Where Is My Flying Car? A Memoir of Future Past by J Storrs Hall
If you recognize the following quote, you are this book's target audience:
Mitch: Are you okay?
Jordan: No, not emotionally, no I'm not. I'm disappointed, not terribly, but still. It should have gone much further much faster.
The quote1 also sums up the main thrust of the book: that something derailed the future we were supposed to have.
While Hall over-reaches in several arguments, the criticism nonetheless appears valid. As to culprits, it seems one part governmental failure and one part a narrative of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The `Future Shock' fear campaigns of the 1960-70s coupled with increased `Boomers' litigiousness meant that a few were able to block developments that would benefit the many.
Why wasn't Eminent Domain used more often along these lines? Hall does not evidence knowledge; though, he probably would say it's because a) the median voter has forgotten most of the science they learned, b) this creates superstitious herds of voters who can be stampeded, and c) politicians abuse this.
This book wants to be a modern `Silent Spring', and while it has started a grass-roots consciousness of the issues, the big question is:
Will the tech-savvy learn from and out-maneuver those who derailed our future?
We could have predicted over the last few years what the American governments policies on oil and natural gas would be if we had assumed that the aim of the American government was to increase the power and income of the OPEC countries and to reduce the standard of living in the United States
Centralized funding of an intellectual elite makes it easier for cadres, cliques, and the politically skilled to gain control of a field, and they by their nature are resistant to new, outside, non-Ptolemaic ideas. The ivory tower has a moat full of crocodiles
In the spring of 1856, Nongqawuse, a fifteen-year-old girl, a sort of Xhosan Joan of Arc, heard the voices of her ancestors telling her that the Xhosa must kill all their cattle and destroy their hoes, pots, and stores of grain. Once that had been done, the very ground would burst forth with plenty, the dead would be resurrected, and the interloping Boers would be driven from their lands. Surprisingly enough, the beliefs found fertile ground among the Xhosa and spread like wildfire, within months receiving the imprimatur of the king. The cattle were slaughtered. By the end of 1857 over 400,000 cattle had been killed. The Xhosa had refrained from planting for the 1856-57 growing season; there was no harvest. It is estimated that 40,000 Xhosans starved to death; that many again fled the country in search of food. By the end of 1858, three quarters of the Xhosa were gone
Carl Sagan saw the same in his final book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my childrens or grandchildrens time when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and whats true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
Miles are statute miles along the roads; as-the-crow-flies air miles are typically about two thirds the distance. The road system is apparently close enough to fractal that this seems to hold true at all scales
In 1910, the price of a Packard was about $2500. By introducing mass production, Ford had brought that down to $800 or so with the Model T. By the mid-20s, you could get a car for $250
"The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by-products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity." Isaac Asimov (1964)
At first sight, this manifestly suicidal neglect looks so perverse that a sheer inability to perform the work, owing to a loss of technique, might appear to be the only plausible explanation. Yet no historical evidence of this hypothetical loss of engineering technique appears to be forthcoming; and the true explanation seems to be that the abandonment of the works was not the cause but was rather the consequence of a decline in population and in prosperity which was itself the result of social causes. Toynbee, A Study of History
People today know a lot less, and know a lot more that aint so, about technology in general and nuclear power in particular than they did in 1962. That was of course the premise of Wells Time Machine with its degenerated Eloi. It was echoed in the Golden Age by C. M. Kornbluths 1951 The Marching Morons (whose premise was lifted directly into the movie Idiocracy), Piper and McGuires 1953 Null-ABC (about a future in which everyone is illiterate), and most famously Ray Bradburys 1953 Fahrenheit 451. However, most of the mainstream science fiction of the Fifties and Sixtiesincluding The Jetsons assumed that in the future, people would be better, not worse, educated about science and technology. Elroy takes electronics along with fingerpainting in grammar school. Judy, in high school, takes geopolitics, Esperanto, and space calculus. And yet the opposite has happened; were in a situation more like Edgar Pangborns Davy, set in a post-apocalyptic fut! ure where the Holy Murcan Church bans anything that may contain atoms.
One of the items was a lucite box with stickers dating back to WWII days. The label indicated that it contained first sample of Pu weighing 2.7 micrograms. It was Seaborgs speck:  an object of enormous significance, both scientific and historical. And yet it had lain forgotten for years, and had very nearly been thrown out with the trash. Its as if someone had found the Declaration of Independence in a National Archives garbage can. The really crazy footnote is that now that it has been remembered and rescued, Berkeley is on the hook for bales of paperwork for licensing and documentation from the NRC. Its illegal to possess even 2.7 micrograms of plutonium in the US otherwise. And yet notwithstanding its importance and all the documentation it should have had all along, it had been completely forgotten.
One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.
People are generally terrible at unraveling complex chains of causality through the economy, and will typically blame whomever is most closely associated in the public mind with any problem. They blame aeronautical engineers, not regulators, for the lack of flying cars. They blame oil companies, not price controls and drilling bans, for an energy crisis. And at least to some extent they blamed technology, not the fact that it was being suppressed, for the economic malaise of the Seventies. That in turn called for more regulation, which suppressed more technology, in a runaway feedback loop
Imagine that the best and brightest of my classmates had spent their time studying instead of protesting, and gone on to become engineers instead of activists, regulators, and lawyers. Imagine that education, health care, and public works had not been overcome by the cost disease
They are to a large extent the followers of Jane Jacobs, the guru, one might even say patron saint, of densification and walkable neighborhoods that foster thriving communities. In her last book, Dark Age Ahead, for example, she tells the horrific story of the 1995 Chicago heatwave, which killed something like 1000 people, mostly elderly, of heatstroke and dehydration. It turns out that the deaths were clustered in dysfunctional neighborhoods, such that the people were found in tightly locked apartments, without friends to help them and too afraid to go out even to seek refuge in an air-conditioned store.
Uranium is found dissolved in seawater in very tiny amounts, about 3 parts per billion. However, this level represents a homeostatic chemical equilibrium, rather than simply a running sum of the thousands of tons per year of uranium that the rivers have added to the oceans over the Earths history. The oceans contain 4 billion tons of dissolved uranium at any given time, but ocean floor rocks contain 100 trillion tons, deposited from the water over geological time.