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Cool Technology

Entry 690, on 2008-02-07 at 21:24:53 (Rating 3, News)

I recently read an article titled "10 Sci-Fi Techs We Could Build If They Weren't So Damn Expensive". The technologies included a bridge across the Atlantic (at a cost of several trillion dollars), an orbital hotel (just over a billion), a Moon base (just over 100 billion) and a New York to LA maglev train at about 70 billion.

One of the cheapest technologies to achieve was supersonic passenger flight at just $30 million. That was the price needed to repair the existing supersonic Concorde aircraft which, it is claimed, were dumped in an effort to make first class passengers use more profitable services. I'm not sure how much that claim stands up to scrutiny but the fact that British Airways just left the beautiful Concordes to fall apart instead of selling them for $5 million each says a lot about the bad side of capitalism.

I don't care about BA's profits but I do care about having cool technology operational. In these situations the government should be able to just take the Concordes and give them to someone else. Yes, I know, I'm a hopeless romantic - in a very geeky way - and that's no way to run an economy. Actually, I think it is. There's a place for a lot more control of corporations for the overall good of humanity - and I don't just mean maximising the economy!

There are more important things in this world than economics. We should have orbital hotels and a moon base by now. We landed on the Moon in 1969 and then did nothing! What was that all about? Humanity seems more inward looking, conservative, and adverse to risk. What's the point of saving our civilisation from war, economic ruin, and other threats, if there is nothing worth saving?

It may seem that by extending a rant against the scrapping of one aircraft to suggesting the whole of human civilisation is rapidly degenerating is a bit much, but I think I have a point. Cool technology is like art and its disgusting that it should be discarded just to make a few extra bucks for a corporation or to save some government expenditure.

So let's get the Concorde flying again (new materials technology could be utilised to bring it up to date and avoid another accident like the one which occurred shortly before it was decommissioned). The air force should give NASA some SR-71s and pay for their upkeep so that they can keep flying. The world should spend ten times what it is now on space programs. And let's get religion and politics out of science and let stem cell, cloning, genetic engineering, and other controversial research go ahead at full speed. Sure, we might make some mistakes, but I'd rather take the risk than let business people control the world and let it sink into inevitable mediocrity!

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Comment 1 (1120) by AJ on 2008-02-11 at 22:21:59:

OJB you seem to ignore the fact that these "cool technologies" are only possible because of our economic system. Unless you support that system there will be no innovation.

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Comment 2 (1139) by OJB on 2008-02-12 at 10:27:06:

I'm not suggesting we abandon our existing economic system completely, just that we should monitor it and step in when it doesn't work. I know that causes all sorts of problems, especially given the current fashion of laissez faire politics, but I still think it is what's required.

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