I’m running through Lands End. It’s 8AM on a winter day. Cool mist hangs in the air, and the gravel crunches under my running shoes. I’m looking at my Apple Watch, checking the time as I run down the hill, past the Cliff House, looking at the Pacific as it shines in the morning sun like a pool of liquid silver stretching to the horizon. California is good. I hear the waves crashing, and the air softly smells of salt and pines. To my left, I see the Pacific Towers: eight fifty-five story glass obelisks stretching into the sky, all connected by a public park up top, six hundred feet in the air. A marvel of modern engineering, only paralleled by a few buildings in Shanghai. The year is 2030. I’m fortunate to rent a one-bedroom in the Pacific Towers for $2700 a month. I live on the fourteenth floor.
I shower while Siri reads me my emails. “Archive, archive, skip, schedule for 10AM”: speech recognition lets me take care of a full night of notifications. Though my executive and product leaders are in San Francisco, my company otherwise runs on a 24/7 global team, so work accumulates throughout the night.
I step out of the shower. My bathroom’s ceiling fans all immediately point hot air at me to help me dry off faster. (It’s cozy, too.) I’m rubbing my hair with a towel when soft ringing emanates throughout the apartment. “Who is it?” I ask. “It’s Jess Bergman” Siri replies. Six hundred speakers and microphones hidden in the walls throughout my 900 square feet make it feel remarkably natural to talk to my virtual assistant.
“Pick up”. Jess is on the phone. She’s telling me that one of our customers, an oil-shipping company, suffered some kind of bizarre bug where we dispatched one of their tankers without filling it entirely. It’s a costly error – $8M in oil that’s left sitting somewhere. Jess and I suspect some of the customer’s tanker sensors are defective, and we line up a diagnostic team to take a look. We sell logistical optimization software.
I’m heading down the elevator to the Pacific Towers to the underground BAMF stop. BAMF was the 2022 successor to BART – everyone recognized “Bay Area Rapid Transit” as a hilarious oxymoron, an embarrassment compared to our global peers, so our local government and industry leaders created Bay Area Mega Fast: an autonomous metro system modeled after the Hong Kong and Tokyo subways – just twice as fast. Trains arrive every 30 seconds, and I’ll be at my office in the Tenderloin in exactly 114 seconds.
There’s only one stop in-between. I’m proud to say that my company helped design some of the BAMF network for optimal throughput – like all Bay Area projects, it’s a public-private partnership, and the government brought in the best logistical optimizers from industry. Even eight years ago, I’m flattered to say that was us. We’re better now, but we still have a long way to go.
I’m wearing my Raycasters inside the BAMF train. They’re one brand of many smart glasses that overlay useful information on my field of vision. I usually turn off the auto-recognize, subtitles, and maps, but keep on my vital sign displays. The data is beamed straight from my apple watch. Eyeball control makes it super easy to navigate the interface. It seems that my blood sugar is a little low. I flick through the suggestions. “Eat a quarter of a Snickers bar”, it says. Great, I’ve got some at the office.
I’m out the BAMF and straight up the elevator. My company has half the 85th floor of the Civic Spiral. The building is a glass tornado. It was completed two years ago, and it’s the tallest office building in the world. Rent here is unbelievably expensive – nearly $200 per square foot per year. But it’s a good splurge.
I have a meeting to talk about the status on the oil shipping bug and get a little more clarity. I’m chatting with the team in Dubai, and my EARS2 earphones do real-time translation from Arabic to English. It’s amazing. The EARS2 founder is a buddy of mine, his office is just the floor below. He’s got an unbelievable view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz International Airport, where Elon Musk’s grasshopper rockets land and take off all day, sending San Francisco residents around the globe at Mach 2 for lunch meetings. I think it’s extravagant, but to each their own.
I step out for lunch with Sam Fultzmann. He’s the craziest guy I know, which is why I love having lunch with him. We step outside the Civic Spiral and grab little electric longboards to scoot to our favorite Shawarma shop. The longboards recognize me by RFID sensor and automatically bill my Stripe bank account, accurately to the millionth of a dollar. We arrive at Bilal’s Bar and Grill on Market Street. The line for seating is forever long. The GDP of the Tenderloin is nearly a trillion dollars now, but some things just don’t change. We register ourselves for a seating spot with a watch tap, and go for a walk under the trees while we wait. San Francisco got a lot greener after human-driven cars were banned in 2023. The streets were narrowed since autonomous vehicles and personal things like bicycles and skateboards just needed much less space. The fact that just seven years ago, people were driving around twenty-foot-long trucks for just themselves that they left parked 92% of the time is so crazy that I can hardly fathom it.
Even though it’s winter, it’s pretty warm outside. There isn’t a building under 300 feet around me, it’s glass and concrete as far as the eye can see. That makes it a little warmer on the ground, but the trees help, and there’s a Fremont company experimenting with upper-stratosphere reflective seeding to mitigate global warming, which is the overarching culprit here. I’m due to stop by there later today, actually.
Over lunch, Sam tells me that he angel invested in Telomize, a Palo Alto company that does telomere lengthening for anti-aging. (Everyone’s an angel investor now that there’s an income tax break if you invest your income in early-stage companies.) We haven’t cracked the aging nut yet, but we’re close. I quiz Sam about the prospects of the company, and he admits that he invested just to get early access to their product. He’s on it right now. I joke that it could be harmful, but Sam doesn’t care: whatever, there’s no regulatory body that can stop him from experimenting with novel treatments. He has an 8G feed continuously streaming 200 GB a second of vital sign data back to Telomize company to track the effectiveness and safety of the treatment. There are 35,000 other crazies like him, and between the lot of them they’re constructing a pretty good medical study in real time.
I tell Sam about the oil problem. He tells me he read a book the other day about Rockefeller and the Oil Magnates of the turn of the 20th century: “did you know that Cleveland, Ohio used to be the wealthiest city in the United States?” he bursts out, guffawing. “Cleveland? These guys don’t even have a space program”, I laugh. (The Bay Area has three now, all private enterprise with some public backing.)
“What happened?” I ask Sam. “Well, jeez, it’s like Cleveland just sort of found itself in the middle of an oil boom, geographically. One year they were like any other second-tier industrializing city, and then they suddenly had this huge influx of wealth and enterprise that they didn’t really understand… or know how to keep, once things started moving.”
“So what happened, specifically?” I ask. “Well, the same thing that happens whenever you try to hold sand with your hands and don’t get a bucket: phoosh, it runs through your fingers and then it’s gone. A few decades later the oil industry was in Oklahoma, Texas, everywhere, and then Cleveland was just a small part of it. Standard Oil and what-have-you relocated to New York City.” Sam takes a bite from his meatless burger. “I think the people of Cleveland were so caught off-guard by the enormous opportunity that hit them in the face that they reacted with some level of arrogance, hubris, and spent their time kind of pooh-poohing the industry, not realizing how lucky they were to be in pole position in the competition for this ginormous industry. So they were asleep at the wheel, and only when the industry moved into other cities did the people of Cleveland understand, by the sheer voracity of competition, how valuable this new industry was.”
“You’re telling me the golden goose made a nest in their back yard and they basically just stayed inside drinking beers and jacking off.”
“Yeah. And sometimes plucking the goose for feathers.”
“That’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.” I’m looking up the Four Seasons Master Suites. Eight hundred feet of commercial and residential real estate. In the top ten floors, each apartment has a private pool. It’s some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, 4th and Market, downtown San Francisco, the heart of the safest city in the United States, a technological metropolis, a smoothly running engine generating compound growth of wealth every year, the altar of innovation. A testament to the power of courageous people coming together to build the future. Hong Kong and Singapore look sleepy by comparison. “I guess if people fail to seize opportunity, that’s on them, and they kinda self-select, they probably weren’t the right stewards of that opportunity in the first place.” A little delivery drone flies by silently and drops off a package through an apartment window.
I get through the rest of the workday just fine. Our weekly 5PM resident’s poll was pretty interesting: one item on the poll asked me to vote on whether or not San Francisco should petition to host the 2032 International Kite Surfing Championships at a cost of about $311.60 per taxpayer. I’m a big fan, so I voted in favor.
Rapidfire direct democracy is a great way to make small changes, while the larger changes deserve much more diligent debate. There’s currently a big discussion about whether the Sunset should have its housing density increased – the average building is a 14-story midrise apartment complex, interspersed with some commercial real estate. The debate is as to whether the city should buy out homeowners in some of the shorter buildings and create more dense skyscrapers that it can sell to new arrivals so as to keep rents low. Back in 2010, there was a serious push in government to just keep increasing the housing stock any time a one bedroom threatened to go over $3000 a month in rent, and now we have one of the world’s densest and most economically productive cities. It turns out that when you offer amazing opportunity at low cost, an unbelievable caliber of talent concentrates. Sounds obvious, but even New York doesn’t get it. Anyway, so there’s this big fuffle about whether to buy out six blocks of homeowners and construct another 6,000 family units.
I’m a little split because I think there are better immediate uses of capital than for the homeowner buyout – I’d like to keep allocating R&D funds to the California State Semiconductor Company, for example. I’m on the city’s Financial Optimization Committee, where maybe I’ll try to steer toward using some municipal debt product to instead do the real estate thing, but there are a lot of variables at play.
I’m wrapping up the day by chatting with Liza Wallen. She runs the Fremont-based solar geoengineering firm I mentioned earlier. As you can imagine, putting reflective particles into the upper stratosphere to block out the sun was very controversial when the G8 countries first started seriously considering it, but it was soon clear that it was the only feasible way to curb global warming without relying on solving virtually impossible coordination problems, like everyone dropping fossil fuels at once. Liza’s company ended up presenting the most detailed (and compelling) effect models, so they were one of five companies chosen globally to give it a shot.
The logistics of everything involved are difficult, so my company has a contract with Liza’s firm to help them operate as efficiently as possible. I would normally take the call by video from my home, but Liza in person is always great, so I’m heading to Fremont. I’m not using BAMF because I can’t be bothered transferring between stations, so I’m just calling a little Toaster Oven. That’s what we call the Autonomous Taxis that ferry around small groups of people (their pickup routes optimized by yours truly) – they’re these cute little boxes that look like toaster ovens and zip around at 80 miles an hour, which is pretty slow, but we’ll get an upgrade soon.