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I think we sometimes get stuck thinking that the only worthwhile solutions are the solutions that solve everything all at once. Certainly that's very exciting, and it would be very cool if we could get some of those for, like, transportation and medicine and democracy, but instead, it's mostly a bunch of work of lots of individuals doing small things that ends up making the world better. I get very skeptical when big simple solutions are proposed to me, and I think you should as well.

A lot of people have done great work showing that solar roads are a bad idea. This video actually came out DURING the 2014 campaign, which is amazing:

And the same guy took a (maybe a bit excessively gleeful!) look at the failure of a large-scale installation in france:

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Good morning, John!  In 2014, my social media  was suddenly inundated with  people telling me about,  and telling me to talk about Solar Freaking Roadways An Indiegogo campaign that had been published by a company that was making roads that could,  good news, solve every problem!

Because, look, America is extremely paved there are so many roads and so many parking lots  and so many more parking lots  than you think there are. If we replaced all of the paved  area in the US with solar panels,  we would produce more power than the US uses.

Which is a wild statistic that is completely irrelevant. The list of reasons why solar  road is a bad idea is very long.  I will put an incomplete  list on the screen right now.  I'll also put some links in the description,  but this video is not about  why solar roads are a bad idea.  It's about why so many people thought they were a good idea. In medicine, or on the podcast Sawbones, you often hear that cure-alls cure nothing.

The human body, and all the things that can go wrong with it,  are just too complex for there to be some magical, simple solution that solves everything. And as I re-watch that 2014 Solar Freaking Roadways video  the feeling I get is that the list of problems being solved is just too long. They could improve drainage, enhance playgrounds,  alert drivers to upcoming moose, fix the economy,  eliminate the need for fossil fuel, melt snow,  fix power transmission, and make partying more fun.

This is a video built to make people excited about something.  And since the average person doesn't know how roads work,  we have people for that. It's pretty easy to make a list  of problems and then propose a solution that would solve all of them.  As long as you don't look too hard or know too much. What this relies on, is people not understanding how complex  something that seems simple is.

And that's fine! We're not supposed to, nor can we, know about everything. I think this actually outlines a really important tension in society between,  like, not wanting, or being able, to have everyone understand the  intricacies of how tires interact with different paved surfaces  at different levels of moisture and temperatures and speeds.  And also, being frustrated by problems that we see and we see not getting fixed.

And then, of course, experts are annoyed when you're like,  "Why don't you just fix this problem"  and you're like, "Well, you don't want to know how complicated it is!" You don't want to know how tires work. Experts don't want to explain to you  why you can't make highways out of glass. But the division of expertise is like the #1 thing that makes societies work!

But that stops working when there is no trust. In stories of big, simple solutions, once they aren't implemented,  either rely on you realizing that it's more complicated  or thinking that there's some super powerful cabal  that's preventing us from doing the simple thing. Which is why a lot of the times conversation about big,  simple solutions interfaces with conspiracy theory.

Solar roadways are a big, simple solution and, I'm sorry,  but big, simple solutions are very rare because everything  is very complicated. Like, soap may have been  the last big, simple solution. So they do happen, but it's ben a while.

But, honestly, the reason I think  this was "a moment" in a sort-of Kony 2012, but 2 years later,  kind of way, was a good impulse. It was hopefulness.  Like, that was a hopeful moment. We felt like the internet, maybe,  could put an end to a Ugandan warlord, or maybe even create a future  where roads melted ice, warned you about moose,  and generated more electricity than the cars that ran on them used.

Maybe the problems weren't being solved because there wasn't enough hope!  or human excitement! This was a wild time on the internet. We did not know what was possible.

If only we hadn't found out! The Solar Roadways   people are actually still at it. They've done some small scale installations.  And the way I see it, it is an incremental value-add and  for very specific situations, which get this, is fine!  It's how almost everything gets done in this big, messy, complicated world.

Because the big problems aren't there  because evil people create them. They are there because 8 billion  people living together on a single planet is difficult. And those big problems only ever,  really get solved in one situations.

And that's when lots of people  with wildly varying areas of expertise trust each other and work together  to solve them. John, I'll see you tomorrow.