Monday, November 28, 2022

On Our "Virtual Route 66" (M-End Edition): On Our World


We present the following on the week and month that was as we begin the holiday celebrations:

By Day, Elon Musk Rules Twitter—by Night, He’s Invading Our Dreams
By Zara Stone

Elon Musk made his first speaking appearance in Aaron Neyer’s dream life one night in mid-November. Neyer, a developer relations engineer at Google, dreamt that he was inside Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, where he spotted Musk exiting a meeting. He rushed over to the new Twitter owner and sounded out Musk’s receptiveness to reinstalling Jack Dorsey as CEO. Neyer phrased his thoughts as questions rather than statements, knowing that Musk didn’t like being told what to do. Musk needed to come to the idea on his own, thought Neyer in his dream. It seemed like he might get there. Then Neyer woke up.

Neyer rarely dreams about public figures. His most memorable one to date was during the 2016 Standing Rock protests, when he found himself sharing a bunk bed with Barack Obama. But Neyer wasn’t entirely surprised that Musk had shown up in his slumber. “These days, the two biggest things I’m present to are the midterm elections and Elon’s Twitter takeover,” he said.

According to psychologists who specialize in treating people suffering from nightmares and other sleep disorders, nightly visitations from Elon Musk are happening a lot these days. Such shared dream occurrences, which often happen during periods of instability, offer a broader insight into our collective psyche. “When something is in the press, it triggers a lot of [dream] images,” said Gayle Delaney, a Florida-based clinical psychologist and dream analyst. “A lot of people are thinking about Elon Musk. He demonstrates the human lust for power, play and creativity…and he’s also disappointed a lot of people.”


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Ongoing public protests and violence have erupted at Foxconn's largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, China. Video footage posted online shows workers marching and clashing with security forces. The workers are said to be protesting delayed bonus payments, a change in terms of pay for new recruits, and COVID-19 measures at the plant.


  • The protests involve hundreds of workers at the factory in central China, which employs more than 200,000 people and is facing ongoing Covid restrictions.
  • The demonstrations reportedly began on Tuesday, when workers were notified that their bonuses would be delayed.
  • Videos circulating online show workers chanting and being surrounded by police in hazmat suits. AP reported that police used clubs to beat one of the workers after he grabbed a metal pole they used to strike him.


  • The factory is currently under "closed loop" quarantine rules, forcing staff to live and work on-site.
  • Some workers complained that they were forced to live in dormitories alongside other workers who had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Foxconn denied reports that Covid-positive employees lived on the campus. It said it had fulfilled all of its payment contracts.
  • Earlier this month, Apple said temporary Covid restrictions at the plant would result in fewer shipments and longer wait times for iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models.





A Meta spokesperson has denied a report claiming that CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to step down next year. In the Tuesday report, online publication The Leak cited an anonymous source who claims Zuckerberg has decided to resign in 2023. The source alleged that his departure would not impact Meta's plans for the metaverse.


  • “This is false,” Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, responded in a tweet.
  • The Leak acknowledged Stone's response but has not taken down the report.
  • In an editor's note updating the story, The Leak said it continues to stand by the information given its "understanding of the source and the quotes we’ve obtained."


  • Meta has seen its share price fall by more than 70% this year. In a letter to staff this month, Zuckerberg announced plans to terminate 13% of the company's 87,000 employees, affecting about 11,000 people.
  • Some investors have expressed skepticism of Meta's focus on the metaverse. In an open letter last month, Altimeter CEO Brad Gerstner suggested steps that Meta could take to regain investor confidence and "regain its mojo," including curbing its metaverse spending. Altimeter is a Meta shareholder.





Many of the assets of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX are either stolen or missing, according to a restructuring attorney. In a bankruptcy hearing this week, lawyer James Bromley called FTX “one of the most abrupt and difficult corporate collapses in the history of corporate America.”


  • Bromley said that a “substantial amount” of assets are missing or stolen but did not provide detailed figures.
  • He noted that the company has faced cyber attacks since it filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11.
  • The conglomerate's finances remain incomplete due to the mismanagement and poor record-keeping of former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, he said.
  • The attorney said FTX and its various affiliates were run as a "personal fiefdom" of Bankman-Fried, who resigned at the time of the bankruptcy filing.


  • The U.S. Justice Department and SEC are now investigating the collapse, including whether FTX misappropriated customer funds.
  • The exchange lent billions of dollars to crypto hedge fund Alameda Research, which was started by Bankman-Fried in 2018.





Netflix is hiring staff to develop a AAA PC game, signaling its plans to expand beyond mobile gaming. The steamer is hiring several directors, engineers, and a producer at its new games studio in Los Angeles.


  • In one of the postings, Netflix said it's seeking a “creative leader" for one of its first generation of original games developed internally.
  • The listing says Netflix will use Unreal Engine to develop a PC game with characters, a narrative, and a world "worthy of a Netflix film/TV series."
  • The positions are based at Netflix Games Studio, its new game development hub led by former Overwatch executive producer Chacko Sonny.


  • Last month, VP Mike Verdu said Netflix is exploring a cloud gaming offering for TVs and PCs to complement its existing services.
  • The company now offers 35 mobile games to its subscribers for free and is developing another 55 games.
  • In addition to the southern California studio, Netflix has four other gaming studios, including Boss Fight Entertainment, Night School Studio, Finland’s Next Games, and an internal studio in Helsinki.





The Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) said it plans to cut 4,000 to 6,000 jobs over the next three years amid the slowdown in PC demand. The PC and printer maker announced the layoffs in its quarterly earnings report Tuesday, when it also reported an 11% drop in sales over last year.


  • HP plans to lay off 10% of its 61,000 global employees as a way to control costs, CEO Enrique Lores said.
  • The company expects the restructuring to cost $1B upfront and save up to $1.4B annually by the end of fiscal 2025.
  • Reports noted HP has experienced a continual decline in the market for PCs, which comprise most of its revenue.
  • In the quarter that ended Oct. 31, HP saw its revenue in the PC and Personal Systems unit fall 13% to $10.3B.





A new artificial intelligence system developed at Meta was able to beat most human players in the online board game of Diplomacy. While AI programs have achieved human-level performance in games like Go and chess, Diplomacy was more difficult as it involves multiple players making moves simultaneously, as well as more complex skills like negotiation, cooperation, and competition.


  • Meta's system, called CICERO, ranked among the top 10% of players who have competed in the game of Diplomacy more than once.
  • CICERO was created using a strategic reasoning engine with a controllable dialogue model, allowing it to communicate like a chatbot and negotiate and predict the moves of others.
  • When competing in an online league, the AI scored more than double the average player's score.
  • It also "passed" as a human player in matches against 82 other participants, meaning they could not tell it was an AI.

Ruthless strategy:

  • Three-time Diplomacy world champion Andrew Goff said Cicero differed from human players as it didn't soften its approach or become motivated by revenge.
  • "It just plays the situation as it sees it," he said. "So it's ruthless in executing to its strategy but it's not ruthless in a way that annoys other players."






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  • On Tuesday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill imposing a two-year ban on new crypto-mining permits for some older fossil fuel plants in the state.
  • A new AI model from Nvidia can render high-resolution 3D models from text or 2D images in minutes.
  • Mazda revealed its plans to invest, along with its suppliers, $10.6B in electric vehicle manufacturing.
  • Waymo will begin offering non-fared passenger rides in its autonomous vehicles without a backup driver in San Francisco.

How would your life improve if you never again had to drive to work, to the store, or to your friend’s home? How much time would you save if you weren’t the one behind the wheel? And what would you do with those extra hours?

Fully-autonomous vehicles from Tesla, Waymo (Alphabet), and GM Cruise (just to name a few) will enable “car-as-a-service” fleets operating on-demand UBER-like services.

Cost of ground transportation is slated to decrease between 2x to 4x as a result. Sometime in the near future, your kids or elderly parents will never drive.

A significant percentage of parking garages, driveways, and parking structures will eventually be transformed into alternative usable space. Autonomous cars will take all shapes and sizes and serve as functional “3rd spaces” used for entertainment, sleeping, or meeting rooms as drive time becomes work or play time.

At the same time, aerial ridesharing, eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-off or Landing) or flying cars will also become fully operational in most major metropolitan cities this next decade.

Where you live and work will begin to transform as these systems shrink travel time and distance. Previously difficult to reach geographies (islands, rural areas, mountain tops) will become accessible. Individuals seeking the solitude of the country will also have access to the shopping, food, and entertainment of metropolitan city centers, connected through eVTOL technology.

This Metatrend will be driven by the convergence of machine learning, sensors, materials science, battery storage improvements, and ubiquitous gigabit connections.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at some of the leading companies shaping the future of the autonomous vehicle and eVTOL markets.

Let’s dive in…

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The era of the internal combustion engine (ICE) car may finally be coming to an end.

From here on out, it’s all about electric vehicles and autonomous ridesharing, and the implications for society and the automotive industry are massive.

As electric vehicles improve in performance and witness a drop in overall operating costs, forward-thinking individuals, companies, and investors are rapidly transitioning to all-electric transport.

Plummeting prices and increased convenience will soon tip the favor towards electric car-as-a-service options, and private ownership of internal combustion engine cars will become a thing of the past.

So, how do we get to this future?

Let’s look at a few of the leading companies paving the path forward.


Tesla & Full-Self Driving (FSD)


Tesla has offered a driver-assistance system called Autopilot for a while—it can accelerate, brake, and steer Tesla cars on highways.

The company’s FSD technology promises to take this to the next level, allowing Teslas to do all of those things autonomously on highways and on city streets.

FSD is relatively early in its development, but there are already about 100,000 beta testers currently using the technology.

So, what exactly can FSD do?

Reporters from The New York Times recently spent the day with one of those FSD beta testers in Jacksonville, Florida. This particular FSD beta tester, a middle-aged pilot, has been using FSD for more than 2 years.

As the journalists noted, “Over six hours, his car navigated highways, exit ramps, city streets, roundabouts, bridges and parking lots. With his hands near or on the wheel and his eyes on the road, the car attempted more than 40 unprotected left-hand turns against oncoming traffic.” Meanwhile, a GoPro mounted on the roof and 8 cameras on the front, back, and sides of the car record everything that the car and riders experience.

Ultimately, the goal of FSD is for it to be fully autonomous, including adapting to and navigating the unexpected—while being 10x safer than human drivers.

Both that goal and the technology that support it are different from what companies like Alphabet and GM are aiming to achieve with their “robotaxi,” or car-as-a-service, offerings.

The robotaxi companies tightly control how and where their cars can drive. They use laser sensors called lidar to build 3D maps of individual neighborhoods to give the cars a specific understanding of the terrain, and then the companies will spend months or years testing the cars in these well-designed environments.

This means that the robotaxi cars have strict limitations on how they drive—only in certain neighborhoods, under certain weather conditions, and at relatively low speeds. And technicians from the companies can provide remote assistance as needed.

But Tesla’s FSD technology operates differently.

As the New York Times report noted, lidar is too expensive for most consumer cars, and building 3D maps and testing the vehicles on every American street is impractical, if not impossible.

This is why Tesla’s process of collecting data and feedback from its FSD beta testers, and then constantly iterating on new versions, is critical.

So, when can we expect the full roll-out of FSD?

Tesla is currently in the process of widening the release of FSD Beta V11. This version is notable because it’s the first version of the system that operates using a single software stack.

In terms of timing, Elon recently said that FSD Beta is “now available to anyone in North America who requests it from the car screen.”                         

Waymo & Cruise

There are multiple companies creating autonomous car-as-a-service vehicles, or robotaxis, around the world, principally in the United States and China. Two of the leading ones in the US are Alphabet’s Waymo and GM’s Cruise.



Waymo first offered fully autonomous public rides to “Trusted Testers” in Phoenix, Arizona in 2020, and is now expanding the service to the general public in the city.

In November 2022, the company won approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to carry passengers in its autonomous robotaxis without a safety driver present under a new pilot program. The program allows Waymo to offer its driverless passenger service throughout San Francisco, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and other parts of the state.

The vehicles are allowed to operate on public roads with posted speed limits of 65 miles per hour throughout the day or night.

Waymo also recently partnered with the Chinese automaker Geely to design a “purpose-built, passenger-first autonomous vehicle.” The new prototype has no steering wheel, pedals or mirrors, will seat up to 5 people, and according to Waymo, will be “30 percent more efficient than anything else on the street.”




Cruise first opened its fully driverless ride-hailing service, in which there’s no human safety operator, in early 2022 in San Francisco.

The company, which uses modified Chevy Bolts known as Cruise AVs, was initially only offering the service at night, between the hours of 11pm and 5am. The rationale for the night-time operation was to reduce the safety risk to other cars and people on the road. In November 2022, Cruise extended the ride-hailing service in San Francisco to daytime hours as well.

Cruise has also expanded to two other cities in 2022, Austin and Phoenix, and operates around 300 autonomous robotaxi vehicles across the 3 cities.

And Waymo and Cruise are not alone! Other key players to watch include Amazon’s robotaxi arm Zoox, Baidu,, as well as autonomous offerings from major car makers like Ford.



The global urban air utility market, which includes eVTOL aircraft, has the potential to reach nearly $30 billion by 2030.

Increased investment in and development of eVTOLs is driven not only by improved battery, motor, and power electronics technologies, but also by an increasingly favorable regulatory environment.

For example, in November 2022 the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed new rules that help pave the way for commercial air taxi operations by 2025. Specifically, the proposal updates the FAA’s air carrier definition to add “powered-lift” operations to regulations that cover other commercial operations such as airlines.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen has said that by the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, air taxis will be in high demand.

Let’s look at a few of the leading companies that will finally deliver on the dream of flying cars.


Joby Aviation


Many consider Joby in the lead to achieve certification by the US FAA.

In November 2022, US aviation regulators revealed “airworthiness criteria” for Joby’s JAS4-1, a passenger craft that’s designed to lift off like a helicopter and then fly horizontally like a plane.

The JAS4-1 can carry 4 pilots and 4 passengers, has a maximum takeoff weight of 4,800 pounds, and uses 6 tilting electric engines with 5-blade propellers.

The company has received significant interest and investment from multiple companies, including Toyota and Uber, as well as the US Department of Defense. Joby went public in February 2021 for $6.6 billion. In October 2022, Delta announced a $60 million equity investment in Joby, as part of a “multi-year, multi-market commercial and operational partnership.” Assuming certification is granted, Joby would partner with Delta to provide a home-to-shuttle service for Delta customers in select markets.

So, when can we expect to see Joby’s eVTOL flying overhead?

CEO JoeBen Bevirt expects to launch its commercial service in 2025.


Archer Aviation


Archer recently unveiled its production eVTOL called Midnight, which is an evolution of the company’s prototype model known as Maker.

The company says that a high level of redundancy in Midnight’s design as well as its simple propulsion system will ultimately make it safer than helicopters.

Midnight can carry 4 passengers plus the pilot, and has a planned cruising altitude of 2,000 feet. Its 12 small propellers help make it relatively quiet, registering about 45 decibels when measured from the ground.

Archer has ambitious plans for production once Midnight is certified by the U.S. FAA, which is expected in 2024.

CEO Adam Goldstein recently laid out the plan in an interview with Reuters:

"In our first year [2025], we will build 250 aircraft, our second year will build 500 aircraft, our third year will build 650 aircraft and then we scale it up to around 2,000 aircraft per year."




Germany-based eVTOL manufacturer Lilium recently closed a $119 million funding round to make further progress on its aircraft, the Lilium Jet air taxi.

Lilium’s eVTOL, which has a maximum takeoff weight of around 7,000 pounds, can carry up to 6 passengers, and has a range of roughly 108 nautical miles.

Lilium has secured partnerships with multiple companies, including Saudia, the national airline of Saudi Arabia. As part of that agreement, Lilium will supply 100 Jets to build an eVTOL network across Saudi Arabia. Lilium also secured a $1 billion deal with the Brazilian airline Azul to supply up to 220 Jets.

Lilium has planned launch networks in Germany, the US, and Brazil and hopes to achieve certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency ahead of its commercial launch in 2025.



Continued improvements in battery storage, machine learning, materials science, and sensors will lead to autonomous vehicles and flying cars (eVTOL) that will redefine human travel.

By the end of this decade, a transportation revolution will impact some of the most intimate aspects of our lives.

Where you choose to live and work, how much free time you have—and how you spend that time. Everything from how our cities look and feel to the demographics of the “local” school district will shift.

How are you going to adapt?

In our next Metatrend blog (#7 of 20), we’ll investigate the notion that On-Demand Delivery (& Production) Will Birth an “Instant Economy of Things.”

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