Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Perhaps man was not meant to fly after all

Most things do not end the way I once imagined. The buildings don’t collapse because the foundation is gone. They sag. They fade. For a long while nothing seems all that different. One day we realize they’re really gone.

I thought fax machines would be gone by 1990. This morning I explained to Emily how our never used Brother MFC fax function could be, in theory, receive a fax sent to our home number.

After the anthrax attack I though letters would go away; that PDF would replace both paper mail and, incidentally, fax. I still get letters.

I don’t get many letters though, and I don’t get many faxes. Postal stations are closing. Kinkos, where we used to send and receive faxes, is going away. Faxes, letters, pay phones, printers – they’re joining slide rules, typewriters and carbon paper.

In November of 2001 I thought the era of mass air travel would end. It seemed too expensive to secure planes given the psychology of fear and the limitations of human risk assessment. Havoc was simply too inexpensive, too easy. I thought the teleprescence market would take off. I didn’t expect Al Qaeda to spend 9 years being stupid. Alas, they seem to have gotten smarter lately.

Now, 9 years later, air travel is much more expensive and uncomfortable than it used to be. Now the poor sods doing TSA work are mocked and scorned. Now my employer rarely flies any worker bees anywhere. Now Apple markets FaceTime (though nobody actually uses it).

Popular aviation is looking rusty, and the Great-Recession-deferred 2011 $5/gallon gasoline I predicted in 2007 is still coming, albeit two years late. As gas prices rise, so will the price of aviation fuel.

Faxes may be gone by 2020. I think so will the air travel we once knew. The world is going to get much bigger.

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