Hyperloopism is infecting everything; It’s time for sustainable alternatives.

Hyperloop technologies
© Hyperloop Technologies

After Kim wrote about a house that could be 3D printed in less than 24 hours, I got a great reply to my tweet complaining about it:

Hyperloopism. The perfect word to define a crazy new and unproven technology which nobody is sure will work, that probably isn't better or cheaper than the way things are done now, and is often counterproductive and used as an excuse to actually do nothing at all. It appears to have been coined by Matthew Yglesias five years ago in the title of a post (The Trouble With Hyperloopism) but I can find no other uses of it on Google.

podcars© Ken Avidor on podcars, an earlier cyberspace technodream, but really no different from today's

Cartoonist Ken Avidor nailed it when Personal Rapid Transit was the Hyperloop of the day, what he called a Cyberspace Technodream that sows confusion and doubt. Now, it’s Hyperloopism, because Boringcompanyism doesn’t roll off the tongue. The fact is we know perfectly well how to end congestion, reduce pollution, increase the health of the population, and it is not the Autonomous Car or the Hyperloop. We have to do everything we can to get as many people out of cars and on to bikes. We have to look for simple solutions that can work for almost everyone.

Jim McPherson does a fabulous slideshow demonstrating that E-bikes and not Autonomous Cars (AVs) let alone Hyperloops and Boring Company tunnels are the real transportation development, or as I have written, E-bikes will eat cars.

AVs, Hyperloops and the Boring Company cannot solve the world’s transportation problems; they deal with Elon Musk’s personal issues. Fine, but nobody else should care or be taken in by this.

ICON / New Story© ICON / New Story

Then there is housing technology. Everybody is looking for the hyperloopy high tech fix; Katerra is building plants to crank out high tech CLT housing, and posts on Kim’s 3D printed house are titled Can this affordable 3-D printed house address the world’s housing shortage?

The answer is no, for a couple of reasons. First of all, as Cameron Sinclair always used to say, people have certain expectations of what a house is, and when you drop a high tech new something on them they often don’t want it. I also can’t believe that this house is going to be any cheaper than one built out of concrete block laid up by a local mason or the homeowner himself. As for everything else in the house, there is nothing to see here.

Also, most of the world lives in cities and the problems come with the need for multifamily housing. In North America there is so little of it because so much of the USA is zoned for single family housing and they keep everyone else out.

Housing in MunichHousing in Munich/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

If you go to Scandinavia or Germany or Austria, they know perfectly well how to build high quality housing for all incomes and to service them with perfectly good public transportation and bike lanes. The fact is, we do not have a technological problem, we have an economic one caused by NIMBYs, archaic and often racist zoning laws, out of date building codes and an entire economic system based on private real estate wealth.

Hyperloopism is the enemy of a low energy, low carbon economy. We see companies investing billions in electric cars and AV technology or even efficient heat-pump clothes driers, but as Kris De Decker noted in his discussion about sufficiency vs efficiency:

The problem with energy efficiency policies, then, is that they are very effective in reproducing and stabilising essentially unsustainable concepts of service. Measuring the energy efficiency of cars and tumble driers, but not of bicycles and clotheslines, makes fast but energy-intensive ways of travel or clothes drying non-negotiable, and marginalises much more sustainable alternatives.

We actually do know how to fix things. We know how to make streets safe for pedestrians and stop murdering children; we know how to reduce carbon emissions to almost zero. But in the USA it appears that Hyperloopism is the religion of the day, and Elon Musk will solve it all. Somehow, I think people are going to be disappointed.

Hyperloopism is infecting everything; It’s time for sustainable alternatives.
We know how to fix housing and fix transportation, but the ridiculous high tech solution gets all the money and the ink.

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