TED Talks hears amazing SpaceX promise of rocket travel on earth
At last year’s TED Talks, Tesla and SpaceX impresario Elon Musk waxed enthusiastically about taking travel out to the stars, this year his chief operating officer at the company spoke of more terrestrial ambitions.
SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell said that as a “residual capability” of its work getting rockets into space, the company will be able to develop point-to-point long-haul rocket travel between cities on earth.
The idea is to use the behemoth Big Falcon Rocket that SpaceX is developing, Shotwell said, and take off from platforms offshore from cities and land half way around the world in less than an hour.
“Within a decade for sure,” Shotwell said to a stunned Chris Anderson, head of the TED organization. “Elon (Musk) would want us to go faster.”
The theme of this year’s TED Talks is the “age of amazement,” and the concept Shotwell introduced certainly fits the description, but she said SpaceX is already conducting the pieces that need to be put together on a regular basis.
The company is shooting rockets into space and returning booster engines to land on earth. It is working with NASA, becoming comfortable working to persuade the U.S. federal government to let SpaceX use its Air Force ranges.
And because the SpaceX BFR will be able to make 10 times the number of trips a day that a long haul jet would, Shotwell argued that at 100 passengers a flight, it would be able to carry them at a cost of something between airline economy and business-class fares.
“This is awesome, but it’s crazy and it’s never going to actually happen,” Anderson said.
“Oh, no, this is definitely going to happen,” Shotwell answered.
Shotwell was one of 21 speakers over two sessions to grace the TED stage on its second of five days in Vancouver, which will see more than 100 speakers share “ideas worth spreading,” as per the subtitle to TED Talks.
Wednesday’s speakers included computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn who is using photo-based computer avatars to help pass on the history of the Holocaust and physicist César Hidalgo who posed the idea of using big data for citizens to create AI avatars for themselves to better engage with democracy.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of the blockbuster book Sapiens and Homo Deus, appeared on stage as a hologram from his home in Israel to warn the audience about the dangers of a new fascism driven by new technology.
“The greatest danger that now faces liberal democracy is the revolution of information technology that will make dictatorships more efficient than democracy,” Harari said.
With the capability to centralize vast amounts of data about people and write algorithms capable of manipulating their emotions, Harari said. They are the same tactics that Silicon Valley developed to sell products.
“The enemies of liberal democracy have a method, they hack our feelings,” Harari said. “Not our emails, not our bank accounts, they hack and use our feelings to polarize and destroy democracy within.”
Kate Raworth, a self-described renegade economist from Oxford, talked about replacing the economic theory of continuous, unrestrained growth with models that respect the planet’s natural cycles and value looking after human needs rather than ever increasing value.
” We’re politically addicted to growth,” Raworth told the TED audience.
Raworth, who has set out her ideas in the book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century, arguing that the growth-based economy has become divisive, concentrating too much wealth in too few hands, and degenerative, consuming resources beyond the planet’s capacity.
“Humanity’s challenge is clear,” Raworth said, “to meet the needs of all within the means of this extraordinarily planet.”
TED continues at the Vancouver Convention Centre through noon on Saturday.