This week, polymath billionaire Elon Musk revealed his plans for the Hyperloop, a special train that would carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour, slightly below the speed of sound and slightly above the speed of crippling stomach problems, debilitating bouts of claustrophobia and horrifying feedback loops of your life flashing before your eyes.
The South African-born businessman is already well known as a saviour-genius, every few years revealing a bold, new, Jetsons-style innovation that simultaneously amazes the general public and makes the lives of millionaires incrementally more convenient and fun. He is the first person to send private rockets into space (SpaceX), to build a premium, commercially viable electric car (Tesla Motors) and to make it nearly impossible to crap out on that $120 you owe your friend for that time you thought you’d deal with your breakup by purchasing two chinchillas (PayPal).
His latest ambitious design – which consists of 28-seater pods that zip humans around in vacuum tubes at 700 miles an hour – was fairly well received. Transportation experts say the idea will take decades to become a reality, but that Mr. Musk’s 57-page white paper lays out a plausible path to get there.
After announcing the Hyperloop, however, Mr. Musk admitted that he himself won’t be the one to carry it out, which sort of reminds me of when I was 8 and wanted to be the president of the United States – you know, before all sorts of “things” got in the way.
So I guess my question for Elon Musk is: What can you do for me this year? Sure, the Hyperloop should inspire us all and dare us to dream big in a time of economic malaise, but there are some problems that Mr. Musk could probably solve within a few months if he took that impressive brain of his and thought a little smaller.
You’re probably thinking: Detroit! The housing crisis!
But let’s start with something tube-shaped, which seems to be the aesthetic theme of Mr. Musk’s intellectual outpourings (rockets, trains, cars, Internet), and scale it back like crazy: a banana, the most popular tube of the fruit world.
Bananas are nearly perfect, so near perfect, in fact, that it’s somewhat surprising that no one worships a banana as his lord. The one thing that is probably keeping the fruit from spiritual reverence is its odious strings. Enter Elon Musk, who could probably fix bananas in five minutes flat, creating, say, a laser tool that simultaneously X-rays and penetrates the banana’s skin, eliminating the strings pre-peel, and maybe turning them into something useful instead of something disgusting, like shoelaces or a nice wig. Breakfast is saved, and we all know that eating breakfast prevents obesity and maybe murder.
Or what about a better alternative to toilet paper, which has a thickness of all of one millimetre and yet is the only object separating the most useful part of our body (our hands) from the most horrifying part of our body (you fill in the blank). Toilet paper was supposed to be a stop-gap solution at best, surely, and yet somehow, out of collective self-loathing or longing to be babies again, we stopped asking the best of our hygiene scientists. Put Elon Musk on the case! Make our bathroom interactions closer to Tron! Rather than falling arms-first into a pile of diapers … intergalactic heat-seeking beams, a GPS, some unmanned drones.
In fact, why not try to Elon Musk ourselves, starting with our brains? The time it takes me to get from a thought to a cogent expression of the English language is about six hours – around the time it takes for a normal commute from L.A. to San Francisco. I’d love to get that down to a Hyperloopish 30 minutes, so that I can have some friends, or at least pick up my dry cleaning on time.
The only thing better than one Elon Musk is an army of Elon Musks, musking their way around the world, making it the clean, safe, tube-based place the country of Japan always promised us.
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