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A few years ago Avery Brooks did a commercial for IBM complaining that he had been promised flying cars  which, of course, have not been delivered.  It was an amusing enough commercial, but there is a little truth in what he said.  Anyone who has had any exposure to science-fiction has to wonder why some of the things we imagined back then have never come to fruition.  Discussing the reasoning behind it is an interesting philosophical and intellectual exercise, but the question is becoming more relevant.

The state of the economy these days is major reason for this becoming, in my opinion, a more relevant question.  One of the biggest driving factors in the economic problems many of us experience is the cost of fuel, and thus the price of oil.  Now, I am not here to make arguments about the deep and tangled politics involved in world oil production and consumption.  However, the reality is that the rising price of oil has a direct impact of the cost of almost everything else from food to compact discs.

And this, to me, is the central reason for revisiting the old “flying cars” conundrum.  And while I understand that perhaps flying cars are not an answer or even within a realistic framework, the concept does work as a metaphor.  We need to find the flying car of transportation.  There have been many technologies which have been put forth as possibilities (Fuel Cells, Mag-Lev, Bio-Diesel), but it almost feels like there is a disincentive to explore these technologies.

The conspiracy theorists among us will cite a complicated conspiracy involving oil companies, government agencies, car makers, and even more esoteric entities as being the reason for this.  I am not naive enough to believe that there is no pressure being brought to bear to stick with fossil fuels by the companies whose survival depends upon the continued consumption of them, but whether or not there is an overarching conspiracy out there we need to find a way around it.

The brutal truth of the matter is that we are going to have to, at some point, make massive investments on enormous overhauls of nearly every aspect of our national infrastructure.  Whether these changes are because of new technological needs, or simply because our highways and railways are rotting beneath us is immaterial. 

We have gotten to a point where this country needs to stop and take a look at where we have ended up.  We used to be a nation of creative minds bravely forging trails into unknown places.  These days, our research and development seems focused on “safe” ideas like incremental improvements to existing ideas or ideas that are focus-grouped until all the vision is bled out of them.  We need to get back to our pioneering spirit.  We need to find the strength to take the risk and find that revolutionary new technology that changes everything.

The cars don’t have to fly, but dammit do something.


One Comment

  1. How long can we wait for an elected official, president, scientist, or entreprenur – we have become complacent and scared of new things – the government has gotten so short sighted and no administration wants to take on the deep pocket expenses of reinventing the infrastructuire we so desparately we need – but how do you encourage the trailblazers when your government does nothing?

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