Category Archives: Tech

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday (Seventies Edition)

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove, The Other McCain, Whores and Ale and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!  If these folks aren’t on your daily read list, they should be.

A conversation I engaged in a while ago while researching some info for work I’m doing in another quarter got me to thinking.  (I know, I know, that’s a dangerous habit.)  There has been a lot of talk among science-ey types about the extension of human lifespans, which is something I’ve written about in these virtual pages.  It’s something I find interesting and would cheerfully agree to – I could easily live a thousand years and never run out of bucket-list items.

But then you have the folks who like to gas about the Singularity.  That is, in its more optimistic form, a merging of human and artificial intelligence.  In its less optimistic form, it is the destruction of human individuality by humanity’s incorporation into some all-encompassing AI.

The ultimate expression of that latter path, of course, would mean the possibility of “uploading” your brain into a virtual world space.  That, unlikely as I think the prospect is, would rate a big fat “hell no.”

See, I could live a thousand years in my physical body.  And I suppose I could learn to see the appeal of some kind of virtual reality, on the condition that I could unplug whenever I wanted.

But two problems, as I see it, with the “brain upload” scenario:

  1. It wouldn’t be me.  What that set of data on some file server somewhere would be, is a computer simulation of me.  It might be a good one, but it wouldn’t be me.  I’d be dead.  Gone.  And as I don’t ascribe to Descartes’ concept of duality, I don’t see how any metaphysical “me” could somehow be uploaded.  And let’s be honest, this wouldn’t be an “upload” at all.  It would just be a file copy, a backup, so to speak.  Not a person.  Not a human, with continuity.  No self.  Not me.
  2. There’s so much about the physical world that just can’t be replicated.  I could live a thousand years easily if circumstances were right, but if it meant not being able to hold Mrs. Animal’s hand or see her smile, it wouldn’t be worth it.  There are physical aspects of the world, of our lives, our experiences, that I don’t believe can be duplicated.  If, somehow, that metaphysical “me” made the jump to a virtual space, I’d know it was fake.

While I can imagine living a thousand years and would love to have to chance to do it, I’m accepting the fact that it almost certainly won’t be possible in my lifetime.  And that’s OK.  My life to date has been great, with a great family and a happy marriage to a woman I love, and you can’t really ask for much more.  I’ve already been lots of places and done lots of things – for one, I spent a good portion of my youth running around with a pack and a rifle doing all kinds of screwy things, and for another, I spent most of my middle age globe-hopping as a consultant.  All in all, I’ve had a hell of a good time.  If I’m only to be allotted the traditional three-score and ten, well, then that’s likewise OK.

After all, going to the showers is part of the game, too.  One should accept that with a certain grace.

Animal’s Daily Fusion News

Before we begin – check out my latest over at Glibertarians.  This week we examine the life and works of P.O. Ackley, one of America’s greatest riflesmiths and cartridge developers.

Apparently there’s a problem with tokamak-style fusion reactors, which is known as “chirping” or, more specifically, Alfvén mode chirping.  Funny, but that’s not the kind of chirping I’m used to (fair warning – language!)

Now some physicists may have found a way to deal with this problem in fusion reactors.  Excerpt:

Researchers with the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) of the Department of Energy have released a new paper documenting a way to help enable nuclear fusion reactors. They describe the scientific reasons for a phenomenon within tokamak reactors called Alfvén mode chirping.

Let’s race through some terms here. A tokamak is the donut-shaped great hope of nuclear fusion. (Its cousin, the stellarator, has great potential, but is less developed so far.) Inside, a stream of unfathomably hot plasma—as hot as or even far hotter than our sun—is contained by a powerful magnetic field that must be totally effective for the reactor to stay at productive fusion temperatures.

There’s a constant push-pull between the stream of plasma and the magnetic field, and the nature of burning hot matter means the plasma is swirling and circulating even within the stream. This is where and why “chirping” occurs. Researcher Vinicius Duarte explains it in a PPPL statement: 

“For any fusion device to work, you need to make sure that the highly energetic particles within it are very well confined within the plasma core. If those particles drift to the edge of the plasma, you can’t sustain the steady-state burning plasma needed to make fusion-powered electricity a reality.”

So, we’re now what, thirty years away from having practical nuclear fusion reactors?  Just like we were thirty years ago?  Just like we will be thirty years from now?

Look, True Believers, I’d dearly love to see practical fusion reactors become a reality.  It would be revolutionary; clean, cheap energy, and an almost unlimited supply of it.  But aside from the technical challenges, I’m afraid the political challenges will be insurmountable.  Look at hard it is now to pursue the one avenue of clean, cheap, abundant energy that’s already available to us now – nuclear fission.

Instead, we have a “Green” movement who thinks that a modern technological society can be powered by pixie dust and unicorn farts.

I hope these technical problems can actually be worked out.  This advance is one step in the right direction, and what remains of my personal optimism makes me think that one day we will have practical fusion for energy production.

But the political side?  I’m not optimistic enough to think we’ll overcome that.  Not in a nation that is day-by-day sliding further into insanity.  As of today, this early morning, I’m more inclined to think my grandchildren will end up burning stove wood to keep their homes warm, like my great-grandparents did in the late nineteenth century.

Rule Five Grand Theft Auto Friday

Only yesterday I reminded all you True Believers that today’s problems are solved with tomorrow’s technology.  Here’s another example of that happening in the last few years.  Excerpt:

Technology has made it very difficult to steal cars made after about 2000.  The old cars that can be stolen are not very valuable.  If it wasn’t for old Hondas retaining some of their value, auto theft would be down even further.  From the New York Times:

. . . 1990, the city had 147,000 reported auto thefts, one for every 50 residents; last year, there were just 7,400, or one per 1,100. That’s a 96 percent drop in the rate of car theft. . . .

The most important factor is a technological advance: engine immobilizer systems, adopted by manufacturers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These make it essentially impossible to start a car without the ignition key, which contains a microchip uniquely programmed by the dealer to match the car.

Criminals generally have not been able to circumvent the technology or make counterfeit keys. “It’s very difficult; not just your average perpetrator on the street is going to be able to steal those cars,” said Capt. John Boller, who leads the New York Police Department’s auto crime division. Instead, criminals have stuck to stealing older cars.

You can see this in the pattern of thefts of America’s most stolen car, the Honda Accord. About 54,000 Accords were stolen in 2013, 84 percent of them from model years 1997 or earlier, according to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a trade group for auto insurers and lenders. Not coincidentally, Accords started to be sold with immobilizers in the 1998 model year. The Honda Civic, America’s second-most stolen car, shows a similar pattern before and after it got immobilizer technology for model year 2001. . . .

Josh Barro, “Here’s Why Stealing Cars Went Out of Fashion,” New York Times, August 11, 2014.

Making it hard to steal cars undoubtedly matters a lot, but the drop in auto theft from 1991 to 2000 or 2001 is much larger than the drop from 2000 or 2001 to 2012.  However, the percentage drop from 2001 to 2012 (46%) is somewhat greater than the drop from 1991 to 2000 (37%).

Some years back, while I was working in Utah, I left the inestimable Rojito parked at the Salt Lake City Airport to fly home for a weekend.  On my return, I discovered I had left my keys at the house, and had to phone a locksmith.  The locksmith was able to make a physical key from a blank to open the door, but it didn’t work in the ignition; he ran the VIN number and discovered that my 1999 Ranger had an encoded key of the type described above.  Fortunately he had the right equipment to make such a key (it wasn’t cheap!) and his shop had the necessary licenses to get the required code from Ford with the VIN number.

Our newer vehicles, of course, all have such keys.

This isn’t something that it has occurred to me to look into in the last few years.  The fact that some cars are still being stolen, I think, we can probably attribute to carjackings or the opportunistic theft of a car left running with the keys in the ignition, which I have to say is a pretty dumb thing to do if you live in one of our major cities.

Read the original story, and look at the charts.  Larceny of all types has dropped in the time frame described, but auto theft has dropped dramatically more so.  And a big part of that is due to this technology.

Solving yesterday’s problems with today’s technology.  Ain’t it a wonderful thing?

Animal’s Daily Bronco Returns News

The new Bronco.

Ford has been dropping little bits of info about this for years, but as of Tuesday, the Bronco is officially back – but actual vehicles won’t be delivered until next year.  Ford is advertising it thus:

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered. To find it you have to break rules, push boundaries and climb over the barriers in your way. With its relentless toughness and durability, the all-new Bronco was built to carry outdoor enthusiasts to wherever the wilderness calls. Available in two- or four-door models.

I’ve had two Broncos.  The first was one of the originals, a 1974, painted a rather horrible nuclear-reactor green.  We called it the Green Machine, and it was a wonder.  I think that truck would go up and down trees.  It stuffed a 302ci V-8 into a fairly small frame, with 4:11 gears and manual everything.  The interior was all sheet metal and vinyl; at the end of elk season you could just take it into the car wash and hose it out.  It wasn’t without down sides, though.  In hot weather the floorboards got uncomfortably hot, and the low gearing and lack of overdrive limited it to about 50-55mph on the highway.

The second one was a 1992, one of the ones based on the F-150 chassis.  It had the all-black “Nite” trim package, so we called it the Dark Horse.

The Dark Horse in an early elk camp, some years ago

The Dark Horse wasn’t quite as tough off-road, although is was still pretty damn capable.  It used the same 302ci V-8 but the newer engine, with multi-port fuel injection, managed to provide plenty of power for the bigger truck.  It was better on the highway, being geared at about 3:55 (as I recall) but the automatic transmission had an overdrive gear, so it would comfortably tool along the interstate at 75mph with my tent trailer tacked on behind.

I used the Dark Horse a lot.  It saw hunting fields and off-road trails everywhere between Montana and the Mexican border, between the Mississippi and the Sierras.  It was a great truck, but eventually it just plain wore out, at which point I traded it in on the inestimable Rojito, which I still am using today.

Rojito in another elk camp.

The new Bronco looks the part, at least in the photos I’ve seen so far.  But I’m concerned all the same.  I prefer manual everything in a truck that I’ll be pounding on jeep trails.  The Dark Horse had power windows and door locks, both of which weren’t working very well by the end of its tenure.  The new Bronco appears to have all kinds of electronic gewgaws that, I am afraid, won’t last well under the kind of hard use that a hunting/fishing/outdoor rig frequently sees on the trail.

When the new Broncos arrive at the dealership we use, I’ll go look at them.  But I’m prepared to be disappointed.  We’ll see.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Moving on:  Of all the dumb mistakes made by all the Democratic candidates in the 2020 election, the calls to ban fracking may be one of the dumbest.  Excerpt:

Modern fracking — horizontal hydraulic fracturing — combines two technologies in a way that only a few decades ago would have sounded more like witchcraft or alchemy than a viable business proposition. It was devised in the late Nineties by Texas entrepreneur George Mitchell, the son of Greek immigrants (his father had been a goatherd), who set out to solve a seemingly impossible problem: how to make the richly abundant but apparently inaccessible pockets of gas trapped in America’s shale formations economically viable.

After spending $6 million on research and development, Mitchell found the solution. He combined the existing process of fracking (invented in the 1940s) — forcing liquid at high pressure into the shale so as to break up the rock and release the gas — with horizontal drilling. Everyone told him he was wasting his time and money but Mitchell was vindicated. As the Economist wrote in 2012, the year before his death, ‘Few business people have done as much to change the world as George Mitchell.’

Here’s the kicker:

On the contrary, most of the Democratic presidential hopefuls either want to curtail its use or ban it altogether. Mike Bloomberg says that ‘gas isn’t as clean as we thought’. He wants to ‘get [it] out of as many homes and buildings as we can’ and stop the construction of new gas plants. Elizabeth Warren would like to take things a step further and has pledged to ban fracking as part of her $3 trillion ten-year plan to take America zero-carbon. Bernie Sanders also plans to ban fracking as part of his Green New Deal, which will nationalize the utility industry and end fossil-fuel use in buildings by 2030. Billionaire Tom Steyer — part of whose fortune was built on fossil-fuel investments, causing fracking tycoon Harold Hamm to label him ‘the world’s biggest hypocrite’ — hasn’t yet committed to banning fracking. But fracking seems unlikely to escape unscathed from the ‘national climate emergency’ that he plans to declare on day one, in the highly unlikely event that he ends up as president.

Seriously, if these people wanted to throw the 2020 election on purpose, they could hardly do a better job.  By all means, campaign on returning us to a colder, darker world!

Cheap and abundant energy is one of the biggest, easiest ways to assure economic prosperity.  The Democrats commit a threefold sin when weighing in on “climate change”:

  1. They ignore the developing nations, including Brazil, India and China, who are the worst offenders in carbon emissions, and who are increasing, not decreasing, emissions.
  2. They wallpaper over the fact that their various “green” energy initiative will never make up for the deficiency caused by the loss of natural gas.
  3. They ignore nuclear energy, which is not only safe and reliable but also clean.

But hey, by all means, campaign on this!  It’s a donation in kind to the Trump 2020 campaign.  Morons.

 

Rule Five Future Airliners Friday

Mrs. Animal and I do more than the average amount of air travel, and it is as it has been of late:  Uncomfortable and inconvenient.  But there are ideas floating around to make air travel at least a little uncomfortable.  To that end, Airbus may have a neat new concept for air travel.  Excerpt:

The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has unveiled a model of what it believes may be the future of passenger-aircraft designs.

The Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovate Controls, or Maveric, made its debut at the Singapore Airshow 2020 on Tuesday. The new aircraft design seeks to upend the long-standing tradition of tube-shaped aircraft fuselages.

The model reflects what a “blended-wing” design, a concept used mainly in military aircraft, would look like for commercial planes.

Maveric is in the initial stages of development. Airbus quietly launched the project in 2017 and began tests on a small remote-controlled model in 2019.

Though it looks like something out of a science-fiction movie, aircraft with designs like the Maveric may become a reality if Airbus, one of the largest commercial-aircraft manufacturers, has its way. 

Take a look at what may be the aircraft design of the future. 

Here’s the neat bit:

A wider aircraft could also allow for a more open concept on board and make the cabin feel less congested compared with current-generation aircraft designs.

Less congested would be awesome.

One of my major peeves with air travel is how damn tight everything is on a typical airliner.  On international flights, as Mrs. A and I took earlier this week, we generally spring for United’s upgraded Premiere Economy seats, which are roughly the equivalent of the old Business Class; with this section selection we get wider seats and fewer people per overhead bin.  But those seats involve a not-insignificant extra cost, and while Mrs. A and I are empty-nesters and owners of a reasonably successful business and so can afford those seats, that’s not an option for everyone.  And the standard Economy seats are a trial for someone of my 6’1″ stature.

These concept art depictions (and, by all means, go look at them) literally paint quite a different picture.

Here’s the catch, though:  While the shorter, wider layout does seem to give a sense of more breathing space, I’m damned certain that the airlines would capitalize on that by cramming in the same crappy, undersized seating.  That’s not a problem without compensations; adjusted for inflation, air travel is cheaper now than it has ever been in the past, and the price we pay for that is crowding, rude one-time travelers and three-year-olds kicking the backs of our minimum-pitch seats.

So, this Airbus concept may be neat – and neat it is – but will it make air travel significantly more comfortable in practice?  Color me skeptical.

Rule Five Micro-Nukes Friday

Here is some more information on small modular nuclear reactors; these could revolutionize energy provision in many ways, some of which we’ve discussed before.  Excerpt:

Actually – small nuclear reactors are not new. We have been using them on nuclear submarines and other vessels for years. What is new is commercial SMRs for grid power. I could not find any in operation currently. The US company NuScale, has approval for a design and could be operational by 2026. They estimate the electricity costs at $65 per MW hour, which is not far from the current costs of solar at $60, and offshore wind at $50. Of course, wind and solar prices are dropping, but the hope is that economies of scale will also drop the cost of SMRs.

There are also potential advantages of SMRs over renewable and traditional nuclear power plants. Regarding renewables, while the prices are dropping now once we saturate the grid with renewable energy, something like 30% penetration, in order to increase the grid share of power from renewables you need some combination of two things, grid storage and overcapacity (sharing energy across the grid). The latter also requires a massive grid update. So the effective cost of renewables will start to skyrocket. The solution is to make up the rest of our energy infrastructure with on-demand energy sources. We can try to maximize hydroelectric and geothermal (which are geographically limited), but for now that means fossil fuel or nuclear.

So realistically, over the next several decades at least, the real choice we face is not between nuclear vs renewables, it’s nuclear vs fossil fuel – and I think the answer here is a no-brainer (I will return to this below).

What are the potential advantages of SMRs over traditional larger nuclear plants? According to a US government analysis:

Advanced SMRs offer many advantages, such as relatively small size, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages.

It’s important to note a couple of things here.

First:  The United States has already gone cleaner, carbon-wise, than almost any other nation on the planet.  How have we done this, given the opposition to nuclear power?  Mostly with natural gas, of which the United States has become a major producer due to advanced drilling and fracking technology.  The major offenders of carbon emissions – if you accept that it’s a problem – are India, China, Russia and some of the other developing nations.

And these kinds of reactors could help them as well.

Consider the advantages of a modular reactor that could be delivered over regular railroads or highways on a flatbed rail car or tractor-trailer.  If difficult terrain they could even be flown in.  These could bring power to remote villages, say in the Chinese hinterlands, Siberia, or even Alaska and norther Canada, and deliver cheap, clean electricity to areas that are now either going without, or are dependent on extensive power lines which run from coal-fired power plants.

The article further points out:

In this countries (sic) we have two main political parties, one largely ignored the science on global warming, and the other largely ignores the science on nuclear energy. The Democratic candidates range from Sanders, who would phase out nuclear quickly, to Yang, who is the only one who would expand nuclear. The others are all weak on nuclear, and would either “wean” off, or not expand or build any new plants, letting existing plants sunset. This is the politically safe thing to say on the left, but it’s not reality.

That last sentence is something of an understatement.

The political Left, not only in the United States but in the EU nations and the rest of Europe, have been rabidly anti-nuke for some time.  As reactor technology continues to improve, this opposition will grow more and more nonsensical – which doesn’t mean they’ll stop.

Progress (real progress, not “progressive” progress) waits for no man – or political party.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Hard to believe we’re in the last month of the year already – 2019, we hardly knew ye.   Meanwhile, thanks to Pirate’s Cove and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!

So, speaking of energy – there’s a new kind of fission reactor being developed called a traveling-wave reactor, and if it works as predicted, it could change the face of energy production.  But here’s the catch:  It’s being developed, using American funding, in China.  Why?  Because too many Americans are morons when it comes to nuclear power.  Excerpts, with my comments:

For well over a decade, Bill Gates has funded TerraPower, a startup seeking to design, build, and commercialize a revolutionary nuclear reactor. Their traveling-wave reactor design uses depleted uranium to operate, rather than uranium-235 like in current reactors, and is built so that if left unattended, it will slowly shut down, making a catastrophic meltdown a near impossibility. Optimistic estimates from the company suggest that current American stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel could be used in traveling-wave reactors to electrify the entire country for hundreds of years, and for far cheaper than current nuclear plants. This is carbon-free, baseload electricity that could easily provide the foundation for a next-generation, renewable-focused energy grid.

This would rattle a lot of cages.  Combined with clean natural gas for various purposes (like heating, for example) this would be great for delivering cheap energy.  And cheap energy is like octane-booster for a nation’s economy.  In the case of something like this, there’s really no down side.  So why China?

In partnership with the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), TerraPower was preparing to break ground on a prototype 600 MegaWatt reactor in Fujian province, but then political disaster struck. Late in 2018, Department of Energy policy changes stemming from the U.S. – China trade war forced TerraPower to end its agreement with the CNNC, leaving their potentially game-changing reactor without a home.

So bring it home.  Let’s start building this reactor here, in the United States.

We can’t, you say?   Why not?

Science!

This saga brings up a key question: why was an American company, funded by one of America’s most wealthy and respected philanthropists, going to China to build their next-generation nuclear reactor? Why not here? The simple answer is that Americans are notoriously afraid of and unfriendly toward nuclear power. Though nuclear has reliably and safely provided roughly 20% of electricity in the U.S. for the past quarter-century, a majority of Americans oppose it and politicians have repeatedly erected more and more regulatory roadblocks, driving up costs and making new nuclear power plants nearly impossible to build. Even innovative ideas like what Bill Gates and TerraPower are proposing are not welcome.

As I said, too many Americans are morons when it comes to nuclear energy – and too many of those morons are warming chairs in the Imperial City.

Seriously, folks, there are few better examples of how an overbearing government can screw things up for everybody.  Here we have an innovative technology that could deliver cheap, clean, nigh-unlimited energy to millions, and it’s being logjammed because OMG NUKULAR!

The article closes with:

There’s no guarantee that TerraPower’s traveling-wave reactor will work in practice. Its system of liquid sodium cooling has been attempted before with little success. Moreover, power production efficiencies could end up far lower than what their simulations suggest. Other, unforeseen problems could also arise.

But we’ll never know unless government gets out of the way and allows our scientists, entrepreneurs, and engineers to build the nuclear reactor prototypes that could power the future.

The government won’t get out of the way.  Not voluntarily.  The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act mentioned in the article would be a spit into a hurricane.  The only way we’ll know if a traveling-wave reactor will work is to build one, and I’ll be the most amazed guy around if the Imperial government allows it in our country.

I could be wrong.  I’d love to be wrong.  But I don’t think I am.

Rule Five FoMoCo Friday

Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Ford Motors is slowly doing away with their car lineup in favor of SUVs and pickups.  Excerpt:

Although it has been a while since Ford announced the cancellation of nearly all of its passenger-car models, it turns out that the Fusion sedan is set to die a long, slow death. A Ford spokesperson told C/D that there are still “a couple more years” left for the Fusion, meaning that production at its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, will continue until sometime in 2021. The company has already begun chopping up the Fusion lineup, however, as the Fusion Sport model (pictured) has been dropped for the 2020 model year.

Introduced for 2017, this higher-performance trim level offered a 325-hp twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. It went from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds in our testing. A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 245 horsepower will now be the most powerful engine available in the 2020 Fusion; two less-powerful four-cylinder engines, a hybrid, and a plug-in-hybrid model are also still offered.

What will happen to the Fusion name after production ends in 2021? The current-generation Fusion sedan will certainly reach the end of the road, and the Hermosillo plant will begin building the next-generation Transit Connect van. But Ford has suggested that it may apply existing names to new crossover body styles, and there are rumors that the Fusion nameplate itself may be applied to a Subaru Outback–esque wagon model at some point in the near future.

Full disclosure:  I’ve been a loyal Ford buyer/driver for over forty years.  Mostly trucks, although I’ve had a few cars, including a ’65 Mustang and a 1972 Gran Torino Sport very similar to the one in a certain Clint Eastwood film.  Mrs. Animal and I have only Fords among our three vehicles.  Mrs. A has a 2017 Expedition, I of course have the inestimable Rojito, a 1999 Ranger 4×4, and we have our “company car,” a 2013 Edge.  Most of our kids drive Fords; we’re a Ford family.

That said:  Ford is fucking up here.

It’s not just with the deletion of their coupes/sedans.  Ford is introducing their first all-electric coal-powered car, a small, Escape-sized “crossover” – and calling it a Mustang.  That, friends, is a fuck-up of the first water.  The Mustang has been Ford’s flagship vehicle since the demise of the Thunderbird, and while over the years it has taken many forms, a greenie electric “crossover” has never been one of them, and never should be one of them.  For the love of Pete, Ford, go ahead and introduce your new lettuce-mobile if you want, but call it something else!

I have nothing against crossovers, mind.  I own one; our “company car” that goes on the road for long gigs is the aforementioned 2013 Edge, in the top-shelf Limited trim with the 3.0 liter V-6.  It’s roomy enough for Mrs. A and myself, gives a good view of the road and is peppy enough to be interesting to drive.  I’m normally a truck guy but the Edge works great for this purpose and I’ve grown rather fond of it.

And don’t get me started on the upcoming re-release of the Bronco.  That would be an entire post unto itself.

Ford has always been a truck company, granted.  But eliminating all of their car line is a mistake – a bad one.  The Fusion in particular is a great vehicle.  Three of our four kids have owned them, two still do, and they are big fans.  I’ve had them as rental cars several times in several trims; they are easy to drive, handle well, have decent ergonomics; they’re great.

I hate to see Ford going down this road, especially when they were smart enough to refuse the 2008 Imperial auto-industry bailout.  But going down it they are, and while we’re truck people and so won’t be immediately affected, I’d hate to see Ford lose their market position because of it.

Animal’s Daily Futuristic News

Be sure to catch my latest over at Glibertarians; this week it’s another installment of my Allamakee County Chronicles.

Meanwhile:   SingularityHub’s Dr. Peter H. Diamandis Has a list of new technologies he thinks we’ll see in the next ten years.  Color me skeptical.  Here’s the list, with my comments:

Hyperloop One: LA to SF in 35 Minutes

Did you know that Hyperloop was the brainchild of Elon Musk? Just one in a series of transportation innovations from a man determined to leave his mark on the industry.

In 2013, in an attempt to shorten the long commute between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the California state legislature proposed a $68 billion budget allocation for what appeared to be the slowest and most expensive bullet train in history.

Well, he’s not wrong about the bullet train.

But Elon Musk’s Hyperloop isn’t going anywhere on any real scale.  Certainly not in the next ten years.  Just obtaining the real estate necessary would be a massive undertaking, and he hasn’t (apparently) even started yet.  This is the same guy who has promised to start a colony on Mars, among other things, and the Hyperloop is another display of Musk’s primary talent:  Self-promotion.

Which brings us to:

Rocket Travel

As if autonomous vehicles, flying cars, and Hyperloop weren’t enough, in September of 2017, speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, Musk promised that for the price of an economy airline ticket, his rockets will fly you “anywhere on Earth in under an hour.”

No.  Way.  In.  Hell.  Not in ten years.  Not in twenty or thirty years.  While the technology exists for this, the practical application of it is decades away – and decades more before the economies of scale make it possible for ordinary folks.  Even Musk admits this:  “We could probably demonstrate this [technology] in three years,” Musk explained, “but it’s going to take a while to get the safety right. It’s a high bar. Aviation is incredibly safe. You’re safer on an airplane than you are at home.”

Avatars

An avatar is a second self, typically in one of two forms. The digital version has been around for a couple of decades. It emerged from the video game industry and was popularized by virtual world sites like Second Life and books-turned-blockbusters like Ready Player One.

Now this one is a tad more realistic.  In fact, we’re already sort of doing it, with WebEx and Skype.  Videoconferencing is nothing new.  But the VR avatar concept is somewhat different; Diamandis describes a robotic version:

Robots are the second form of avatars. Imagine a humanoid robot that you can occupy at will. Maybe, in a city far from home, you’ve rented the bot by the minute—via a different kind of ridesharing company—or maybe you have spare robot avatars located around the country.

Either way, put on VR goggles and a haptic suit, and you can teleport your senses into that robot. This allows you to walk around, shake hands, and take action—all without leaving your home.

I don’t think for a moment that many companies would go to the massive expense of buying VR-occupiable robots just so remote workers can walk around and shake hands.  In the next ten years, what will happen is that companies will continue to use Skype and WebEx.  I use WebEx a lot, and it’s better than a telephone call – you can loop in many people and in discussions, especially where any debate is involved, it’s great to be able to see the people you’re talking to.  It not only personalizes the other folks in the meeting, but it allows you to take in the visual cues that make conversation much more than just the spoken word.

And finally:

Final Thoughts

Individual car ownership has enjoyed over a century of ascendancy and dominance.

And will continue to do so for the next ten years and beyond.

The first real threat it faced—today’s ride-sharing model—only showed up in the last decade. But that ridesharing model won’t even get ten years to dominate. Already, it’s on the brink of autonomous car displacement, which is on the brink of flying car disruption, which is on the brink of Hyperloop and rockets-to-anywhere decimation. Plus, avatars.

Not in the next ten years.  Not in America.  The ride sharing and autonomous car model may work for someone living in New York City, but not for a farmer in rural Missouri, a small-town doctor in Iowa or a rancher in Wyoming.  The majority of Americans are going to continue to own and operate personal vehicles.

The most important part: All of this change will happen over the next ten years. Welcome to a future of human presence where the only constant is rapid change.

Dr. Diamandis, are you a bettin’ man?  I’ve got a C-note says you’re wrong.  I’ll be around in ten years.  I’m sure you will be too.