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The RoBlog
Friday, September 30, 2005
 
Kurzweil and Transportation
If Kurzweil's general observations - that "progress" is made on an exponential curve - hold for transportation, would that imply that systems like PRT, or fleeting, or other systems that would increase the average throughput of daily transportation systems, must come into play soon?

It would be interesting to see a plot of the average trip to work time as far back as it could be traced. In the US, at least, I wouldn't be surprised if the time had been getting longer throughout most of the last century. My guess is, however, that the average throughput (people per second?) of a particular segment of land transportation infrastructure has probably gone up. This may indicate that you have to choose your metrics wisely if you're trying to get one of Kurzweil's curves.
Comments:
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I think you're looking at it from a 20th century point of view.

Kurzweil argues virtual reality will become the day-to-day reality for most humans as time progresses towards the Singularity.

Therefore, physical travel will likely decrease. Workplaces may eventually become virtual. etc.

Travel speeds can be instant when you live in VR.
 
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Well I think it's definitely true that the need for certain kinds of travel will be reduced. A good number of people I know now telecommute from home, and even where I work many of the people involved in a project are working remotely.

However I think it's probably not correct to assume that we'll move, en masse, to virtual offices any time soon. I'm guessing that, in the short-ish term (next 15-20 years), we'll still see a majority of people going somewhere to work, and that somewhere will increasingly be oriented around urban centers. And this doesn't take into account the goods and transportation-heavy services that take place on-road at the present time and aren't likely to be displaced as easily as the working population from our roads.

Your point is well taken in the longer run, however, as we move to an almost entirely services economy, and much of our smaller production being done at home, and even larger production done more or less automatically nearby. My thought is around the time between now and when these other factors start easing the transportation pressures.

Certainly we'll see some form of car automation in the interim (as we already see with adaptive cruise control). But I wonder if there is a graph that shows transportation throughput that might point towards a fairly radical shift in how we travel day-to-day before we get to the point where we don't have to travel to go to work.

Thanks for the input anonymous!
 
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