Where’s my Flying Car - A memoir of futures past

  • Things that have not gotten cheaper
  • List of ways FAA stifles innovation
    1. Can’t airplane carpool
    2. Supersonic flight is banned over US
    3. FAA specifies the type of engine for a light sport aircraft
    4. No passenger multicopter drones
    5. Locked-in air control systems
  • Why better technology does not necessarily win

  • Alexis de Tocqueville is the best
  • Unintented consequences of mutually assured destruction - making technology less relevant for government violence
  • Good limitus test
  • Silent spring was basically a motte-baley attack. DDT wasn’t actually bad

    More for Expended list of WTF happened in 1971 and afterwards
  • But the most dangerous is if you think your belief is based on reason but is actually based on faith…

  • Like the people who see the limits of science, doomsayers tend to get it wrong too

  • Ergophobia leads to Efficiency type heuretics
  • Cites How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict
  • The basis of morality matters
  • The enlightenment may have sown the seeds for its own destruction.
  • Carl Sagan ftw. We need to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true. When there is a paper for everything, it allows people to pick.
  • More prediction fails. Seriously just stop predicting things. Talk about what’s possible and how we do or do not get there.
  • On the flip side, sometimes there are good predictions. This from H.G. Wells
  • Technological possibility is intimately tied to manufacturing
  • Hans Rosling:

  • More Atlas Shrugged type thinking
  • More Regulation sadness
  • Argument for frontier
  • Plane stagnation
  • Man these stats are brutal but it is an interesting point

  • I wonder if technical books sold better in the past?
  • Misplaced blame for lack of progress
  • Academia and intellectual discourse
  • Re: Challenger
  • Argument that social shifts are to blame for stagnation. This of course could be a finger-pointing situation.
  • Alternative vision to the urbanist movement
  • Space-focused vision for nanotech
  • Good numbers
  • Toys become tools when power density gets high enough
  • Cities could be single buildings


  • 🤔
  • We impotently make noises about city design
  • Good limiting constraints on transportation
  • Complexity barrier
  • Interesting mental model around technological progression

  • New phenomena can be exploited without understanding or understood without exploiting/Self-replicating phenomena phenomena

  • Yes, there are a finite number of elements but there are many more isotopes
  • Knowledge has prerequisites. By analogy the answer to If we ever encountered alien technology, could we even reverse engineer it? is probably no.
  • Fucking Isaac Newton thought of science in terms of phenomena. More for Good quotes
  • Questions about Cold Fusion
  • That’s the spirit!

  • Screw rings - for my wedding I want a DIAMOND SPACE PIER
  • Numbers!
  • Materials!
  • Talk about a job for innovative financial structures pulling money from the future…
  • Goalzzzz
  • Bottom up tends to get things done faster
  • The real answer to climate change

  • Solving climate change with space lasers

    But the reality is that
  • We don’t talk about the Kardashev scale enough
  • Self aware or what

  • Strong Expended list of WTF happened in 1971 and afterwards energy
  • Strong thesis that science leading technology is actually a symptom of stagnation. It would square with the thesis that the biggest thing holding us back is regulation.

  • We don’t talk about the interplay between society and technology enough. It feels like the default paradigm that technology affects society directly but society affects the sort of technology that exists mediated by government.
  • Frontiers lead to real feedback loops

  • This is a real choice
  • This is why growth is important for moral reasons
  • We need to believe in humans!
  • This is just freaking brutal

  • Optimism is cyclic
  • One of the many reasons to believe that Present day resembles the beginning of the reformation more than the fall of the roman empire


  • Basically outlines “the Feynman path” of building machines that can progressively build smaller versions of themselves in order to learn about archetecture Note that this is how the Apollo Program worked.
  • Starting point - millimeter sized system with 10 micron parts?
    • Mems machine shop
    • ::Who could build this?::
  • Open questions
    • “Ontological phase boundary” - no continuous shapes
    • No gravity
    • Lubrication doesn’t work
    • Heat dissipation increases
    • Nothing is stiff
    • Hydrogen atoms can tunnel
  • What forming techniques work?
    • Surface finishing by tubing?
  • How do you see what you’re doing?
    • Better physical surface scanners
  • Parts of the roadmap
    • Design a scalable, remotely-operated manufacturing and manipulation workstation capable of replicating itself at quarter-scale
      • You’re allowed to use vitamins
    • Implement at desktop scale
      • Allowed to use operator control
    • Verify scalability via simulation
      • Electromagnetic to electrostatic motors
    • Identify the smallest scale you could build the architecture using existing technology
    • Create roadmap to create the technology that you can’t do during the previous step
  • Will probably need additive


  • What happened to the Nanotech work from Ames?


  • What the great stagnation looks like is a system with increasingly more friction - either we punch through or crash
    • Great filter is not a big catastrophic event, but just a collapsing?
  • Argues that airline deregulation led to more safety (they are correlated) but couldn’t it be that the stringent regulation mentioned above was a layer that enhanced that safety?
  • Market determinists is definitely a thing
  • Regulation insidiously holds things back because it fixes the paradigm of a constraint
  • Enlightenment thought and liberalism is actually shockingly fragile
  • Sadly I started reading it to get some really actionable ideas, which it didn’t quite serve up
  • Things that feel contrarily outdated
    • Traditional morals
    • Frontiers are good
    • Humans should strive to be robust fighting badass excellent beings
    • Consumption is not bad

Author: J Storrs Hall

Arguably cars wouldn’t exist under the current regulatory regime

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