Where is my Flying Car?
A Memoir of Future Past
By J Storrs Hall
The book is finally out! It's on Kindle here.
I call this a memoir because it is an overview of a life of futurism and science-fiction fandom. But it is first and foremost an examination of the title question: half a century ago we thought that by now we would have flying cars-- and many other futuristic things. Some we got, some we didn't. Why or why not? And, casting a net another fifty years into the future, what might we get then?
Here's a brief overview of the book. It's a substantial slab; I would recommend consuming a chapter or two at a time.
Chapter 1 The World of Tomorrow
in which we examine futurism from H. G. Wells to the Jetsons to understand how much sensible really did anticipate flying cars and all the rest of the Popular Mechanics futuristic zeitgeist.
Chapter 2 The Conquest of the Air
in which we discover that, somewhat surprisingly, the 1930s were an age of great hopes (and progress) for flying cars.
Chapter 3 The Graveyard of Dreams
in which we note that in the 60s and 70s, a remarkably large number of promising trends dating back to the turn of the century or indeed to the Industrial Revolution flatlined or collapsed.
Chapter 4 Waldo and Magic, Inc.
in which a technology we might have started developing in the 60s, nanotech, slipped through our fingers for half a century.
Chapter 5 The Machiavelli Effect
in which we examine why so many promising technologies, nanotech among them, fell by the wayside in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Chapter 6 Cold Fusion?
in which we speculate on whether this could have been another case of the Machiavelli Effect.
Chapter 7 Forbidden Fruit
in which a wide variety of flying cars in mid-century turn out to have been suppressed, at least in part, by regulation and product liability.
Chapter 8 The Age of Aquarius
in which we are introduced to the Eloi, who perhaps explain why all of the failings happened more or less at once.
Chapter 9 A Car in Every Garage
in which we realize we have been asking the wrong question.
Chapter 10 Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited
in which we find out what it is really like to use a car-sized flying machine.
Chapter 11 Dialogue Concerning the Two Great Systems of the World
in which we examine the age-old question, would you rather have a car that can also fly, or a helicopter that can land and takeoff anywhere?
Chapter 12 The Atomic Age
The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by-products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity.
—Isaac Asimov (1964)
Chapter 13 The Jet Age
Yet another set of fairly reasonable predictions which didn't happen.
Chapter 14 When Worlds Collide
in which we learn that the top-down and bottom-up paths to nanotech could meet in the middle.
Chapter 15 Failure of Feedback
in which we begin to grok what's been holding us up in the development of deeply understanding, as opposed to superficially clever, robots all this time.
Chapter 16 Here We Stand
in which we take stock of where we are vis-a-vis flying cars and all the rest.
Chapter 17 Tom Swift and his Flying Car
In which we use our understanding of the technology we might have had and the economics of flying cars to design the one you would like to be driving.
Chapter 18 Metropolis
As long as we are at it, let's design the city of the future as well.
Chapter 19 Escape Velocity
Space travel will of course figure largely in future technology.
Chapter 20 To Singularity, and Beyond
in which we look at the overall landscape of futurism, in particular of technological development.
Chapter 21 The Second Atomic Age
in which the three key enabling technologies we could reasonably have seen from the 60s are understood to have some remarkable synergies.
Chapter 22 Robots
... by your command.
Chapter 23 Engineers' Dreams
in which there are some machines bigger than cars.
Chapter 24 Rocket to the Rennaissance
in which it is history that teaches us to hope.