The Danger in Transportation Fantasizing

We hear a lot about the next leap forward in transportation, whether it be Elon Musk's Hyperloop or Tel Aviv's floating pods. But in focusing on the latest fantasy, are we harming our ability to address the problems of the present?

1 minute read

August 8, 2013, 2:00 PM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"History is full of examples of the next great transport idea," writes Eric Jaffe. "Today it's the floating pod, yesterday it was Elon Musk's Hyperloop, last year it was intercontinental airless tubes, back in 1908 it was Thomas Edison 'perfecting' the electric car battery, and so on."

"But the truth is transportation has very rarely changed with a great deal of speed or spectacle," he contends. "The past is witness to mobility's incremental transformations."

"Psychologists have studied the human tendency toward fantasy, and they've found that imagining a crisply rendered future has the unintended effect of dampening our motivation to achieve it," Jaffe explains. "By editing out the 'obstacles, problems, and setbacks' we'll face en route to that goal, our fantasized futures might actually frustrate any real progress, as work from Gabriele Oettingen of New York University has found [PDF]."

"In other words, we're far better off with good expectations than great fantasies."


Thursday, August 8, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities

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