An Incredible Future is Coming

Where is My Flying Car by J. Storrs Hall

"Where is My Flying Car" by J. Storrs Hall is exciting and inspiring, making you think about the potential of the future. But at the same time, it might make you a little angry by effectively explaining where we've faltered in advancing technology and civilization over the last 50 years.

Hall combines physics, science, tech commentary, and insights into political and economic issues to paint a hopeful and bright picture of the future possibilities in science and technology.

If you have an interest in science or sci-fi, or are an aspiring technology entrepreneur looking for inspiration, you definitely need to read this book. It's also an eye-opener for those with reservations about energy use and technological progress, challenging these beliefs with clear and thoughtful arguments.

I’ve shared some of my favorite highlights from the book below. And as always, if you want to listen to the audio, subscribe to the Nat’s Notes podcast on YouTubeSpotifyAppleAmazon, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts by searching “Nat’s Notes.”

This edition is sponsored by Readwise!

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“If it hadn't been for the Great Depression and then World War II, the autogyro might well have gone on to be the basis for a widely used flying car.”

“The power and sophistication of our information-processing systems and devices today are demonstrably fantastic, ludicrous, insane from the point of view of anyone in the '60s. The IBM 7094, costing $35 million in today's dollars, was used by NASA to control, coordinate, and navigate the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft from 1962 on. It had about 0.35 MIPS of processing power. In 2015, you could purchase for $35 a Raspberry Pi with 9,700 MIPS. The workstation I'm typing this on has 2,356,230 MIPS. The same astronomical increase is possible with matter and energy, and we have known how to go about doing it since 1960.”

“Suppose that, since 1960, we had made progress in nanofactories at the same rate as computers, so that anyone who has a computer now would have a nanofactory. Not a big thing, mind you; like a computer, it could be as small as a cellphone. Indeed, it would probably be a part of your smartphone. Just a quick update for your iDoc app, and it synthesizes your dose from the CO₂ in the air and a vitamin tablet. It is a possibility. It has been a possibility for a long time.”

“For all the angst about the Bomb and Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), they drastically changed the nature of warfare. They short-circuited the evolutionary process. It was no longer the case that a society that slid into inefficient cultural or governmental practices was likely to be promptly conquered by the baron next door. The nuclear umbrella meant that the economic, political, and moral strength of a society was no longer at a premium”

“In the Age of Aquarius, our focus largely shifted from conquering the physical world to conquering the interior worlds of other people.”

“The impact of climate change will be small-this is the scientific consensus. The existential threat of our time-this is the religious catechism. A vast gulf is fixed between these two sides. Climate change is a hangnail, not a hangman. In numerical terms, "the likely combined direct economic effects [of climate change] could reach 0.7 to 2.4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product per year by the end of this century. Anything, including energy conservation, that reduces the growth rate by a single percentage point will harm our grandchildren 50 times as much as climate change.”

“In 2013, economists John Dawson and John Seater published a study in the Journal of Economic Growth, "Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth." They calculated that, if we had simply maintained the level of regulation that we had in 1949, the median household income in America would now be $185.000. Instead it is $53,000.”

“According to a study conducted by Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, the cost of the United States tort system consumes about 2 percent of GDP, on average. If we assume that this mostly started around 1980, when the number of lawyers skyrocketed and the airplane industry was destroyed, the long-run compound-interest effect on the economy as a whole is startling: Without it, our economy today would be twice the size that it actually is. And that doesn't even include the consequences of taking more than a million of the country's most talented and motivated people and putting them to work making arguments and filing briefs instead of inventing, developing, and manufacturing.”

“With 50 years of experience and experimentation, Isaac Asimov's speculation"The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course"-was completely reasonable, given the physics and the rate of technological improvement up until then. We really, really should have had atomic batteries by now. And guess what? Your iPhone would never need charging, and your Tesla would have a range of 3.5 million miles. It is a possibility.”

“Our greatest lack, of course, is power. Nothing else so brightly illuminates the gulf between the ergophobic religion that regards energy as some shameful original sin and the can-do, "whatever it takes to get the job done" attitude of the 1950s. Energy poverty is one of the major things separating us from the future we were promised. This was not done to us from without; we impoverished ourselves from within. But that means that it still lies within us to change our minds, regain our birthright, and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”

Thanks for reading. If you want to listen to the audio, subscribe to the Nat’s Notes podcast on YouTubeSpotifyAppleAmazon, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts by searching “Nat’s Notes.”

I’ll be back next week with another great book to share with you.