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Hyperloop: Since We Don't Have Flying Cars or Hoverboards, Elon Musk's Latest Brainstorm Will Have to Do


Should we be disappointed with the pace of technological advancement?

On its website, venture capital firm Founders Fund, which has invested in companies like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Spotify, showcases an appreciation for scientific and engineering prowess.

Nonetheless, the company put out this decidedly downbeat message, which indicates some disappointment with how technology has evolved.

140 characters is an obvious reference to Twitter, while flying cars have been an object of desire for some people at least since the release of the The Jetsons cartoon, which first aired in 1962.

But that isn't the only media-driven disappointment.

1987's RoboCop, which was set in the "near future," showcased advanced cyborg technology and upgradable human hearts.

And who could forget the hoverboards from 1989's Back to the Future II?

That part of Back to the Future II took place in 2015. Do you expect to see hoverboards by then?

In case you couldn't tell, I was being half-serious about these things. We can't always expect reality to catch up with our imaginations.

And in all fairness, we may not have flying cars, but today, cars are infinitely better than they ever were -- they're safer and more efficient, and come in an amazing variety of models.

Heck, we're living in an era where an electric sports/luxury car, the Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S -- a.k.a. the new Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius in terms of global impact -- is the highest-rated car on the road.

Nonetheless, while gradual improvements in technology are better than no improvement at all, it's the quantum leaps of imagination that are really exciting. I'm not really pumped up for stuff like the next Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone or the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One, which are evolutionary by nature; they're not going to change the way we live.

So what am I really excited about?

On August 12, we will see the "alpha design" for Hyperloop -- Tesla Founder Elon Musk's mystery transportation system that promises to be more than twice as fast as an airplane, much cheaper to build than bullet trains, and crash-proof. It will also be solar-powered and able to operate in any weather.

Let me break down how big this could be.

I live in New York City, and I love Las Vegas. Not for gambling and clubbing, mind you -- I just like seeing my sister and going to In-N-Out Burger.

As it stands now, a direct flight to Vegas from JFK airport takes a little over five hours, not including the trip to the airport and the check-in, which adds about 90 minutes to the process. So I can't make as many trips out there as I'd like to. But if the trip was cut down to two hours and the boarding process was greatly shortened? I could do day trips. Heck, given the three-hour time difference, I'd arrive in Vegas before I left New York!

And think about commercial applications.

What if, instead of overnight shipping, FedEx (NYSE:FDX) could ship a package across the country in three or four hours?

And what if an Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Prime membership meant getting new stuff in two hours instead of two days?

The problem, of course, is that we don't actually know what Hyperloop is -- and we may not see it in our lifetime.

The general speculation is that Hyperloop will be some kind of warp-speed train system in which electric magnets are used to propel capsules through tubes.

Sounds cool, right?

Certainly, but we don't know what kind of opposition from governmental bodies and transportation companies will show up because if Hyperloop is viable in the real world, it will devastate the existing power structure.

On top of all this, Musk is making the Hyperloop concept open source and he is not patenting it, which means real-world implementation of it could involve all kinds of legal squabbles.

Nonetheless, we should embrace Hyperloop as a symbol of American ingenuity completely unmatched by any other transportation method in the world.

There's also an inspiration factor. Kids growing up in the '50s and '60s got to see the space race in action, culminating with NASA putting the first man on the moon in 1969. Incidentally, the space program resulted in many scientific breakthroughs in a wide variety of areas -- everything from breast cancer detection to aerospace to water purification to cordless power drills.

And what are kids seeing today?

140 characters?

Should we want more?

I don't mean to denigrate the achievements of those in Silicon Valley and other tech havens, but when was the last time we saw a piece of technology instantly turn a major part of everyday life upside down in an instant?

And interestingly enough, if it isn't Hyperloop, it may actually be another Elon Musk creation that was financed by Founders Fund -- SpaceX, a private space exploration company that (among other things) wants to put a man on Mars within the next decade.

Also see:

Tesla Motors Inc's Elon Musk Has a Wild New Idea: The 'Hyperloop'

Amazon, Barnes & Noble Promise to Transform Troubled E-Reader Market This Fall

Two Tech Picks for Your Portfolio

Twitter: @Minyanville

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