The Roots of Progress

New edition of Where Is My Flying Car?

I have repeatedly found myself recommending Where Is My Flying Car?, by J. Storrs Hall, as a work of futurism that paints a bold, ambitious vision of what is possible with advanced technology. So I’m very happy that it has come out in a new, revised edition from Stripe Press.

Stripe Press

Here’s what I wrote about the book in my review of the original edition:

Hall sets out to tackle the title question: why don’t we have flying cars yet? And indeed, several chapters in the book are devoted to deep dives on the history, engineering, and economics of flying cars. But to fully answer the question, Hall must go much broader and deeper, because he quickly concludes that the barriers to flying cars are not technological or economic—they are cultural and political. To explain the flying car gap is to explain the Great Stagnation itself. …

There are many writers with optimistic visions of the future. However, the goals I most often hear are all the negation of negatives: cure cancer, eliminate poverty, stop climate change.

This is good, but it is not enough. We should not only cure disease and let everyone live to what is now considered old age—we should cure aging itself and extend human lifespan indefinitely. We should not seek to merely sustain current per-capita energy usage—we should get back on the Henry Adams Curve and increase it. We should not only seek to avoid worsening the climate—we should seek to actively control and optimize it for human ends. We should not merely get the whole world up to Level 4—we should be striving for Level 5.

Aiming only for the former, as some so-called techno-optimists do, is a poor sort of optimism. It is actually calling for very limited progress, followed by stagnation. It is complacency with the status quo, content with bringing the whole world up to the current best standard of living, but not increasing it. In this context, I found Where Is My Flying Car? refreshing. Hall unabashedly calls for unlimited progress in every dimension.

The new edition has everything that made the first edition great, but it’s better organized and more streamlined (my only criticism of the original!) and should be more accessible to a wider audience. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy.

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