Book review: Where Is My Flying Car? A Memoir of Future Past, by J. Storrs Hall (aka Josh).
If you only read the first 3 chapters, you might imagine that this is the history of just one industry (or the mysterious lack of an industry).
But this book attributes the absence of that industry to a broad set of problems that are keeping us poor. He looks at the post-1970 slowdown in innovation that Cowen describes in The Great Stagnation. The two books agree on many symptoms, but describe the causes differently: where Cowen says we ate the low hanging fruit, Josh says it’s due to someone “spraying paraquat on the low-hanging fruit”.
The book is full of mostly good insights. It significantly changed my opinion of the Great Stagnation.
The book jumps back and forth between polemics about the Great Strangulation (with a bit too much outrage porn), and nerdy descriptions of engineering and piloting problems. I found those large shifts in tone to be somewhat disorienting – it’s like the author can’t decide whether he’s an autistic youth who is eagerly describing his latest obsession, or an angry old man complaining about how the world is going to hell (I’ve met the author at Foresight conferences, and got similar but milder impressions there).
Josh’s main explanation for the Great Strangulation is the rise of Green fundamentalism, but he also describes other cultural / political factors that seem related. But before looking at those, I’ll look in some depth at three industries that exemplify the Great Strangulation.