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Manishka Windweaver

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Could the Hyperloop change the world even more than the Internet?

Elon Musk has given hints about a new form of transportation, a Hyperloop, that is a non-scheduled service which leaves when you arrive, is immune to the weather and never crashes. It goes twice as fast as the average airplane.

There are plenty of sites making their guesses about how it works, but I'm not interested in that. For the purposes of this conversation, let's assume that it works really well and it has been expanded to connect the 1000 most populous cities in the world. Let's assume that to get to the furthest reach of the network, it costs 8 hrs and $400.00.

It's been said that the internet erased all the borders and made earth a borderless society. Except that it didn't. Not in real life. We have a virtual reality that virtually erased the borders. This was because of the reduction or elimination of speed and cost of communication.

What if we had a new innovation that reduced the speed and cost of travel. The political borders, security checks at stations may still be there, but how would that change the way humans interact?

The tourism industry would boom. Weekend date in Paris? why not? It was a luxury reserved for the jetsetters back in the LAST millenium!

Tweeting and facebooking your support for social causes? not anymore! We'll be able to get together right in front of the collapsed Bangladeshi factory where Walmart gets its clothes made.

In his talk 'Global ethic vs, national interest, Gordon Brown starts off by showing us the iconic photographs that moved the world into action. He says "What we see unlocks the invisible ties and bonds of sympathy that bring us together to become a human community" How much more could seeing the world in real life do?

When I was 5, I read a Dr. Seuss book that mentioned Zanzibar. How fantastic would it be to take your 5 year old there?

What impacts do you think it could have on society? Politics? Religion? Economics?
Where would you go? Why?
How would you use this new tool to make an impact on earth?


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    Aug 7 2013: Humanity is barely a "we".

    By subtracting ourselves from the flow of local reality, we become a no-thing .. whether we face each other through computer screens, mobile devices or face to face. We are far less than we once were, and the face in your face is a ghost of what it could have been.
    Humanity has become the most abundant form of flesh on the planet. We mark time until our predator arrives. And when it does, we will once again become real.
    All things looped are the same as a vacuum - and nature abhors a vacuum.

    BTW .. Elon Musk is quite up-front about wanting to retire on Mars.
    He obviously does not want to be here when the predator comes.
    All his business activities are aimed at delaying the moment until his Spacex venture has gotten his lifeboat ready.
    I like this Elon Musk.. he is an extraordinarily sane human being.
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      Aug 7 2013: I like this Elon Musk.. he is an extraordinarily sane human being.
      He and I have found our predator and show a brave face
      We have seen the predator
      I saw it and shook in my boots
      I fought it and escaped scathed
      I fight it everyday
      You and I see glimpses of it
      sometimes a whif, sometimes a distant howl
      the screech of tires
      the thud of an axe
      the stench of blood
      the touch of heat radiating from the desert, asphalt
      the look of anguish on her face
      the clues of what it is and how it will catch you
      We have seen the predator you and I
      We know it well
      yet don't recognize
      The face in your face
      When the lifeboat leaves, who will be in it, the hunter or the hunted?

      Thank you for your thoughts, In the hyperloop, where on earth would you go and what would you do there?
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        Aug 8 2013: In the hyperloop?

        We would spread our disease.

        I'm very much in favour of giving our immune systems a lot of exercise .. what does not kill us makes us strong.

        But I think we suffer from hubris .. the development of the immune is not supposed to help us beyond the incursions across the horizons our own eyes can see. And even then, the fleas on rats killed as many as the Mongol .. and then the Spanish flu dwarfed the first world war.

        No .. I think Elon knows best - our predator is the machine.
        The machine was supposed to make heaven on Earth .. all the bad stuff about maintaining a civilization .. that was all supposed to be given to the machines.. they would work for us.
        But look .. now .. we work for the machines.
        The post modern ethic of cut-and-paste .. such that your ideas mean nothing unless you can quote someone else.
        The loop .. see?
        And what is it that a machine does?
        It loops .. it is the economy of scale.
        A scale that is fit only for a machine.

        btw - thank you for the poetry.. There should be more of it.
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          Aug 8 2013: I like the loop and I despise it. I'm in a loop with this screen. through it, I can see your words and you can see mine.

          I raise my eyes and see the horizon. I want to see everything within my horizon, so I take a closer look and discover that my horizon has expanded. So I look back down to the screen to tell you and realise that through it there is another horizon. I want to show you that when you break through the horizon, you don't stop seeing. the horizon expands .

          I'm gonna hop in the loop and take my son to see your horizon. then we are gonna drag you out of yours and take you to the horizon at the end of land. then we'll take a dive and see the horizon under the water. Then we'll hop in the loop and let it take us to another.

          then we'll report back to the machine and find Elon there, not abandoning the machine, but using it, extending his horizon and mine into another loop.

          you can't loop if you go from loop to loop, never repeating, extending the horizon, exploring, listening, feeling, seeing, living. and when I see you, back in your horizon running your loop again, I will tell you about it, and it will mean something ....to me, perhaps to you too.

          haha, that was my first attempt at poetry in 20 years. Your post sounded like poetry to me, so I thought I'd reciprocate.
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        Aug 9 2013: Hmm .. nice thoughts!

        You are so right about the loop of the computer screen.
        Hopping from loop to loop is possible, but any loop taken more than once is a piece of experience gone from life.
        Here's what we miss:
        Things never actually loop in nature, there are generalities that rarely change .. like the need to breathe, but every breath is actually different. we are creatures of change. We are good at perceiving change and adapting to it. But we exist within a range of tolerance .. too much change kills us. Not enough change also kills us.
        We cement the moment in our machines - they cannot evolve gracefully - only by revolution.
        And that moment, once cemented, passes from the present moment and becomes a past moment repeated endlessly ..
        This seems to be a function of the time-span across which we lay our plans. The further invested into the future, the more captured by the past.
        Sure, we need to plan .. but I think we over-do it.
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          Aug 9 2013: yep nature's great. moderation in planning. moderation in use of technology too would be good. That's why I like the hyperloop. I;m hoping It takes people away from the screen and into the real world.

          reality 2.0 the expanded version. I'm tired of virtuality.
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        Aug 10 2013: In the context of the world as-it-is, Elon Musk delivers a massive amount of value.
        But I don't think the hyperloop will do more than increase industrial efficiency a bit.
        We see in all modes of mass transport the discomfort of having to sit in a crowd of strangers .. and the discomfort gets offset by reading, txt-ing or captured by some other proscenium of distraction.
        I assure you, the viruses and bacteria see such places as the garden of Eden - a free ticket for invasive species of many kinds.

        You know .. I think there is a universal balance of some kind .. the more static you make things, the more change occurs, the more change you seek, the less you will find. There might be a sweet-spot in that balance .. but to find it, we must acknowledge that it's a balance, not a binary "either/or".
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          Aug 10 2013: I agree :) balance is best. But not in this! I'm really rooting for change in this case! Noooo! don't enforce that on me now!

          I don't think that the hyperloop is gonna have a lot of people thrown in together. I think It'll be like car size capsules, of course, the station will have people, but no need to wait there since it's supposed to be nonscheduled. We'll find out Monday! 2 more days...... the suspense is killing me!
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        Aug 11 2013: Yeah, we have to keep open for what's next.

        Like I say, Elon Musk delivers great value, and I look to see what's happening in spacex, tesla and his other ventures at least once q week. He's been coy about the hyperloop thing and says he's sensitive about the timing of what he says about it. From what he has said, he's not going to do it, but he's trying to get others to spark-up about it. It will be based on first-principles like everything else he does, so it will be viable no matter what.
        It will be something that everyone wants . Musk is very good at that, and everything he does is something that we want .. he deviates from the classical commercial mind which only ever delivers what we expect .. then spend zillions on making us want what we expect. Musk does not do that - he responds to what we truly want, and this is why he is so powerful .. out of nowhere.
        I really aught to start writing to him. I write to politicians and academics all over the world . and a good number of them reply. So .. OK .. I have a few ideas he might find useful .. specially in the electric car field. And if he's the only guy on Mars when all of us are frying on Earth . that does not seem too bad given that he's getting us a few more years through his personal contributions.
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          Aug 11 2013: He's spent a lot of time building up suspense. He needed time to get the key patents, he may be looking at crowd funding, or his own version of corporate crowd funding, who knows. If he puts it up so I can buy stocks in it, I would buy as many as I could afford (I reserve the right to change my mind after hearing the full proposal)

          I hope that rather than starting it out in LA, it gets implemented in Africa first because that could be just the type of large scale economic activity needed to bring them up to the rest of the world. (and I wanna go there, so two birds one stone)
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        Aug 11 2013: LOL!

        I just wrote to Tesla about the plight of the small petrol-station operator .. and how to get them enlisted as champions for the electric car. Elon's gotta do that if he wants to avoid making enemies of them - and they would make powerful ambassadors for good or bad. There is at least one petrol station guy in every small town in the world .. that is a significant part of our economy. And if they could be weaned from their dependence on oil companies, it would devastate the climate denial movement in a single stroke - from grass-roots up. That would give Elon even more years to get his Mars project done.

        Africa? Yes, that would be a great win, but it's unlikely. It might be implemented as transport support for the imperial forces that have bought the land from under the feet of Africans - handy to transport the commodities to ports for shipment out of Africa - along with the money made from it.
        No .. any such implementation would be bombed within a week by insurgents - the real Africans. Better to just give their land back to them.
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          Aug 11 2013: I'm all for giving the land back,

          The real Africans also see the value in trade, and I think they'll jump at this. The cheapest and fastest mass transport available.

          Since it's open sourced, I can totally see them making it themselves.
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        Aug 12 2013: Trade, as we know it, is the device by which the value of the world is concentrated into the hands of the few.
        If you are one of the few, then you have my pity .. the 1% are so afraid to live that they amass money to prevent themselves from actually being alive.
        Those who are part of the few, are responsible for the injustice of Africa.
        Elon Musk knows how much blood is on his hands .. but he risks it all and gets real life in return.
        Ask yourself - why are you not as alive as Elon Musk? Why is Elon worth observing - and you are not?

        From here, you look to be worth observing. I would like you to claim that.
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          Aug 12 2013: Hi Mitch,

          This is exactly what I mean about humans being their own predators. well, the economic system and other types of human cruelty

          I agree that the current system is concentrating the wealth of the multitude in the hands of the few, and I wish I knew how to fix it. cooperatives? I've seen some suggestions, but really just wouldn't know. I have a few ideas on how i might do it if i was dictator of the world lol, but even those ideas I don't have confidence in because I know nothing about economics.

          Definitely not one of the few, and never plan to be.

          If I knew how to put together companies as elon musk seems to be able to, I would warn my investors not to expect profits. I would hire lots of people to build a hyperloop around the world, then use the profits from it to hire more people to build hyperdense cities, then sell the apartments and use the profit to hire more people to replant the spaces between cities. then I would use whatever is left and the continuing sales from the hyperloop to fund universal healthcare and food stamps worldwide, and education ... (and now you know my secret plan to take over the world Pinky!)

          I am as alive as elon musk, but I don't wish to be as observed as he is. I value my privacy and anonymity and freedom.

          and thank you :) so do you.

          BTW... today's the day! the grand unveil of the alpha plan! c'mon soundwave levitation!
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        Aug 12 2013: Many thanks to you Manishka.

        I too look forward to Elon's announcement and will certainly ride on the hyperloop if it is implemented here.
        Things are as they are. There are changes I would like to see. Between now, and whatever comes, we will live life with each precious moment. Musk is a role model worth having, from many different angles. We each will have our own light - some seen clearly, some less so.
        I wish you well - and great brightness.
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          Aug 13 2013: Thank you Mitch, I wish you well too, and don't you say good bye to me! I know where to find you Mr. 50+ TED points!

          I think your idea of enlisting the small town gas station guy is a very good one, How do you propose to enlist them? by letting them have charging stations?

          What are the changes you'd like to see? and what especially do you see as the economic fix?

          I'm reading the alpha plan for the hyperloop right now. I was at work when it was released, and the firewall wouldn't let me at it. First, it's elevated, so that does mean vulnerability, but if he covered it with solar panels, then he's got a new utility company pumping clean energy into the grid.
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        Aug 13 2013: LOL!

        I gotta invent a new word = "TEDburn"!

        It's from over-exposure to unbelievably fantastic people on TED!

        Well, here we go, I've only just started polling the announcements on YOUtube .. and it's pretty much what the pundits were predicting. The difference being that Musk has whipped up interest into an almost religious fervour . that's the magic of the guy .. and not only that, he's got the funding methods and means already sorted out as a mature business-case. In this world - no money, no nothing. So it's serious.

        It's funny you know, I once did a project for a corporation that failed .. but it didn't fail .. even though the system we implemented was a dog, the process of all the analysis and implementation made the company so aware of the issues, that by the time we turned the systems on, the company had already got the benefit .. cost 6 million, and got above estimated returns .. and we could have implemented a cardboard box with the project name written on with a crayon.. I love that stuff!
        Elon knows this as an artform .. makes me larf to recognise it.

        OH BTW! - the service station thing is all about the batteries .. these lithium ion batteries break down real quick, and half the cost of the car is the battery .. people will get miffed if they have to keep paying for that every 2 years, so the solution is battery-exchange at service stations - you get your battery replaced, fully charged for the same cost as a tank of petrol - and it's like getting a new battery every time. It defrays the actual cost over a reasonable timespan, protects the customer from sudden expenses and keeps the serivice-station paradigm totally intact - these stations serve more than just petrol, they are an essential service to long-trip management, drinks, snacks and resting-point to overcome driver-fatigue. Plus other service industries aggregate around them - the fast-food outlets and other related businesses. The only impediment is battery standardisation .. that's do-able
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          Aug 13 2013: TEDburn! good word!

          lol, hype can do wonders.

          just read through the plan. He already planned on putting solar panels all the way through. no soundwave levitation. station cost and design not addressed. Lost me on the electronics. very low pressure vs the high pressure air flow I had expected, capsules more elaborate than I expected, additional extensions discussed.

          specifically mentions that distances more that 1500 miles won't be worth it if there's supersonic flight alternatives,,,, which there's not presently....making peace with the airlines combined with a challenge to step it up..

          Requires more reading and research for further comment. Hmmm...
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          Aug 16 2013: Hey Mitch,

          Did you read about this? looks like you might get your wish after all

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        Sep 5 2013: Hi Manishka,

        Here's the source pdf for Elon's hyperloop proposal:

        It's a proposal document. The initial costings and timetable could easily be doubled - the devil is always in the detail, and the detail is not known until you get to the proof-of-concept stage. Sometimes an unforseen detail will cause a re-doubling of the budget and development timetable.
        The rule-of-thumb is the 80/20 law - 20% of time/cost is spent on 80% of the project, 80% of time/cost is spent on 20% of the project. It is the costly 20% that contains all the devils - and can cost a lot more than 80%.

        It will be interesting to see which consultancy/engineering consortium finds it a worthwhile risk.
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          Sep 5 2013: Hi Mitch,
          Thanks for the link :) I've looked through it carefully, and believe the track itself can be made for much less if the location is NOT in the US. India or Africa for example.

          No engineering details were given for example anything to do with the station or with having the capsules change lanes in order to stop at a station on the way.

          Anyway, let's see. Thanks for your participation! I must say, I had an enjoyable conversation with you!

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