Let boys build toys
The mid 20th Century was a weird and wonderful time.
After two World Wars and a worldwide depression, people were ready to be hopeful again. New ideas and anything that seemed to be about the future was embraced and was something to be excited by.
Sure there were some things that society probably overdid it on — maybe couldn’t have relaxed a bit on the plastics and probably should have smoked a bit less — but overall we could take some lessons from that hopefulness.
Rather than worrying about what everything, people looked at new innovation as something to be excited about — something that was going to make their life better.
I suspect if cryptocurrency was conceptualized in 1964 we would have less people worried about the environmental impact of mining and more people thinking about how it could democratize the entire world’s economic system.
That doesn’t mean that every idea they had back then was a good one. Take the Amphicar, for instance. The car that was also a boat. It looked cool and futuristic, but it ended up just being a mediocre car and a worse boat. So, that’s an idea that stayed in the sci-fi movies.
Another thing that probably should have stayed in the world of mid-century sci-fi — but that is still hanging around in the collective consciousness — is this whole idea of flying cars.
Today, The New York Times dove into the efforts to finally bring us a car that can fly us to pick up the dry cleaning. From The Jetsons to Back to the Future, the flying car has always been held up as the ultimate indicator of the future. And, the story of the race to create one for the commercial market is an interesting soap opera that makes for a good examination.
That said, it’s unclear whether the things will have any use. The truth is the basic technology to have a small object hover and move through the air has been around since 1939. That would be a helicopter.
Do you really want our neighbors flying around in little helicopters? They can’t even cut their lawn properly, let alone control a flying device.
And, then there’s the whole mess around regulation and licencing and…well, I’m being one of those negative folks more worried about the potential bad impacts of something rather than what it might bring to society.
When you think about the pursuit for the flying car in those terms, the whole thing is actually rather charming. It’s mostly a bunch of men that grew up watching the science fiction that championed this technology trying to emulate it as they enter their sunset years.
Does that mean that we are going to see a bunch of flying cars in our cities in the near future? Probably not, but the thing about innovation is that it’s not just restricted to the technology they are trying to create. Often it’s the stuff around the edges that have the biggest impact.
As it relates to the pursuit of flying cars, the advancements in self-driving technology that are related to the cars will probably be the real lasting importance here.
And, who knows? Maybe a limited amount of heli-cars (let’s call these things what they are) will also come to market too.