This Week in Ideas — 7FEB21

SpaceX, the FAA, and safety regulation.

We’ll start off with the dust-up between SpaceX and the FAA regarding the SN8 test on December 9th. Long story short, SpaceX went ahead with the test even though they didn’t receive a launch authority waiver. The two sides of this debate are summed up well by this thread from Jared Zambrano-Stout, a former advisor to the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and this op-ed from Steve Blank.

Ultimately, both are correct. Regulations are worse than useless if they’re not enforced and enforced consistently. However, the regulations seem not to be designed for experimentation and innovation.

Aviation and aerospace necessarily have a safety first culture. The hard part is figuring out where to stop. You can ensure there will be no accidents if a plane never takes off or a rocket never launches. The argument for incrementally more cautious regulation is easy to make and those arguing against incremental safety regulation are easily vilified. However, the cumulative growth of safety regulation can become suffocating and stifle innovation. I don’t know the answer, but as Steve Blank argued, we need to separate innovation from execution.

Hyperlocal Zoning

I liked this idea of Hyperlocal Zoning from the Manhattan Institute. I’m in favor of upzoning and reduced zoning restrictions in general in order to enable people to live where they want to live and reduce the cost of housing. Whatever form this is accomplished, I’m generally supportive. However, like any policy, there are tradeoffs that must be understood.

Devolving decisions to the hyperlocal level empowers people to think very concretely about those tradeoffs and design unique solutions to get the best outcome. The problem with solutions at higher and higher levels of government is that tradeoffs become highly abstract and second and third order consequences become harder to think through accurately. This lends itself to virtue signaling, corruption, and power politics. Hyperlocal decision making puts real people on either side of every tradeoff. This is great for zoning, but we should look for even more ways to devolve decision making.

The Future of Travel

Croatia has created a digital nomad residence permit. It allows one to live up to a year in Croatia without having to pay taxes, as long as you don’t seek local employment. I think this is another reminder of how much “Travel” is going to change post-2020.

No, most people are not going to work in fully remote jobs, but there will be a pretty dramatic increase from a low base. When location no longer matters, the idea of travel becomes a lot more compelling, but it will look different than historically.

This will be compounded with the significant increase in flexible work — working from home a couple times per week and at will, rather than only under special circumstances.

Travel will go from something done over short periods once or twice per year to something done far more often and for longer periods of time. When you don’t have to take time off work to travel, the world opens up.

There will be significant opportunity in the travel space to enable this new lifestyle. Traditional hotels will decrease in importance. AirBnB and similar offerings will increase in importance. And in a way, the traditional travel agent model will come back into play in surprising and new, digital first ways.

Chasing the Cool Kids

Seth Godin had a post this week that resonated with me and links to a good Fred Wilson post. Here’s the call to action:

Publish. Consistently. With patience. Own your assets. Don’t let a middleman be your landlord. Yell at Google for blocking your emails and hope it’ll work eventually. Continually push for RSS and an open web. With patience.

Medium is a great platform… but I’m rethinking moving back to my own hosted blog for my writing.

P.S. — Seth and Fred have been consistent daily reads for me for over a decade. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Rules of the blog: 1) this is where I come to flesh out thought, 2) thinking with others is better than thinking alone 3) these thoughts will change