This makes total sense. Physics was unable to deliver us our flying cars or jet packs. But what were we going to do with them anyway? Well, go to the bookstore, of course! Alas, in the absence of advanced space age technology we are forced to drive, or even walk, to the bookstore.
But not any more, because Jeff Bezos at Amazon has promised us … promised … the new “Amazon Prime Air” service. This is where the books (and other stuff we order from Amazon.com) fly to us, encased in small brightly colored boxes that apparently we get to keep after the delivery. They fly attached to the underbelly of a robotic helicopter.
Here it is happening, for real:
There may be a few holes in this story though. For one thing, why are humans packing the brightly colored boxes? I would think that the first thing you’d do if you were creating a robotic delivery system is to replace those humans with much more efficient robots. For another thing, why is the flying robot, which Mr. Bezos has, in a brilliant moment of marketing genius called a “Drone,” dropping the object in the middle of the driveway? My driveway is also a thoroughfare for dozens of middle and high school students going to and from school. That would not work for me. Maybe we need to have tiny heliports on our roofs. For another thing, what about big things, or orders where multiple packages will be delivered at once? Do these flying robots scale up? Will they cooperate when flying in flocks? Also, having delivery of potentially essential items taken out of the hand of the post office for whom “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” with different rules, like airlines have, about flying … I am not sure that I am comfortable with this.
(Below is the 60 minutes segment on which the Drone was announced.)
This is all well and good. Well, actually it is disturbing and evil. Anyway, I’m sticking with my original contention regarding Amazon: It has become, effectively, a public good (for better or worse) like roads and canals and such, but it is a public good owned by some guy. Those things, roads canals and such, were often originally created and maintained by private corporations licensed by the government, until society realized that that would not do. Proper free market competition and fair play (to the extent that those two things sometimes work together) can only happen if the infrastructure is a public good and that which uses the infrastructure mostly isn’t. Jeff Bezos has made clear, explicitly, that he wants Amazon to sell everything to everyone. And, they hold patents to do that sort of thing. And now they intend to take over the sky. Aren’t there rules about that?
Other links of interest:
- Sugar: A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott (Review)
- Catching Fire. The other one.
- You’re a Wizard Stamp, Harry Potter
- Haiyan is an example of climate change making things worse
- A page of resources and goodies for life science teachers