The future everyone once saw as inevitable, including Henry Ford, never arrived. The same visionaries who imagined the flying car being commonplace in the future, likely never predicted everyone would be posting their dinners on Instagram.
The world received Instagram instead of the flying car because of cost. Iterations of code are cheaper than parts. That doesn’t even touch the concept of human capital. Instagram had 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for $1 Billion. In addition to the flying car engineers, we need engineers working on flying traffic control systems, vehicle parking systems, building collision protection, and many tangentially-related problems. This would require a coordinated effort among people orders of magnitude, likely 10,000-1,000,000+ engineers! Can you imagine the coordination headaches?!
Along these lines, my dad once asked me, “Why doesn’t society bring together a significant portion of the world’s engineers to make super fuel efficient vehicles?” He was meaning 100+ MPG vehicles. I’ve thought about that in different respects for years, and all I come up with is questions. Who can organize that? Can a government? Do they have the backing of politicians? Can a capitalist, with money in his pocket, or loaned by banks, bankroll that kind of investment? Even with financiers aside, who decides the teams? Who has enough technical background to lead it?
Pretend for a second, that financing issues could be overcome and the right teams chosen. As a huge team of multi-disciplinary engineers, how do we communicate, coordinate, and understand each other when there are so many channels of communication. There is a personal and personnel aspect to it regardless of technology. It requires effort to share progress and to teach others the fundamentals in order to understand our work and use it to expand theirs.
Due to the economics, coordination, and tangential challenges, the flying car may never happen. And that’s okay, self-driving cars are on the way. It’s the other grand challenges related to energy, clean water, illness prevention and cures, that are lacking. These are challenges we should be dealing with as a collective, and the types of things you should leap at.