Towards A Good Samaritan World

Sunday, September 03, 2006

THE NEXT BIG TECHNOLOGY

In a futurist essay at Time magazine, Niall Ferguson predicts that the US will come back from its setbacks in the Middle East (Bush was right, says Ferguson, except that he applied regime change in the wrong country: he should have regime-changed Iran, not Iraq) by some smart policies and a technologically-driven economic boom:

Yet reports of America's decline proved to be premature. In 2012 President Warner's successor surprised the foes of the U.S. with a bold reinvention of America. The reform of Medicare and Social Security, combined with a radical overhaul of the federal tax system, had quite dramatic consequences. Growth surged. So did productivity. Americans stopped investing exclusively in real estate and got back to the serious business of technological innovation. Congress passed a low-cost, universal health-care system and a new federal sales tax, which allowed a drastic reduction in income tax without the huge deficits that had plagued the Bush years.

In old-technology terms, it was true, things had not turned out well for the U.S. after 9/11. The project to democratize the Middle East ended poorly. The U.S. lost its influence over the world's most oil-rich region. Terrorist networks thrived in Europe. Iran, China and Russia formed a new anti-American trio. Yet the new technology of the 2010s and '20s did much to negate those threats.

The adoption of fuel-cell engines by the U.S. automobile industry, combined with a new generation of ultrasafe nuclear power plants, effectively ended America's century-long addiction to oil. The application of nanotechnology to homeland security allowed 24/7 surveillance of Islamist suspects by minuscule drones and invisible implants.


I hope he's right about Social Security. One of the real misfortunes of this administration-- and one of the reasons to root for Republicans this fall, despite most Republicans' disgusting position on immigration, is that a big Republican comeback might-- is that the Democrats sunk Social Security reform with their stupidly opportunistic defense of the unfair and unsustainable status quo.

But I've got an addition to the list of technologies that will "upgrade" the US, and the world, in the coming generation: giant airships. Airship technology, long in eclipse since the Hindenburg disaster, is due for a comeback. Airships are highly fuel-efficient and the latest designs could lift far more than planes. They could revolutionize world trade. I'd like to write more but a couple of my friends are trying to get in on the ground floor and don't want my to spill the beans. (I figure I don't get many readers here so no harm done...)

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