Read it and weep

Many denizens of Ratburger will be familiar with ZeroHedge — a financially-oriented website that buries occasional gems of information in a wide sea of anti-Western propaganda with possible Russian & Chinese connections.  But it is worth taking the time to look at this ZeroHedge post:

https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/china-shows-worlds-first-passenger-drone-zipping-around-hotel

Back in JFK’s day, when Democrats were Americans, there was a “Brain Drain” from Europe to the US because the US was where things could get done.  These days, if one wants to travel on a commercial Magnetic Levitation train, one has to go to Shanghai.  In the same time in which California has spent $Billions not building a high speed train, China has built a smooth working system spanning 15,000 miles.  While Prime Minister Boris Johnson muses about some day building a 23-mile bridge from Scotland to Ireland, China has already built a 35-mile bridge/tunnel between Hong Kong & Macao.

Now Chinese entrepreneurs are introducing passenger-carrying drones.  Why China instead of the US or Europe?  Well, for one thing, China actually manufactures things.  And for another, China has not sold its soul to lawyers and bureaucrats.  To quote from the ZeroHedge article:

At the moment, the most significant barrier to flying cars is regulation, especially in the US …

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12 thoughts on “Read it and weep”

  1. It is nothing screwing off all but the initial 808 nm pump laser diode (>200 mW) of a green laser pointer can’t invisibly  cure.  Mount a grid of nine with a battery pack to make a laser cannon (needs a big heat sink).  Wear your eye filters, because it is better to give than to receive.

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  2. It’s amazing what can be accomplished by a police state. Thomas Friedman used to heap praise on China this way about ten or fifteen years ago, implying that the US should emulate them. We’ve managed to import some of China’s anarcho-tyranny but we still don’t have high-speed rail, though we do get all their weird zoonotic diseases. You can’t have everything.

    Unfortunately, the Thomas Friedman Op-Ed Generator has gone offline. The good news is that Zero Hedge has taken up the slack. As for Friedman himself, he’s probably still writing for the NYT but nobody talks about him anymore. Even the parody Op-Ed Generator became passé.

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  3. Gavin Longmuir:
    ZeroHedge — a financially-oriented website that buries occasional gems of information in a wide sea of anti-Western propaganda with possible Russian & Chinese connections.

    Apropos your remark, thought I would re-post this:

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  4. Gavin Longmuir:
    And for another, China has not sold its soul to lawyers and bureaucrats.

    China’s soul is already spoken for.  You cannot sell it to pencil-pushers when it’s already a owed to the god of slaughtering millions for political goals.

    Although there’s nothing to stop them from trying — nobody stops China from trying anything.  Maybe the US Navy can drive past some Chinese islands in protest.  That’ll show them.  Having lost an absolutely meaningless international “court” case, China has mastered the Jacksonian challenge, “Let him enforce it.”  (Actual quote somewhat different).  This is because there being no such thing as international law, there can be no such thing as an international court.

    China sees itself as the new Solzhenitsyn, poking the papier-mache of the international order to watch the whole mighty edifice crumble, a fiction.

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  5. Peter Thiel has been talking about this for years.  Basically since about 1970, the U.S. and the rest of the West has been regulating and litigating everything that involves atoms into almost complete paralysis.  This has resulted an innovators who would otherwise have created new forms of transportation, energy production and distribution, or manufacturing to, instead, concentrate their efforts in the domain of bits (computing and communications) which have been largely unregulated.  This is why there has been so little progress outside those domains (most airliners today fly slower than the Boeing 707 in 1958).

    When you’ve set up the incentives such that professional schools are graduating ten times as many lawyers as engineers, you end up with sclerosis.  Turn the dial the other way, and you get flying cars, fast trains, and doomsday plague virology laboratories with sloppy isolation protocols.

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  6. What happens over time is the big thing worries more about making mistakes instead of innovating. It is “safer” until the big thing becomes a small thing. Think Kodak who invented the digital camera.

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  7. John Walker:
    This is why there has been so little progress outside those domains (most airliners today fly slower than the Boeing 707 in 1958).

    Not arguing your larger point, but I believe that you have posted a video addressing this before — this is not a good example to demonstrate a lamentable lack of progress.

    We have absolutely proven the technical means, in “mass” production, to fly quite quickly if we want to, with want being measured in dollars.  Turns out that we don’t want to.  The reason that airliners now cruise more slowly than they used to is that speed aloft is not the problem to solve.  For every knot you can trim from the cruising speed, there is a corresponding reduction in expensive technical demands — higher speed requires better materials, better machined, to tighter specs, with increasingly bad consequences of failure.  Immature technologies push only technical boundaries — mature ones graduate to finding cost-effective compromises.

    One of the largely unknown facts about modern air travel is that point-to-point flights are now nearly unheard of for any flight that is commercially viable.  Only those flights which are so short that they are undertaken only to shape other behavior are executed without reference to a system of crooked paths and built-in delays.  This seeming backward routing is all about keeping the system running under arbitrary loads.

    Packet switching is unacceptably slow compared to direct computer-to-computer dedicated connections, but those are not commercially feasible at scale.  And so packet-switching — with its store-and-forward, route-around-damage, route cost advertisements and various packet-sniffing activities (all of which happen with the packet not in motion) — has been implemented in the skies.

    Think of an airliner routing as a slalom slope with a skier leaving on average every five seconds, with real-time analysts and shot-callers directing skiers to skip a gate (go direct to following gate) or to take an extra gate to manage their spacing and arrival times.  Also, you may simply be told to slow down at times.

    Having the fastest skis and world-class skills (analogies for technology and maintenance costs) are of little benefit when the goal is to arrive safely at scheduled times and places, not win downhill speed contests.  Modern airliners are optimized to succeed in a *buffered* distributed network of nodes in the sky.  It’s not speed that makes the system work quickly — it’s avoiding traffic snarls.  As in shooting — “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”.  The world’s fastest airliner stuck in a holding pattern is a waste of money.

    I’m pretty sure John has posted on this before, but here is a sampling of videos on the topic from channels I like:

    Took me a while to find this:

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  8. Haakon Dahl:
    Not arguing your larger point, but I believe that you have posted a video addressing this before — this is not a good example to demonstrate a lamentable lack of progress.

    We have absolutely proven the technical means, in “mass” production, to fly quite quickly if we want to, with want being measured in dollars.  Turns out that we don’t want to.  The reason that airliners now cruise more slowly than they used to is that speed aloft is not the problem to solve.  For every knot you can trim from the cruising speed, there is a corresponding reduction in expensive technical demands — higher speed requires better materials, better machined, to tighter specs, with increasingly bad consequences of failure.  Immature technologies push only technical boundaries — mature ones graduate to finding cost-effective compromises.

    As disappointed as I am with how slow commercial airplanes are today, this is correct. One other factor in cost-effectiveness is fuel efficiency. For every extra knot of airspeed, there is an increase in fuel consumption, which has been the dominant cost in operating commercial flights. With the recent collapse in the oil price, this may not be true anymore but that’s the situation that prevailed for many decades and will probably return.

    The yield (airline-speak for earnings) per passenger mile, after correction for inflation, has been dropping for almost a century. Given consumer price sensitivity, airlines can hardly afford to increase their costs. Yield in 1978 cents per passenger mile:

    It’s a surprisingly good fit to exponential decline.

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  9. When you’ve set up the incentives such that professional schools are graduating ten times as many lawyers as engineers, you end up with sclerosis.

    Sclerosis — and a Cargo Cult which depends on China for most of its medications.

    I was so hopeful that one of the positive outcomes of the Covid over-reaction would be the realization that the US (and more generally the West) needs to roll back excessive regulation so that critical industries can be re-shored.  Instead, the Political Class is more interested in shutting down Police Departments than in shutting down regulatory offices.  Insane!

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  10. 10 Cents:
    What happens over time is the big thing worries more about making mistakes instead of innovating. It is “safer” until the big thing becomes a small thing. Think Kodak who invented the digital camera.

    Have you read “The Innovator’s Dilemma”? It talks about the reasons behind this, and why small upstart organizations can outpace large well-funded ones.

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  11. Damocles:

    10 Cents:
    What happens over time is the big thing worries more about making mistakes instead of innovating. It is “safer” until the big thing becomes a small thing. Think Kodak who invented the digital camera.

    Have you read “The Innovator’s Dilemma”? It talks about the reasons behind this, and why small upstart organizations can outpace large well-funded ones.

    I have not read this book. Do you know when the graphic novel edition will be put out?

    Is it true that big companies live to have meetings about how they don’t have time to get things done?

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  12. Gavin Longmuir:
    roll back excessive regulation so that critical industries can be re-shored.  Instead, the Political Class is more interested in shutting down Police Departments than in shutting down regulatory offices.  Insane!

    The US is a whack a mole society.  The media pops up the moles.  The big politicians propose a government solution (more regulations or more money) to hit the mole.  When they miss nobody is paying attention because there is a new mole to worry about.  When the old mole pops up again the process is repeated.

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