Futurism

What makes a cryptocoin (or any currency) valuable?

Why is a Bitcoin valuable? While almost all concede that shared faith -- or what I would term "Brand" -- is a major component of all currencies, there has been much debate over whether there are more intrinsic values that can keep the currency or token valuable, or get multiplied by brand to even higher value.

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Launching the Alef, a try fly-and-drive flying car

Today I attended the launch of the Alef, a new e-VTOL vehicle that drives as well as flies. Most so-called flying cars don't actually drive, and there are reasons for this, but Alef thinks the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

I've been friends with Alef since 2018, though I have no stock, so here's my report on the issues in their design and launch.

Read Launching the Alef, a try fly-and-drive flying car

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Intentional communities in European towns in decline

You may have seen news coverage of various towns (mostly in Italy) that are selling houses for one Euro. There are even web sites to search for them.

This happens because many small towns face migration of their population to big cities. As population drops, houses get abandoned. These can become a blight on the city, possibly worsening its decline. To stop this, the cities seize the houses and give them away -- with some big catches.

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Breaking Banks/Futurist Podcast on Keens and Stewards, Exploiting brain bugs and more

I recently did an episode of the Breaking Banks/Futurist Podcast. We go over many topics, and I hope you will like it all, but in particular I delve into two topics I have yet to complete my writings on. The first is my model of the great tribal war between the Keens (future-loving, more secular, liberal) and the Stewards (Past defending, less secular) which the Keens will win but are being dicks about.

Forget smart cities, you need to make your infrastructure stupid to survive the future

The instinct of many transportation planners is to make "smart infrastructure," and to try to make plans for it going out 30 years. That's impossible, nobody knows what smart will mean in 5 years. The internet solve this problem, and grew by making the infrastructure as stupid as possible, and it revolutionized the world. The internet teaches lessons for how all infrastructure planning must go in the future -- keep the physical as simple as possible, do everything in the virtual, software layer.

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NFTs are not just hype, they may be the essence of art sale

Everydays: The First 5000 days sold for $69M as an NFT

Huge buzz has arisen over NFTs -- non-fungible-tokens -- due to the purchase of a token representing a piece of digital art by "Beeple" for over $69 million. Is it a craze, or does it make sense?

Nobody wins the GoFly Prize, but personal flight is coming

This weekend I went to the finals of the GoFly prize, a Boeing sponsored contest for personal VTOL flying machines. Sadly, nobody was able to build one that could meet all the requirements in the rules, and only a few of the contestants could even fly. That was disappointing, but then so was the first Darpa Grand Challenge.

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Google can spin the "Duplex" calling agent in a much more positive way

Most of the world was wowed by the Google Duplex demo, where their system was able to cold-call a hairdresser and make an appointment with her, with the hairdresser unaware she was talking to an AI. The system included human speech mannerisms and the ability to respond to the random phrases the hairdresser through back.

Robocars, Flying Cars and Hyperloops, oh my! The not so fictional future of the city

The primary purpose of the city is transportation. Sure, we share infrastructure like sewers and power lines, but the real reason we live in dense cities is so we can have a short travel time to the things in our lives, be they jobs, friends, shopping or anything else.

Sometimes that trip is a walking one, and indeed only the dense city allows walking trips to be short and also interesting. The rest of the trips involve some technology, from the bicycle to the car to the train. All that is about to change.

Flying cars are coming, what will they mean?

Earlier I posted my gallery of CES gadgets, and included a photo of the eHang 184 from China, a "personal drone" able, in theory, to carry a person up to 100kg.

Whether the eHang is real or not, some version of the personal automated flying vehicle is coming, and it's not that far away. When I talk about robocars, I am often asked "what about flying cars?" and there will indeed be competition between them. There are a variety of factors that will affect that competition, and many other social effects not yet much discussed.

The VTOL Multirotor

There are two visions of the flying car. The most common is VTOL -- vertical takeoff and landing -- something that may have no wheels at all because it's more a helicopter than a car or airplane. The recent revolution in automation and stability for multirotor helicopters -- better known as drones -- is making people wonder when we'll get one able to carry a person. Multirotors almost exclusively use electric motors because you must adjust speed very quickly to get stability and control. You also want the redundancy of multiple motors and power systems, so you can lose a rotor or a battery and still fly.

This creates a problem because electric batteries are heavy. It takes a lot of power to fly this way. Carrying more batteries means more weight -- and thus more power needed to carry the batteries. There are diminishing returns, and you can't get much speed, power or range before the batteries are dead. OK in a 3 kilo drone, not OK in a 150 kilo one.

Lots of people are experimenting with combining multirotor for takeoff and landing, and traditional "fixed wing" (standard airplane) designs to travel any distance. This is a great deal more efficient, but even so, still a challenge to do with batteries for long distance flight. Other ideas including using liquid fuels some way. Those include just using a regular liquid fuel motor to run a generator (not very efficient) or combining direct drive of a master propeller with fine-control electric drive of smaller propellers for the dynamic control needed.

Another interesting option is the autogyro, which looks like a helicopter but needs a small runway for takeoff.

The traditional aircraft

Some "flying car" efforts have made airplanes whose wings fold up so they can drive on the road. These have never "taken off" -- they usually end up a compromise that is not a very good car or a very good plane. They need airports but you can keep driving from the airport. They are not, for now, autonomous.

Some want to fly most of their miles, and drive just short distances. Some other designs are mostly for driving, but have an ability to "short hop" via parasailing or autogyro flying when desired.

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