A Shaft of Optimism From the Publisher of Forbes, Or, Driverless Down Lombard Street
Over lunch yesterday, Rick Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes, argued that we may very well be close to the moment when the news about the United States will turn good--very good--and stay that way indefinitely.
Rich's argument? Until now, "exponential technologies" have applied mostly to software, finance, and other intangible endeavors. (According to Moore's Law, as you'll recall, about every 18 months the computing power of microchips will double while prices hold constant or fall--that's an example of what Rich meant by "exponential technologies.") Now, however, "exponential technologies" are just getting to the point at which they can affect the material world. Consider, for example, energy. New techniques that computer power have made possible--above all, hydraulic fracturing--have made available vast new reserves of oil and natural gas.
"Energy is just the beginning," Rich said. "Look at transportation. The most exciting project at Google right now has nothing to do with search engines. It's all about the driverless car."
When Google introduced the driverless car just four years ago, it could perform figure eights in an empty parking lot, but that was about it. "Not too long ago the Google car drove down Lombard Street, and now it can drive through mountain passes at the speed limit."
"Transportation is going to be transformed. And if you look at new medical technologies, you can see that ObamaCare could become completely irrelevant. There's a lot of progress out there."
In the words of the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, "We must learn to bear the truth about ourselves, not matter how good it might be."