[FoRK] Flying cars, brain-chi, and aug-R; law of accelerating returns and innovation vs. adoption friction

Jeff Bone < jbone at place.org > on > Wed Dec 6 15:04:45 PST 2006

Actually, let me be a bit more detailed in my answer, as it ties  
together both Luis's comment and some of what Eugen is expressing...

Here's why I think we'll have brain-computer interfaces of some  
reasonable utility before we'll have *widespread* "flying cars" ---  
i.e., Average Joe (i.e., George Jetson, upper-middle-class front-line  
management at best) with a flying car.

Law of accelerating returns only really applies in the short-term  
scale of the curve to technological innovation --- particularly where  
there are network effects --- and only when such innovation isn't in  
a blocked feedback loop due to technology adoption friction.   
(Technology adoption being one of my spesh-ee-al-i-ties. ;-)  The  
flying car (or personal aircraft, if you'd prefer to be more broad)  
has significant adoption hurdles --- government / regulatory,  
security, etc.  Moller requires a pilot's license;  there's limited  
licensing capacity today and it's expensive.  Increased demand and  
market pressure will force capacity and cost scaling, there, but then  
you hit another hurdle:  once enough folks have these and accidents  
become more common or there are security concerns, the regulatory  
machine's going to kick in.  And infrastructure --- convenient  
landing pads, parking arrangements, etc., much less appropriate  
traffic control etc., security, etc. --- doesn't yet exist.  It's  
going to take a while because, well, people are slow, and even slower  
in larger orgs like gov't --- and this sort of thing where there's  
mutual interference rather than mutual value creation as with  
networked computers, faxes, telephones, etc. is going to be slower  
than usual.  AFIAK Moller's been fighting with these interlocking  
issues for some time.  I don't see a short-term solution to this that  
will get the flying car into the mainstream.  (Indeed, large-scale  
deployment's probably predicated on pervasive, fully-automated flight  
control, and THAT is itself predicated on a number of other things.)

Another example of this sort of problem has been the slow rollout of  
HDTV.  In effect, approximately, the entire personal computer  
industry not to mention Internet has been created from scratch and  
reached the point it's at today in the interim between initial  
"invention" of HDTV and wide-scale deployment in the US.

The everyman's flying car will happen, but we're somewhere in the  
long, flat part of that curve at this time.

I also disagree with Eugen that the first gen of this stuff requires  
invasive techniques or nano / MEMS / whatever.   (Of course, I'm  
assuming input devices.)  I'm not sure about thought transcription,  
so it may take a bit longer to replace the keyboard;  but we'll have  
the equivalent of rich game controllers in not-too-long.  (In fact,  
I'll hazard another speculation:  the "smartest" software we have in  
10 years or so is the "driver" stuff that sits between the brain-chi  
interface hardware and the applications.  It'll need a high degree of  
intelligence to navigate complex contextual situations.  It's an  
almost-requirement before wearable / augmented-reality stuff is  
really viable.)

Unlike flying cars or HDTV adoption, brain-chi (input only) has only  
scientific and technology blockers.  There's unlikely to be a  
significant set of deployment blockers although, admittedly, it's not  
clear that the first-gen of this stuff is going to have "network  
effects" to drive accelerated adoption.  (OTOH,  it might...  A  
decent Halo brain-chi solution that gives advantages might drive  
adoption outward, and quickly ---  Halo being a variable for massive  
multiplayer online game or other social virtual environment.)

In summary, I anticipate that we'll have the advanced game controller  
type brain-chi at least a decade before George Jetson has a flying  
car in his garage, and probably even thought transcription before  
that.  In the interim we're going to have some fairly intelligent  
software interpreting that stream of input data from the brain to  
drive some fairly cool, highly-contextual aug-R applications.  The  
back channel --- bypassing the optic nerve --- of course is invasive,  
possibly (not not certainly) requires nano, and does have regulatory  
hurdles, so it's a toss-up in my mind whether we'll see that before  
George has his flying car.

Anybody care to wager?


On Dec 6, 2006, at 3:23 PM, Jeff Bone wrote:

> On Dec 6, 2006, at 12:31 PM, Luis Villa wrote:
>> On 12/6/06, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
>>> On Tue, Dec 05, 2006 at 09:46:06PM -0600, Jeff Bone wrote:
>>> > While I would very much like the flying car, my money is on the  
>>> brain-
>>> > computer interface.
>>> Personal helicopters exist, whereas BCIs exist only as
>>> crude prototypes for severely disabled.
>>> A real BCI will be invasive, and require medical nanotechnology.
>>> As such personal flying vehicles, in today's 100 k$ range are
>>> distinctly earlier.
>> More relevantly to the point I was trying to make with the picture,
>> despite people having talked about flying cars as being right around
>> the corner for decades*, it isn't happening any time soon.
> Means absolutely nothing.
> Law of accelerating returns.
> All perceptions of expected rates of change based on past  
> experience are likely to be increasingly unreliable over the next  
> few years.
> jb

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