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Five Technologies That Will Rock Your World (nytimes.com)
34 points by known 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

> The Flying Car

Oh, sure. Why use enough just enough energy to propel yourself forward to your destination when you can also use a massive amount of extra energy to fight gravity the whole way?

> capable of flying above congested roads...

If flying cars became popular, this advantage would be destroyed by the congested skies.

> will require a new kind of air traffic control

Boy howdy. And create new categories of horrific accidents. Let's not build a world where a drunk driver can plow through the roof of a school, shall we?

A more sensible answer to traffic is 1) more remote work and 2) better mass transportation.

> Boy howdy. And create new categories of horrific accidents.

Had this been the attitude 100 years ago, we would not be using cars.

Why should we go from a horse that can walk me home itself without running into a single obstacle, ever, to a big heavy loud metal gasoline-burning machine that has mechanical failures, and requires constant vigilance from the driver?

Passenger aircraft use a lot of fuel because they are flying 10x the speed of a normal car.

Low speed flight can use significantly less energy than driving somewhere. The advantages of only slowing down once and having a shorter trip end up being significant.

You kinda realise we are on a technical site right? This answer is wholly dismissive of where technology is going. How about the flipside?

> The Flying Car

New technologies such as metallic hydrogen are on the horizon. Coupled with better advances in battery tech, we may see the advent of a hybrid approach where VTOL is used via battery and propulsion with hydrogen.

That said. Flying Cars may be mandated so that it's for use intra-cities or states. But then localised will be for autonomous driving.

Having synergistic travel mediums will allow people to travel further and faster. Imagine having flying cars, hyperloop, autonomous driving and spaceX to combine to get you from A to B over a great distance in a matter of hours? All running on clean energy?

More importantly, all AI driven without the need for human intervention?

> will require a new kind of air traffic control

Sure, AI driven. There's nothing wrong with having an AI that ensures cars fly amongst already agreed routes.

> "Boy howdy. And create new categories of horrific accidents. Let's not build a world where a drunk driver can plow through the roof of a school, shall we?"

How about No? How about having AI actually fly the car? We already have planes which go on autopilot for most of the journey. AI for flying cars should actually be a whole lot easier, than driving on the road.

There will be no drunk driver, because there will be no stick.

If you actually look at all the differing technologies that are coming out. Graphene, AI, Chemical processes, Battery Tech, etc, etc, etc. It's not difficult to see the next 5 or 10 years being a whole lot different to now.

How about having AI actually fly the car?

In other words, I'm not going to see flying cars in my lifetime, then? I mean, from my POV, that is some serious hand-waving, at least until we get some demonstrable AI in consumer products that's anywhere near what I'd trust to drive a car, let alone fly something.

A collision-avoiding drone that can be flown with minimal practice and no formal training that takes 4k stabilized video was science fiction a year ago.

> I'm not going to see flying cars in my lifetime

How old are you now? 20, 30, 40? Given an average life of lets say 80. That's 40 years. So much could happen. Are you serious?

> at least until we get some demonstrable AI in consumer products that's anywhere near what I'd trust to drive a car

Google started the self driving concept back in 2009. 16 years later, here we are. Also, that's half of what's left of a potential lifetime.

Waymo is testing on public roads now [1].

Here's an article details the other competitors timelines [2]:

GM: Rumors of self-driving vehicles by 2018

Ford: Truly self-driving vehicles by 2021

Honda: Self-driving on the highway by 2020

Toyota: Self-driving on the highway by 2020

Renault-Nissan: 2020 for autonomous cars in urban conditions, 2025 for truly driverless cars

Volvo: Self-driving on the highway by 2021

Hyundai: Highway by 2020, urban driving by 2030

Daimler: Nearly fully autonomous by early 2020s

Fiat-Chrysler: CEO expects there to be some self driving vehicles on the road by 2021

BMW: Fully self-driving vehicles possible by 2021 Tesla: End of 2017

Lets say, that all the manufacturers slip and it's only until 2030 that it's a viable consumer product. That's still 26 years it took to develop. Way way less than half a lifetime.

Now if we extrapolate all that AI and knowledge and apply it to:

[3] - Uber enlists help from NASA in bid to launch flying taxis by 2020

then [4] - [5] - [6] and probably more companies who are racing to make this a reality. Even if it took them 20 years to do so.

You'd still see it in your life-time.


So please. I'd love to hear a rebuttal.

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/07/google-wa...

[2]: https://venturebeat.com/2017/06/04/self-driving-car-timeline...

[3]: https://news.sky.com/story/uber-enlists-help-from-nasa-in-bi...

[4]: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/21/electric-fl...

[5]: https://www.wired.com/story/delorean-aerospace-flying-car/

[6]: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/17/flying-car-compan...

How old are you now? 20, 30, 40?

Try again, Sonny. :-)

So please. I'd love to hear a rebuttal.

My rebuttal is that I've walked this earth for a number of decades, and the track record of such predictions has been dismal. We've been "almost there" for decades. Tesla can't even accurately predict when they'll ship you a Model 3, and you're just going to take the word of Tesla, et. al. on when this AI-run technological miracle will happen?

But if you want a rebuttal, here it is: you list car companies that claim to have self-driving cars in the next three to four years. And yet there isn't a single company that has produced anything on a smaller scale (Siri/OKGoogle, home robot, or the like) AI/ML-related that has me thinking, "you know, I could imagine this expanding to something that could drive a car in a few years." Nothing, not a single product. If you have something along those lines that you think would fit the bill, that I can walk down to the store and buy today, I'd reconsider my position (slightly).

But that's cars, for which we have existing infrastructure for routes, refueling, and traveller services. And despite my pessimism, I expect self-driving cars in which I can take a nap on the way to happen within ten years. But flying cars? The thing that we can't even make for practical use even if you want to pilot it yourself? And we want to slap an AI control on it? With very little infrastructure to support the idea? Yup, I will be a pile of stone cold ashes before that happens.

But I hope I'm wrong about the "in my lifetime" part. Because if I am wrong, then I get a flying car and I'll have lived way past the point that I expected to. :-)

> Try again, Sonny. :-)

Well, it's all makes sense as to why you are so pessimistic.

You sound quite a lot like my Dad. He's in his 60s and I'm in my 40s. We have differing view points.

To him, technology is slow and things will take literally multi-decades. Because it did for him, that's how he experienced it.

Whereas for me, we've gone from iPhone 3 to X in a blink of an eye. We've gone from DeepMind creating AI to solve Go, to it training itself. Technology is starting to exponentially increase faster and faster. There will be breakthroughs coming that some of us won't even be aware of and that will lead to changes that affect everyone.

But one final thing. Even if you are 60, you still have another good 20 years. You may just see it yet!

Well, it's all makes sense as to why you are so pessimistic.

Why, because I was writing software professionally before you were born? Maybe your Dad and I sound a lot alike because we’ve heard that young person saying something about wolves for decades. And your argument to the contrary? Your Dad and I have been hearing almost those exact words (different examples, of course) for decades as well.

You seem to think it’s different this time. Maybe is, maybe it isn’t. But perhaps you can understand my skepticism. Any article of “predictions from 20 years ago”, from any time period, will probably back me up on this.

Well, now is different than before.


- technology was at it's very infancy

- the number of capable engineers very small

- ai the glimmer in engineers eyes


- technology at the stage it's bearing fruit of the next iteration

- the number of engineers is vast and among several companies

- ai is here to do narrow tasks well

One thing that this period has, that the 60s didn't. Is that someone can leave university and do something so radical, it leaves the big guys speechless. A case in point, the solid lidar. Or look at George Hotz with his self driving company.

You couldn't do that in the 60s.

Or what about jumping another 20/30 years ahead?

- Quantum computers will be available

- General AI may be around

- Self Driving cars, flying cars and HyperLoop variants will be around.

- SpaceX inter-planetary transport may be around.

- Mars missions a reality.

As you go down this list. It's not just 1 company or the government that is doing the research or product. It's several companies all competing with each other and pouring Tens of Billions or dollars into the industry.

Those are the differences to then and now.

Trust me. If 20 years ago or 40 years ago. You'd said that we'd have two stage rockets both landing back. You'd be laughed out of the room. Nasa engineers said it was impossible... How things change!

Anyway we can go round in circles. Like my Dad, I doubt you will change your mind. But like I tell him, if you reach 90. You'll see a lot of changes!

Anyway we can go round in circle

Yeah, I think we’ve kinda reached that point. I mean, we’re going to have to wait twenty years to see who’s right. At which point, when you still don’t have your flying car, you’ll be arguing with someone younger about how cold fusion won’t happen in your lifetime. ;-)

No matter, though, as I would be the most tickled person on earth if/when I’m shown to be wrong. Because wrong though I might be, I get to have a flying car!

New technologies such as metallic hydrogen are on the horizon.

Based on a bit of shine in DA experiment? I really doubt it.

Right, including flying cars for commuting damages credibility for me. For having fun, sure. For mass use, maybe if they were all under coordinated AI control. But otherwise, there's too much chance of horrific accidents. I mean, I don't even like driving undivided highways. And that's barely over 1D. 3D traffic? That's insane.

There’s a lot more space in 3D and computers aren’t going away.

>> capable of flying above congested roads...

>If flying cars became popular, this advantage would be destroyed by the congested skies.

No, it will be destroyed by the noise these cars would make and hence will be forbidden in populated areas == where there are actually congested roads.

A low altitude automated 70mph 'fast hover ferry' that is as fuel efficient as a car would be pretty revolutionary. A lot of cases for bridges and the traffic choke points they represent would disappear in places like nyc, sf, seattle and others. People who live on islands could have fast and affordable ferry services to the mainland or other nearby islands.

You could also create 'coastline subways' with such tech, but only need to maintain the ferry vehicles themsleves and docks vs road or train track infrastructure.

I found this fairly disappointing.

> A.I. Health Care

Actually near to affecting real customers. For some narrow tasks (e.g. melanoma detection) we can start to get the cost down to ~the cost of harvesting the tissue. More and more of these tasks could start to become cheaper and start taking more of the guess work out of Health care.

> Conversational Computing

Other than usable phone trees I haven't seen success here. Lots of work was poured into this last year and very little really lasted.

> Mind Control

The non invasive stuff just isn't that interesting and the invasive stuff is so far away from even the horror stories of early adopters.

> The Flying Car

If there isn't wide adoption then this is just a toy for the rich, maybe it could improve some emergent care situations if it's more usable than helicopters for hospitals. If there is wide adoption it's a public safety nightmare. Living with cars that are stuck to the ground is dangerous enough.

> The Quantum Computer

There are many extremely hard problems between now and quantum computers affecting people's lives beyond breaking RSA. Quantum computers aren't a panacea, they aren't better at every problem, they won't recreate the amazing doubling of power per cost that existed for most of computing history.

Yeah, this is a pretty superficial grabbed from the headlines understanding of technology.

For God's sake how can you leave off gene therapy. For three decades the hopes and dreams of nearly every person affected by an incurable disease have lingered on gene therapy. Now we're finally there. This year the first two treatments have been approved by the FDA with more in stage III trials and it doesn't even get a mention?

Also, once you can watch TV while your car drives you, no one is going to care about the time savings of flying short distances. You'll probably be grateful that in the event of a rare crash you won't have the added 9.8 m/s/s of acceleration to worry about.

Yeah If I was making the list it'd include CRISPR, GMO foods, autonomous vehicles and VR/AR (especially for mobility challenged people, if I were hospital bound I'd be clamoring for it)

With a society that's still fighting to achieve the bottom layer of Maslow's hierarch of needs, the most meaningful types of innovation are: housing and transportation.

Flying cars, or some kind of easy flying transportation would vastly benefit society: we greatly underestimate it. If you can triple the distance a person can travel in the same amount of time, you nearly 9-tuple your employment opportunities. Companies would have nearly 9-tuple the number of candidates.

Unlike land based solutions, sky based solutions can go directly from point to point without needing to follow an arbitrary arc on the ground.

And best of all, you'll have much more cost effective housing options. With housing being as bad as it is on the west coast, I bet people would pay big money to go farther and faster.

Wouldn't flying imply a much higher energy usage then driving ? Because then weight is carried by the roads and only one directional force is needed ?

And flying being faster implies even more energy because moving slowly is generally more efficient ?

Especially on shorter distances I wonder how the energy needs compare for flying vs driving.

Yes, however...

Flying is much more SPACE efficient. With good computer control you could stack hundreds of "roads" worth of capacity vertically.

Can save time (and thus indirectly energy) by flying directly from A-to-B. This is ignoring the time gained by the likely much faster cruising speeds, as well.

Flying doesn't have to be THAT inefficien, either. Plenty of general aviation aircraft, especially slower ones, can achieve MPG that is really not that bad. The Mooney M20, for instance, cruises at 180mph and burns 10 gallons an hour - so 18mpg. Not bad given the speed! A car going that first will be consuming much more fuel.

To add to your last paragraph for folks who find this surprising: If you take a airplane and let the area of the wings go to infinity while taking their wing mass and thickness to zero, the vehicle would expend arbitrarily little energy maintaining altitude; it's basically a giant, extremely slowly falling parachute. Real-world wings do not achieve this of course, but not nearly as much energy needs to be expended compared during cruise as (say) simply hovering by pointing the engine at the ground (if your engine was even powerful enough to do that).

Ground is not flat. Going uphill requires a lot more energy.

Ground has a lot more traffic. Ground traffic is not only constrained to the ground, but to roads, which, comparatively, cover a minuscule amount of area. Flight opens us up to much more than the product of ground area and height.

> And flying being faster implies even more energy because moving slowly is generally more efficient?

Aircraft will be less efficient at lower speeds[0].

A Cessna 182T Skylane[1] will stall at 56mph (49 knots), cruise at 167mph (145 knots).

We don't need to fly faster than we drive to see significant time improvement.

The distance for me between home and Provo is 51 miles, but I have to drive across 75 miles of road to get there. By taking roads, I also have to stop at intersections, and wait for traffic. If I average (with stops) 55mph, I will get there in 1hr 22min. If I flew a Skylane at 60mph (just over stall speed), I would get there in 51min. (At cruise speed, I would get there in 18min.)

Obviously, I would need places to take off and land, etc.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_flight [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_182_Skylane

I just want better bike lanes, better mass transit, and less dependence on planes to get around in the US. Those three things would rock my world.

> less dependence on planes to get around in the US

Why? How?

Presumably high speed train.

My money is on A.I. Health Care. It is not about displacing jobs of existing health professionals, but it will expedite the diagnostic process for many patients. For example, AI doing 70% of the analysis and a human technician gives thumbs up or down on. Fast forward 10 years and all of the analysis data aggregated can act as a continuous training model to improve accuracy. Because human anatomy is not going to change and AI analysis will get better with time. It is definitely an area worth considering for VC to look for investment opportunities.

> What if Alexa was truly conversational, if you could have a back and forth dialogue?

This will make our current social media options look like childplay. Its the end game of it all: Facebook, Google, Amazon as everybody's best friend. Why talk to other people ? The person that understands you the best is always with you. Always making jokes, telling good stories, making all these good suggestions on how to live your life and spend your money...

If products like Google Allo took off with their "response suggestions", we could just stop talking all together and let Google have conversations with itself on our behalf. This seems to be the future these companies are aiming to drive us towards.

These things are so far off in the future that it is impossible to know when they will end up being useful. Back in 2013 I read this article:


I really liked the presentation where they not only talked about the technology but also looked at some data points.

Since then I try to read all articles about world changing technology but most of them are fluff pieces gushing about stuff which might not happen in the short term. It is difficult to get good articles on this topic.

Does anyone know any such grounded articles published this year?

Machine learning is already in use to aid radiologists and the flying car will still be a stupid idea in 20 years (barring low cost antigravity technology...), so the article is pretty uneven.

All of this stuff is cool and there is definitely support in both academia and industry for all of this, but I think predictions about how soon it will arrive are off-base by a lot.

What if political and social disruption increases? What if the measures we’ve used to gauge progress over the last decade are all wrong because they were based on massive amounts of capital inflows from the Federal Reserve?

I cringe typing this because I feel like some paranoid militia-person in the early 90’s, but still I think technological progress could easily be hindered as society looks to make social and political progress for a period of time instead.

If there's anything to take away from this article, it's that machine learning is the future. I feel like this articles says:

1. Machine learning for healthcare

2. Machine learning for language

3. Machine learning and brain-computer interface

4. Machine learning and flying cars

5. Quantum computing

This article is about revolutionary technology that we all expect will show up at some point, but when that will happen is uncertain. I don't think we're all that close to true conversational computing -- I think that would herald the dawn of true AI and we're nowhere near that. How close are we to quantum computing? Hype stories about quantum computing were a regular fixture for the better part of a decade but I haven't read one in a while. Are we significantly closer or did progress flatline?

> Think of it this way: A quantum computer could instantly crack the encryption that protects the world’s most private data.

How can they be so sure that no one uses symmetric encryption algorithms? I get that this article is meant for lay people but that does not make it alright to throw around false superlatives.

The article is complete garbage.


"If you take just one piece of information from this blog: Quantum computers would not solve hard search problems instantaneously by simply trying all the possible solutions at once."

Can anyone explain why the helicopter (which exists IRL) is not considered a flying car?

Helicopters are loud, expensive to operate and maintain, difficult to fly, slower than airplanes, and crash more often.

But, they are much more flexible in terms of where they can land. This “point to point” aspect is what people really mean by “flying car”.

If you had a quiet, inexpensive, safe, self-flying, small helicopter then I guess you’d have a flying car!

You can't choose when to drive it on wheels (slow but low energy consumption) and when to fly it (fast but high energy consumption) is the difference to me.

You can't land a helicopter in the middle of a city. It's too loud, and moves too much air, not to mention the danger of the propellers.

You can't miss these thirteen clickbait titles that about one weird trick and the internet is going crazy over it right now!

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