Troubles foreseen in future of things digital

Plowing through Eric Schmidt’s (Google) book on the future of things digital, I was startled to see an endorsement of cars that drive themselves.

Not just because it is a technology only now being discussed and unproven. I don’t have much doubt that automated cars are feasible, even on a large scale.

I do have some reservations about whether the global computing machinery is equal to the task. I’ve just read (on the Web) that much-vaunted cloud computing has serious flaws in the form of hastily assembled, massively interconnected processing centers that threaten to, well, melt down in the heat generated by their own operations.

But that’s not it, either.

I’m inclined to believe that the builders of the cloud can contrive solutions, given a mindset and economics that prompt the construction of computer centers in Iceland or by cool rivers and lakes to take advantage of natural air conditioning.

What bothers me is the implicit assumption that we should do it because we can. This is the kind of thinking that led Eisenhower to build the interstate highway system, rather than railroads.

Ike faced the problem of converting a war-swollen auto industry back to civilian production. We face the problem of an overheated planet that needs an energy-efficient transportation system that doesn’t emit so much greenhouse gas.

Trains, yes. Planes and automobiles, not so much.

Byron W. Baker