The Birth of Magic

As in crazy short, in a very short period of time we have two very different companies looking at two very different ways to eliminate traffic. Tesla wantsto tunnel under the ground to avoid traffic, while Uber wants to fly overhead.

Transportation has been a tad static for the last 40 years or so, and that apparently is about to change big time, as some folks even are reconsidering lighter-than-air transport.

This is just the start. There are amazing efforts cropping up all over the U.S., suggesting that we may be building a lot of things that truly are magical. I’ll share my thoughts on this coming industrial revolution and close with my product of the week: a very advanced, almost pocketable drone that is small enough for inside and powerful enough to fly outside.

The Death of Innovation

Both transportation and advancement have a mixed history. At the beginning of the 20th century, we moved from horses to cars. Ford even created one of the most reliable airliners in the world and was well down the path toward creating a flying car.

During the Great Depression, perhaps in response to an increase in regulations, advancements in personal transportation seemed to slow and become far more linear. Yes, cars in the 1960s were better than those in the 1930s — but given that we’d come from horses, the speed of advancement was far slower.

Air travel seemed to peak with the brief creation of supersonic transports, which proved uneconomical and unsafe. The current U.S. president, Donald Trump, is looking into why the next Airforce One is basically a plane that was designed back when Ronald Reagan was president and was considered obsolete in many ways even then.

Largely because of fuel shortages and regulations (sound, environmental, safety) we hit a wall in the 1970s in all forms of transportation. Trains in the U.S. are kind of an international embarrassment, given that we once were the leader in rail technology.

I still remember the $9M that California put into studies to determine that the monorail Walt Disney wanted to build to the airport, which was budgeted to cost just $3M, would be unprofitable. It was that kind of regulatory insanity that likely killed what once was the most innovative industry in the U.S.

It seemed that after we made it to the moon, we just stopped pushing the envelope — but that now seems to be changing, a lot.

 

Innovation Is Coming Back?!

I think what is going on, in part, is that a new breed is transforming the workforce — people who haven’t had it drummed into them that they couldn’t do something different. They’re not just filling entry positions, either. A large number of successful startups have come from trailblazers like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos who, rather than asking “why?” effectively are asking “why not?”

It is fascinating that their ideas are all over the map. We suddenly are making advancements both above and below the ground. We are applying ever more intelligence to everything from toys to cars. The result is the emergence of what some are calling the “new industrial revolution.”

It is very difficult to see just how unprecedented this level of change is while we’re in the middle of it.

Consider this: In the 1990s Amazon started out as a bookseller in a garage in Seattle. Now it scares the crap out of Walmart. Google didn’t even exist until 1998, but it now is arguably the most powerful company in the world. And then there is Facebook.

Still, traditional industries like transportation were left alone until recently — that is, until Tesla popped in, made GM’s electric car efforts look foolish, and spun the auto market on its head.

Now, giant car companies all over the world are working to catch up, and Musk isn’t just running a car company. He has a solar energy company and arocket ship company as well. Seriously, he has a rocket ship company, and he isn’t alone — Jeff Bezos has one too.