California has $9 billion in bonds set aside to build a high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Musk estimates that by the time they're done building it, it will cost the state $100 billion. While California's budgeteers have their hearts in the right place, it's obvious -- at least to me -- that we need to grab them by the ears and force them to take a look at Musk's plan. For our sanity. For our budgets. For our future. And because it'd be really cool.
Other reactions have been skeptical: We've seen trains-in-tubes hundreds of times before; what makes this one any different? Sure, Musk has an excellent track record and has produced a large document addressing safety and even maintenance concerns, but who's to say that this thing will actually work? Is this more pixie dust dripped on a public in need of visionaries?
No. This is the guy who made electric cars work, who has people lining up to buy $80,000 Teslas without test drives. The Hyperloop will work, and Musk will deliver a working prototype that we can and should make happen.
I watched the entire tech community screech to a halt this week as Musk revealed his plans for the Hyperloop. A day after the announcement, virtually every mainstream outlet ran headlines to the tune of "A 700MPH Ride in a Tube," making it sound more like a Disney ride than a realistic plan. Almost at the same time, bloggers took to the social sphere to sadly declare that while the Hyperloop sounds cool, no one will ever build it.
An LA Times headline from August 13th reads, "Elon Musk's Hyperloop latest of many wacky LA transit ideas," implying that Musk's concept is in the same fantasy world as monorails, LA River hovercrafts and even camels. Yes, somehow Musk's Hyperloop concept is apparently just as silly as riding camels through downtown Los Angeles.
Let's stop with the negativity. Let's recapture that '50s spirit when we didn't care if flying cars and neutron pistols would kill us all. Let's recapture that Wright Brothers spirit in which a broken leg or two isn't going to stop us from getting from LA to SF in 35 minutes.
So this is me asking someone, somewhere who knows what he or she is doing to step forward and build this thing. Perhaps a company like Terraspan, which ominously shut down most of its website after Musk's announcement, can get its head around the concept and push forward with California footing the bill?
Perhaps all of you newly rich tech visionaries making money off of social-aggregation engines can put the Scotch down and throw some of your financial and brain power at Hyperloop and really disrupt humanity.
Now that the major press has digested Musk's plan, it's time for the state of California to do the same. Where's Governor Jerry Brown's response to the idea? Are they taking this seriously?
So here's what I propose: You, me, us -- the geeks of the world need to ensure that our friends and relatives take Hyperloop seriously. If you don't believe in Hyperloop, that's fine, and I understand. I was, at first, not comfortable with the notion of plopping myself into a steel tube that would shoot me along Interstate 5 at 700MPH. But then I imagined what my grandparents must have thought of the first commercial jet and I manned up.
Imagine being able to head to San Francisco for a lunch appointment from LA in less than an hour and being back for dinner. Imagine what Hyperloop will do for intellectual commerce, joining Silicon Valley with Silicon Beach (or whatever they're calling LA's burgeoning tech community this week). The upside is tremendous.
Put your head around this: lunch at San Tung and dinner at Paco's Tacos. That is, pretty much, all you need to tell your friends and family.
People compare jets to rockets filled with people. People compare Hyperloop to shotguns or cannons filled with people. We got over the former. We can get over the latter.
It's up to us, the self-selected nerds of the world, to explain to the Luddites how this thing will work, how the science of it all makes sense and how this isn't another Disney Monorail. We can do this.
Joshua Fruhlinger has written for Engadget since 2004. He also writes for the Wall Street Journal and can be found on Twitter at @fruhlinger.