Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Ready for a 7,000 km/h train?

Who wouldn't like to travel from LA to New York in 45 minutes? I've never had to travel from LA to New York, or the other way round either, but I'd want to do it just for the rush. The article below introduces ETT (Evacuated Tube Trains) that run at thousands of miles per hour in underground tubes that contain a vacuum.

The idea is that it's high time for a paradigm shift in transportation and that shift will be ETT:

..Such as a global network of maglev trains that travel faster than planes in air-less vacuum tubes. We’re talking about a mode of transportation that will take you from LA to New York in 45 minutes, cruising at six times the speed of sound.

I've spent the last couple of days getting from Norway to the Philippines. The total flight time amounted to 23 hours, on top of which came countless hours of waiting, standing in line, taking taxis and shuttles etc. There’s got to be a better way.

Over the last 50 years, a vast array of tech-intensive industries has seen tremendous progress in efficiency, both in terms of cost and time (two factors that often have a directly positive correlation). Mobile phones have become smaller, cheaper and more powerful. Internet is faster, cheaper and more prevalent than ever. There's a pattern here. Catch my drift?

In his book, the Singularity is near, Ray Kurzweil discusses the concept of paradigms and how once a technology’s potential is exhausted and cannot be further improved, a new technology takes its place, marking a paradigm shift. Computers used to run on simple transistors, which were in the beginning very big and slow, but as the technology evolved, they became cheaper, smaller and more efficient, until finally all the potential for improvement had been squeezed out of that particular technology and any further development to it was marginal. So a new technology, microprocessors, took its place with transistors on an integrated circuit. This technology too follows a similar pattern and each two years microchips become twice as powerful.

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Anonymous said...

We can't build two strips of metal held down by ties and you're proposing an evacuated tube? The Chinese will build it for us, some day, and we will be too broke to buy it, our will and bank accounts destroyed by Republican raiders and their fossil-fuel fossil partners.

Unknown said...

And then there's reality in which the words "infrastructure building" are the single most anti capitalist notion ever uttered. This will not happen until our antiquated methods of money handling have been retired. No matter what new discovery we make, not matter what advanced mechanical system we can realize, without some form of post-capitalist system of impetus, we are now living at the ceiling, the height of what our civilization is capable of doing.