend. Sort of devoured it. This is the subject. I'm super interested in reported on it myself before but it provides sort of a sort of knitting together of a bunch of different policy threads over mostly the last half century that I think you sort of Bay area people particularly those with money and are trying to think about how to influence policy. Should UNDERSTAND IT. Chanel it totally. Well you know it's funny. The whole your readers will or your listeners will like this story. The whole book started when I was. I used to cover Google for a brief few about eighteen months for the New York Times and I was talking. I was interviewing Jeremy. Stop lament about his favorite subject with the. Yes Jeremy Stop on the subject. I was interviewing him. Otis favorite subject. Which is how much he hates Google. And then at the end of the interview. I just Kinda O'hare super into housing stuff which is a subject. I'm very interested in the berries and such about spot and he goes. Yeah I actually gave money to this woman. Sonia Trout's she runs. This group called BARF and I thought this is Kinda odd if you've met Jeremy he's not kind of a cookie. He's a pretty serious guy doesn't he's not talking about singularity and things like that you know what I mean. He's he's a pretty kind of just comes off like a typical CEO and just the idea that a publicly the sea of a publicly traded company would be making his first foray into local politics through group called BARF. I mean it's the guy with hundreds of millions of dollars. It just seemed like this is weird for one in for to this just shows you how desperate this situation is desperate for a new kind of conversation a new kind of political kind of constituency. And so I actually actually this the whole story. Some extent originates with tech in the sense that they're the ones who really accelerated this political movement right and really the the central threat of the book is about the rise of a political movement and sort of the struggle to maintain it and sort of attract donors and create like a real infrastructure around it. But we should probably back up and sort of understand sort of why political movement was sort of necessary in the first place. Like you write a lot about history in this book you write a little bit about the nineteen sixties postwar growth period in California. Pat Brown was governor. And there's this great quote I remember about sort of how when they were trying to create and fund a system of Dams California to grow the water supply. Pat Brown said of course. Why wouldn't we invest in something that would help grow the state you know that would be that would create enough water for more people to live in California. How did we get to a point in the twenty first century where that same mindset isn't taken to housing so I think what happened is in the bay area and a lot of other places? There was a big pivotal event in the bay area. In the fifties and sixties called the freeway revolts and actually spread to Seattle. And all these other places where large tech industries have congregated and I mean at that time developers were doing crazy stuff they were going to fill in the San Francisco Bay They were The Geary Boulevard. Which have a you know? It's just a kind of looks giant freeway in the middle of the city and they did build a giant freeway in front of the ferry building in San Francisco although the earthquake knocked down. And so all these big fights over what were genuinely bad projects. And then they backlashed and backlashed. In my estimation a little too much because it's now impossible to build anything and I think what we Kinda fast spoke by the seventies people realize is a big problem. There's multiple books. Certainly a lot of academic papers about California and other kind of prosperous places. Seattle again. These kinds of tech hubs are starting to have a housing problem. It wasn't that bad yet. So it's kind of go with sort of annoying. That costs a lot to live here. But I'll deal with it and what the it's fascinating to me is fascinating to me when people start recognizing album how much they can anticipate about it. Sometimes people are so right about things. This guy's this one guy wrote a book in the seventies where he says this is going to be an almost impossible problem to solve because people the constituency of people who you need to fight for more housing people who don't live somewhere yet right which is just think about that. It's like this crazy puzzle so when I met Jeremy in that kind of fateful interview now he was fighting he was funding. Someone who was trying this woman. Sonia trials WHO's this insane character? She's a high school teacher who You know shows up to city council meetings in leggings and cowboy boots and kind of BERATES. Everyone and says you guys have housing. You know and gives this public comment. One time and people started commenting on our leggings inch. These are sweet these raucous scenes at these city council meetings and it was like this is kind of this person trying and I would be not surprising that it would be kind of a crazy person trying to do something that had never been done before because who else would try that right. Typically the People's ever you know sort of speaking out at City Council meetings or board a supervisor meetings were people who work directly for real estate developers or property developers where the consultants that we're trying to get a project forward or the neighbors are trying to get a project blocked totally in it's always it's always this developers like you should build this so easy to dismiss them and wants normal people. Start showing up to these meetings. This helps create this thing and by the way I mean other tech companies have really like layered onto this. I mean stripes I ever a corporate donation was to this group. California Yembi California means run by game. Brian Hanlin who when I first met him was working a desk job at the. Us Forest Service kind of showing up to meetings with Sonia. So it's been amazing to me to see how you know. The accelerate of tech money has has kind of propelled this local movement. We don't actually see the big companies getting into this though. I mean although they've started to facebook Google apple have all pledged but they don't really go. Mix It up and logo POL politics. They're giving you Google Apple facebook. They've given money essentially to jumpstart affordable housing construction or sort of gifts. That are broadly safe. Safe Yeah Yeah exactly so. I guess my question about this book. Because we're now you see you traced the history and it's an agonizing history of of sort of understanding why we have such an affordability crisis in California and you really lay it out. I think is sort of a really a policy choice. We've made sort of federally statewide and locally Yeah Yeah I think I mean. Housing is this. A LOT OF PEOPLE. Don't like this. But housing is a heavily government regulated industry. You know if you think about it. The number of times businesses either don't even know if they're breaking the law or or just do break the law or get caught for breaking law and just keep breaking the law. You can't just go build like a building randomly in the middle of somewhere. There's no like hacking your way out of this crisis. You know there's no there's no there are some things you can do attack which we can talk about in the second. There's modular housing. There's been a ton of you've obviously let everybody on writing about this and of course some of the potential pitfalls of this sure but you know this is a problem that yes it's political choice also. It's a choice that I just don't see a way out of it other than like just kind of straight up getting interested in local politics and that's really annoying to people who try to have like very large vision for things right. But you know when you if you think about what happened in America. We are housing policy. Essentially where how and at what cost we build. Shelter is by and large determined by like a million little city. Councils I mean there are obviously large federal programs that fun things whatnot but a lot of the real action on. How do we solve housing problems? In America is at this hyper local level and I think it makes it kind of a vexing problem for variable and I think the sort of right in your reporting and writing about the rise of the NB movement kind of this broad you know those people that really couldn't be organized before because they didn't exist. There is now particularly grown out of San Francisco a young renters. You know a lot of them work intact. That are organized are influencing state. Legislators like Scott Weiner you know kind of pushes or these giving him cover as he tries to push for state legislation that would up zone cities or these parts of cities but I I kind of walked away from the book. Wondering is this story about how this movement is struggling like like. Where are we today because Sony? Trust the woman you cover the fact that she lost her supervisor race you you write a lot about Senator State. Senator Scott Weiner and his bill continues to be shut down on on on the state side. So should I walk away from the pessimistic about this? No totally optimistic and the reason. You should be optimistic though. This doesn't sound very optimistic is that we're talking about it. So every major Democratic presidential candidate has released housing plan that appears to have never happened before the housing plans all have they vary informed but they all have a decent zoning component. So that's you know whether or not that's as radical as if the obviously it's not but they're all saying this is a problem that we don't build enough. Housing is a problem. So I think that You know I think that where we are is. The conversation has been opened. You know not to spoil it but I closed the book with you know. Here's person who kind of Sonia kind of kicked the door open and whether or not should be the one to go through you know I mean and you see this not to not to play to your audience too. But they're the tech. History is littered with first. Movers did not become the the predominance kind of platformer what happened my space facebook. Whatever right right and you see the same in politics. There's all sorts of examples of some person coming along. Really you know really firing everything up being a little unpalatable and then other people. Adopting their best ideas if Bernie Sanders of just to continue the analogy. If he is never elected president people will still be for history books talking about him forever as if he was this guy who really moved in even I mean. Maybe I shouldn't talk about that when it looks like he could be a Democratic presidential nominee. But I'm just saying there's a super long history of the person who kicked open the door not being the person who walks through and I think that this story is about you know this issue coming on the radar and the people who kind of brought it out. I should also say there's a lot of other like really rich stories in this book You know there's this nun sister Christina. And she's like this multimillionaire. Who's got this weird morality in how she invest and not not weird but she goes and buys buildings before hedge funds investors can get to them and she's got this vow shall not evict edict follows. And there's all these characters and they're all they're all out there trying to solve this problem the way they think they should be soft now. The I'm curious. I read this book. Right after. Reading Anna Wieners Uncanny Valley. What her memoir about working at get hub and working tech industry. There's a there's a very brief threat in that book where she describes sort of technologists and entrepreneurs interest in city building Robert Moses building cities from scratch in special economic zones. That has been well documented. You know well-documented trend in the tech industry is that a. What did you did you walk away from reporting on the messy -Ness of California housing thinking? We need more entrepreneurs thinking about Fresh starts in this way or or is that or did you walk away with that thinking that this approach is is not well-founded I well I can tell you. My people should experiment all sorts of things that they wanna put up that kind of capital and build a house like in the middle of the day. I mean where you're gonNA build that city in the desert. Where's that going to be? Who's going to pay for the infrastructure? They're all so there. Are these very practical questions. I should say though that fundamentally the reason I don't believe in that vision but I may turn out to be wrong. Is that it kind of leads to this question. Do the companies make the city or the city make the companies and I think that these big complicated metro areas are what give rise to these companies. If divorce them from it they will no longer be successful. One of the things I have been saying a lot of interviews is people often portray whether it's Seattle or San Francisco the tech world as this kind of outside force. I mean I'm not saying everybody does that but you'll hear this old. They're you know they're coming with their buses. They're these big companies and Mark Zuckerberg moved here from Harvard. Or whatever right but it's like industry is not some outside force is a creation of this region. It is a result of you. Don't more than a century of investment in universities like Stanford and Berkeley. It is the result you in John. Mark off my former colleague at the New York Times with this great book about how you cannot divorce the Internet from Kind of the counterculture. There was this symbiosis. We're kind of the sixties counterculture meshed with the kind of computer research that was being done at Stanford to create the modern Internet. So I think that this place and or in other places Seattle whatever I think. Those places are so fundamental to who those companies are and And I think that if you went and built a regulation free city or whatever you know y combinator somebody is thinking about i. I don't I don't think it would work. I think in this case. The friction makes the company not the lack of and last question. What's what's the way forward. I mean what are the? This is not a solutions. But you don't have a chapter at the end that says here's the way forward for housing. You know you're you're kind of looking at the reporters Lens I think and and trying to I think you are you in the book. You definitely make calls. You definitely are kind of putting your neck on the line. In terms of what sort of policy what the policy ramifications were of certain decisions over the years. And maybe what some ways forward might be but you. I wanted like a clear answer almost and and I'm curious if so if you read obviously you've read a lot of policy books and if you read policy book they have a very set structure. They introduce a problem. They kind of come up with some token anecdotes and then they end with a conclusion solutions. Kind of page. I tried to invert that structure for this book. I said what are the solutions. People are pursuing. And how can we see the incredibly complicated stories of people trying to end the pitfalls they run into in the opposition? They have in actually pursuing these solutions You know whether it's Sony trying to create a constituency of renters who were trying to push for more housing whether it's sister Christina trying to raise money to buy Apartment before can get to them. Whether it's this fifteen year old girl who I you know followed through this whole Odyssey of her trying to fight a landlord or eight hundred dollars increase. These are people going after these problems in the way they think and in as you see them sometimes succeed sometimes fail you get a sense of what the challenges are? What's the way forward? There's no real way forward other than building a lot. More Housing and coming up with more robust subsidization programs for people who cannot afford it that as currently constructed people who work in the cafeterias at Google are not going to be able to live anywhere near Google And so google can do one of two things they can raise their wages by ten times or They can get politically active in trying to rectify that by pushing for more housing now. They've started to do that There's just kind of broad analogy in a weird way. There's been a lot of discussion about you over the past however many years about tack moving out of the box of the iphone or the computer or whatever into the real world with Uber and all these things and I think this is kind of the sort of a similar thing where you know you go back and you look at GM or any of these companies. They had a very robust relationships and and political involvement with the communities that they were based in and Workforce Training all workforce house. All these things right and I think that part of the industry growing up and kind of becoming the true industrial powerhouse of age we live in is going to be them. Adopting a similar role and that'll be messy and people be mad about it and you know all they'll be fights and all these things but ultimately that's kind of that's kind of what has to happen o'connor thanks for being here that's Connor Doherty. He's the author of Golden Gates. And it's out now it's a it's a checkbook without you know too subtle subtle. Tech Business Book even though not advertising itself as such thanks conor thank you. La I it's Jessica lesson here with the information and I'm sitting in San Francisco with Robin Murdoch of accenture. Robin is Global. Managing Director of software platforms is at accenture one of the thirteen industry groups overseeing all leading platform companies which we we know is abroad Purview in today's Day and age Robin. Thanks so much for being here. So accenture has some new ridesharing research. That's out. Tell us what you found. Yes we surveyed number of ride sharing users here in here in the US and the the headline really is the people love ridesharing services but the brand commitment is not really there. People are really switching between the different services than with my business reporter hat on. I see that This is to perhaps explain for some of the Challenges Uber. Lift or still facing here. What did your research show in terms of trajectory right? Is it tilting? One way versus tilting the other way think so too too key things. Certainly in the near term people are really satisfied in that showing up in the fact that people are planning on maintaining or increasing their spent so the vast majority of people are planning on Maintain your increasing spent ridesharing over the next year but interestingly as you look to look over the next decade two thirds of people said that they consider giving up their car on the vast majority of people. We spoke to did actually own or lease a car so certainly from an perspective people love right right having services and would consider over the longer term switching switching from owning a car. That's fascinating I remember when you see. Companies LIKE BURN LIFTED. Many others say our target market is car ownership right. It's not the taxi industry or something like that. So you're seeing that consumers are. There's some evidence that that may be possible but not there yet is that I think that's fair. I mean so the people we spoke to the vast majority of them. Do you still own cars. It's something that we can probably expect to see over the coming few years. But but in the near-term lots more usage of ride. Hailing what about micro mobility scooters? What did your research? So we ask people if they used different different adjacent services and actually people people surprisingly said that they weren't using as many adjacent services. They're sticking to the one thing that they're using so we find about forty percent of people were using adjacent services like scooters etc. Certainly that's an opportunity scooters a whole bunch of things package delivery parites food delivery so people are really really focused on the main ridesharing services themselves. That's fascinating also kind of baked into the business. Expectations of of these companies. As sort of the platform take on Amazon. You know And while we've seen I think In food delivery an uber in particular a lot of growth is just brutal marquette. I think in terms of the competitive economics and Be Interesting to see if how consumers feel given they're still a lot of competition a lot of choice and certainly if you look in the if you look in the US adjacent services are very attached to kind of the original service of Italian. Actually if you look outside the US like into Southeast Asia. Grab for instance. It's getting into the payment space or if you look at like diddy in in in China you see them sort of expanding more vertically into multiple parts of the ridesharing service so partnering with Electric Vehicle Companies Charging infrastructure. It's at tre. So so you know around the world. There are different approaches to really expand from just core breitling. Do you think the geographically. We'll see more convergence are I mean? I think you mentioned autonomous. We have uber and that is still investing heavily in that. I'm not sure with what sign of traction yet. But or with your global perspective you think the markets will keep their distinctiveness a look. Everyone is trying. Everyone is looking at these. These new futuristic services like autonomous vehicles. See this year. There was lots of talk about air taxis. There was a mockup of a high end. Die Uber Air taxi so you certainly leaning into the future. There is this promise of autonomous vehicles and obviously autonomous vehicles in the air on land. But that you know that that is that is uncertain as to when that will really kick in what does get interesting though when you start to look to. That future position is the economics potentially changed dramatically. So you move from a very odd packs intensive ride hailing service to one where well if you go to Thomas Vehicles? It's much more capital intensive. So you've got that interesting interesting change into the financial position that you might see in right hailing but it's uncertain as to win. That's actually kick in the public. Perhaps oppressor over under optimistic on just the timelines for autonomous. Yeah I mean you hear very different different different things from from different people. This interesting school of thought that actually even though it sounds very jetson a air-taxis an easier or Thomas Solution than than traditional autonomous vehicle. Cars Air Than Road. They're actually thinking that the problem areas that you need to overcome their actually lasts for airtime perspective. Even though it's so futuristic we actually asked consumers if they were interested in in an air taxi service and about forty percent of people actually said they would consider it but they were thinking more in the traditional sense. Say there are saying you know be great to get to the airport by by an air taxi service or or get a tour of a city from an air taxi service. It was more it was more that versus traditionally sort of knocking. Your normal ride hailing servants. Yeah I'm the I always think that Sebastian thrown who was basically one of the godfathers of autonomous vehicles. A Google is now put all his eggs in the Kitty Hawk Vertical takeoff and landing bucket so think. Yeah it's easy to forget the air but we show Hyyndai Hyyndai Nubrik those. We'll say Toyota at four hundred million dollar investment in job aviation certainly seeing the vehicle manufacturers looking at the space with with real interest I always wondered if my kids are going to be getting their driver's later. They're three so you know driver's license pilots Whatever it's going to be the the next generation One of Robin to wrap up. What what else did the research show. That jumped out at you. I think that the flip side to all of this is just brand commitment that a significant amount of people are switching between the brands. We found over. Half people are switching between the brand. So how'd you really maintain that brand loyalty and it's addressing all of the all of the issues that consumers have the whole whole writing experience and that also includes trust maintaining users trust maintaining safety. Those are absolutely critical to user. So so while there's great potential in ride hailing from people giving up their cars to spending more money brand. Commitment certainly is something. That's remain elusive. Do you do you feel like the market share picture. And it's such fasten industry because it's global and complicated e think it's pretty entrenched. Does that tell you think there could be room for very wild swigs? A market that just continues to evolve in almost every region and as you look at sort of the promise of autonomous vehicles at Satra potential. That it will get disrupted again so so it's not it's not stable but certainly it's the case that in a given region there are one or two major players that are dominant. Yeah well we've been covering it since its infancy. And it's great to have that context of the research of what we can expect in the years ahead Thank you so much robin for joining us.