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Why don't we have flying cars by now?

Good afternoon innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.


This newsletter and podcast feature stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world.  They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic.  The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is Henry Ford. There are seven parts of The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. Ford’s work exemplifies Ethic 2: Solve Hard Problems. This is the priority setting-orientation of entrepreneurship. It tackles the profound question of “what should I work on?”

The next historic entrepreneur and inventor I’ll feature is Wilbur Wright of airplane fame, so I thought it would be fun to explore a topic between cars and planes, flying cars. Or more precisely, the lack of flying cars.

This week’s podcast is an interview with Dr. Josh Storrs Hall, an independent scientist and author. One of this books is, Where Is My Flying Car?: A Memoir of Future Past.


Dr. Hall was the founding Chief Scientist of Nanorex, Inc, which is developing a CAD system for nanomechanical engineering. He remains a member of Nanorex' Scientific Advisory Board, and well as a Research Fellow of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing. His research interests include molecular nanotechnology and the design of useful macroscopic machines using the capabilities of molecular manufacturing.  His background is in computer science, particularly parallel processor architectures, artificial intelligence, particularly agoric and genetic algorithms as used in design, and reversible computing.


There are some hard technical problems to solve to create a commercially successful flying car. But the reasons we don’t have flying cars in widespread commercial use today are not technical. We should have flying cars. It’s cultural, regulatory, nerve and imagination failures that leave us in a world of traffic jams and TSA.


I enjoyed the conversation with Dr. Hall and know you will too.


Good Reads


Great Hedgehogs Start as Foxes – Henrik Angelstig



Decentralized Venture Capital – Anthony Perkins


Three Things I Think (I Think)


Nothing human is ever perfect, including culture. But my conversation with Dr. Hall certainly motivates some reflection on what’s been short-circuited in the entrepreneurial culture of the United States, an inarguably positive force in the world. Specifically, it seems we’ve lost some capacity in the culture for dealing with risk.


1.     I think managing risk is not eliminating risk. I spent a portion of my career thinking deeply about risk and risk management, having conducted research on hedging commodities and developing and deploying computational tools at one of the businesses I started to hedge price risk. I never purported to have tools that eliminated all risk, because I don’t believe there is such a thing. Whether it’s risks arising from price changes, production problems, economic changes, accidents, or whatever, there are always risks of unforeseen and unfortunate changes.

2.     I think safety can be dangerous. It became fashionable during the pandemic for people to sign off on emails with something like ‘Be Safe.’ Perhaps a personal weirdism, but I never could write such a thing. Whether COVID or anything else, I don’t wish danger on anyone. But neither do I wish overemphasis on fear. Courage is more constructive.

3.     I think imagination requires spine-sweat moments. Dr. Don Kuratko, a professor at the University of Indiana and a pioneer in entrepreneurship education, tells a story when he first started teaching that his father, a small business owner, coached him to create ‘spine-sweat moments’ for students in entrepreneurship courses. His idea was that if students were to really experience and understand entrepreneurship, they had to have moments of uncertainty and tension. I work to have those kinds of moments for students in my entrepreneurship courses, but I think they’re important for all innovators. Human imagination, the second most powerful force in the universe, is fueled by spine-sweat moments. The failure of imagination described by Dr. Hall as one of the reasons behind the absence of flying cars is the failure to have enough spine-sweat moments.


Farm to My Table


Friday nights at our home are typically pizza nights. When I took ISU students on a tour of Early Morning Harvest several years ago, Patti had me bring home their flour. Jeff Hafner and his team had purchased a stone mill and begun grinding flour from the wheat grown on the farm, near Panora, Iowa. The processing differences between Early Morning Harvest flour and many or most you can buy at the store is significant. The wheat is harvested, cleaned and ground in the stone mill and bagged. That’s it. No bleaching, vitamin fortification, etc. And the pizza crusts, and much else, are fantastic. And when we can add ingredients from the garden, homemade tomato sauce, tomatoes, and basil, like on the margherita pizza below, even more fantastic.


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