Design a global high speed transportation system, or design better ways to evaluate global issues and opportunities

Eric Nelius: What if Interstate 40 were High Speed Rail? at

Eric Nelius,

If you are actually doing a billion dollar project, it is usual to invest say 10% for design, planning engineering, market and financial analysis. Then, if the numbers don’t justify the project, you eat the cost, walk away and keep your notes and plans for a different time. Nowadays, you set your AI to trigger when things look better and have it work out the updates and then tell you. So if you are spending a 100 hours or 1000 hours or 10,000 hours of your time, and are worth some nominal value as a consultant, you can see how close your effort comes to what is spent or ought to be spent – just to consider ideas.

The local segments of highway probably serve mostly short range traffic. For every city or segment you can probably find some data, if you take a lot of your time. Though you hinted at truck and freight, the airlines now make a lot from moving mail and goods, besides people. The airlines serve many cities along that route, and can change schedule and priorities as tastes and demand change – to existing airports – point to point.

These kinds of calculations are fun, because they are concrete and usually fairly easy to justify. but if you spend 1000 hours on one, and then present it in a short time, the bandwidth required to have it absorbed, understood and approved is astronomical.

It is possible to set up global organizations to become experts at global scale problems – climate change, homelessness, clean nuclear energy, trash, sewage, water, food, jobs, education. I found about 15,000 “global” issues and opportunities spending 25 years every day looking at the way information and groups flow on the Internet. It is pretty sad. I worked on rail a few times. Alternative fuels, magnetic levitation, ultra high speed rail. You might want to look at drones a bit more. But all these various ideas that each require deep and comprehensive analysis, data, models, simulations, checks and cross checks — they all are only done in fragments. Each of the thousands of universities will generate a few each. Every country and international agency will do periodic blurbs and reports. These are perennial problems, that are good for a few million or billion here and there.

“high speed rail” is about 9.8 Million entry points on Google today. There are projects in many countries. Usually, my guess, where the proposers benefit. Not where citizens do.

You are not wrong in what you found and what you say. It is just orders of magnitude too little. If you really want to check, then put a herd of AIs collecting the relevant market and social data for all possible routes. Design and build an entire new American national high speed rail, and give details for how to let the “old” airline industries, trucking and local traffic work out. If you don’t do the whole thing, there are going to be billions (or hundreds of millions of naysayers and as many who will say “that is a great idea, I thought of it first, I am bigger, hire me”.

I have invested nearly 50 years in systemic issues and global methods of collaboration. So I can tell you sometimes the perennials like “high speed rail” might be red herrings. For instance, have you looked carefully at what people do when they travel? You want to visit family, and see new things. For business it is often meetings and dinner and drinks and discussions. But much of that could be done virtually. I spend a lot of time on “solar system colonization” or “heliospheric exploration and development” Those people are going to live most of their time virtually. I know of plans for fast trips from Mars to Earth, but not even the new crops of trillionaires from those new industries – only a few can afford the cost. But ultrahigh resolution immersive collaboration – cheap compared to travel. A lot of things that people buy they do not need or use.

I am filing this note under “Design a global high speed transportation system, or design better ways to evaluate global issues and opportunities”

Richard Collins, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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