Speaking with Matt is like being blasted with a firehose of information. He is entwined in the worlds of politics, database engineering, and 3D printing, and he speaks in dense, reference-laden paragraphs. This is thrilling to me, since I love information. I also feel empathy for folks who have been subject to my own tendencies to speak in dense, reference-laden paragraphs, since it’s not always easy to keep up.
While infrastructure isn’t exactly a sexy topic, we’ve seen a lot of institutional failings over the last few years, so I wanted to get Matt’s take on why we see so much bureaucratic rot and ineptitude — and what we can do about it.
I also wanted to get his significantly more optimistic take on the future of small-scale manufacturing, since he is starting a new company with plans to democratize 3D printing. The costs and infrastructure required to make small runs of products in your own home are plummeting, and we will likely see a revolution in direct-to-consumer businesses because of it.
Enjoy this conversation with the always fascinating, always reference-laden Matt Parlmer.
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Learn more from Matt here:
- [01:45] Is it “time to build”? And, why have we seen so many institutional and infrastructural failures since the 1970s?
- [10:47] Matt’s take on the Texas power grid failure
- [19:24] The engineering parable of the construction of the London sewers
- [27:10] Why are we better at digital infrastructure than physical infrastructure?
- [34:34] Lessons from the iterative development practices of technical infrastructure that can be applied to physical infrastructure
- [41:54] Matt’s nuclear power pitch — and how the regulatory state has failed on nuclear
- [56:53] The coming transition from “needing a warehouse full of equipment” to “at home manufacturing”
- [01:06:45] What is changing that will cause massive cost reductions in small-scale manufacturing and electrochemical machining
- [01:16:17] General Fabrication, 3D printing farms, and the “direct from producer” business model
- [01:28:30] How to learn more from Matt and why you should really reach out to him about manufacturing and 3D printing
Links and Resources Mentioned:
- 2021 Texas power crisis
- Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan Thanksgiving Turkey
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel
- “How London got its Victorian sewers” from OpenLearn
- Square–cube law
- Howard Hughes
- 2020 United States federal government data breach
- “MySpace admits losing 12 years’ worth of music uploads” from BBC News
- Version control
- Idaho National Laboratory
- Hydraulic empire
- “Loan program that funded Solyndra finds success in Tesla and many others” from The Mercury News
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- West Africa Squadron
- Mainframe computer
- Electrochemical machining
- “How Switzerland Came to Dominate Watchmaking” from The New York Times
- “Neuromancer” by William Gibson
- Red Hat’s Business Model
- China Using Anal Swabs for COVID Testing