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Made You Think

Feb 21, 2023

“In today’s world, even a non-Stagnated version, the flying car is not a replacement for the car; it is a replacement for the airplane. A reasonably well-designed convertible could fit right in to today’s airspace system; it would fit right into our road system as well. Without the Stagnation there might well be a 50,000 airplane per year market, and enough licensed pilots to buy them. Remember, average family income would be well into six figures. In 1950, about one quarter of one percent of Americans were licensed pilots; that percentage today amounts to over three quarters of a million, which is market aplenty, for a start.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we discuss Where Is My Flying Car? by J. Storrs Hall who calls out the stagnation of productivity since the 1970s and gives us a glimpse of what our future could be if we strive for it.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Why growth has slowed since the 1970s
  • What's possible with nuclear energy and nanotech?
  • The zero sum way of thinking
  • How our tolerance for risk has changed over time
  • The progression of aviation from the early 1900s to now

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow NatNeil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

Links from the Episode:

Mentioned in the Show: 

Books Mentioned:

People Mentioned:

Show Topics:

(0:36) Podcast analytics: What are the listening behaviors and demographics of our listeners?

(4:35) The explanation behind the spy balloons and other UFOs. 

(9:52) Nat, Neil, and Adil talk about some book recommendations they’ve received and books they’d recommend to others.

(11:56) One takeaway from the book is that we don’t tend to work on things that feel impossible. Much of what we've accomplished is what feels safe and what we know we’ll see success in.

(17:42) The book we're discussing today is Where Is My Flying Car? The book talks about the stagnation of the physical world because we didn’t invest as much as we could have in nuclear energy, nanotech, and aviation. 

(22:14) Some of the different technologies that have been idealized feel fictional and out of reach. However, we're much further than we know in understanding the technical part of it and these ideas may not be all that unattainable. 

(26:44) Early on, the book emphasizes the flying car, then goes to explain that you can’t get the flying car without better energy policies and nanotech. 

(30:05) The cost efficiency of nuclear fuel. 

(32:03) The Henry Adams curve. How do we make the shift from creating more energy to using the energy more efficiently? The amount of energy your civilization harnesses is indicative of your wealth and quality of living.

(35:39) The ‘zero sum’ way of thinking and how it impacts moral behavior. If you don’t have economic growth, you can’t sustain democracy in the long run.

(38:09) What would good regulation look like? How the atomic bomb changed the progress and power of countries.

(44:45) Climate change and the argument of CO2 as an enemy. If CO2 did increase, it would be beneficial to plants but harmful to humans. 

(46:55) Aviation from the 30’s and 40’s and the stagnation over the past few decades in air travel. While we made progress after the first aircraft was made and through WW1 and WW2, the progress since is seemingly slow. 

(52:23) The distinction between leading edge vs. depth and the importance of computing progress in space travel. 

(58:29) Before the era of computing, many things were controlled by pumps and levers. Our risk tolerance is much different than it once was. 

(1:04:40) We have different ideas of what risk is now. We still have the instinct to make progress in society, but it has been redirected towards other things.

(1:11:16) The 5 levels of transportation and how your wealth determines your level. There are millions of people who can't afford shoes, yet people in higher socioeconomic classes can afford cars. Both are vehicles for transportation.

(1:16:42) What will good tech look like in 50 years? We’ve progressed in telecommunication with audio, video, tv, podcasts, instant messaging, etc. A lot of science fiction is pessimistic about humanity. 

(1:22:48) Nanotech and the capabilities you can achieve with it. 

(1:30:58) Have you ever read a book and wished it was longer or shorter?

(1:42:02) That concludes this episode! Next up, we're reading Peloponnesian War and will get to The Three-Body Problem trilogy down the road. Make sure to pick up a copy if you want to follow along with us!

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS, @adilmajid, @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!