Sunday_Business_Post_MastheadElon Musk – it doesn’t sound like the name of a real person. It seems fictional and futuristic. Elon Musk is the name of an outlaw who carries out daring raids on thorium transportation convoys in the badlands of Jupiter’s moons. “Musk cradled his ion-gun as the dust clouds announced the hovertrucks’ arrival. ‘Like takin’ mock-chocs from a robo-baby’ he laughed”.

But Elon Musk, the co-founder of Paypal, and the founder of the space travel company SpaceX and Tesla the Electric car manufacturer is very real and if he hasn’t already done so – he will change your world. Make no mistake – electric cars are coming. Sooner or later, your father will ring you and say he’s ‘changed the car’ and that he’s ‘gone electric’ and you will then realise how it must have felt to be a Bob Dylan fan in 1965.

Musk is quoted early in his career as saying he wanted to solve “the important problems that would affect the most of humanity.” These were the Internet, clean energy and space.

Imagine being the kind of person who makes a statement like that! In fact, imagine caring about humanity at all. The closest I came was once saying – “I might get into computers because the money is supposed to be handy enough.”

Now he’s proposing to build the Hyperloop – a mass transit system in California that will shunt people between San Francisco and Los Angeles at 700 miles an hour in tubes of compressed air. The tubes would be elevated high above the existing roadways. It uses some of the same principles as the pneumatic tubes they used to have in Arnotts for sending pound notes up to the office.

Going from Dublin and Galway, you’d be on it for about 10 minutes. There would be no fear of being stuck behind the tea-trolley on the way back from the toilet. This could just turn out to be pie in the sky – even though there won’t be a tea-trolley – but again it’s an example of Musk looking at a conventional way of doing things and saying – what happened if we changed it completely?

One wouldn’t wish to idolise Musk (which sounds like a brand of eau de toilette), but Ireland could at least do with a splash of his thought processes. We have wealthy individuals. We have innovators but where are our completely off-the-wall revolutionary ideas? You can tell there isn’t much going on because there are hardly any ‘artist’s impressions’ these days.

Artist’s Impressions are virtually unheard of since the end of the boom. Back then, artist’s impressions were the beautiful drawings of athletic people walking across a plaza – always a plaza – in front of glass buildings containing the usual atrium nonsense. They were chiefly used to put glitter on some turd of a property development in the middle of a bog with nothing but a sparsely-shelved Londis, 10 miles away.

There only artist impression recently showing what a DART would look like underground. It was suspiciously similar to Any Train Underground Ever.

I want to see an artists impression of something proposed for Ireland where something is hovering, and “the sun’s rays strike the transducer a force field and …” well I haven’t quite worked out the details yet. But details shmetails – let’s produce the mad ideas first. I’ll kick it off with two.

There’s been lots of talk about Cloud computing but what about actual clouds? Ireland is more or less permanently covered in cloud so could sell cloud harvesting rights. There’s no absolute guarantee of rain – not every cloud has a silver oxide lining but that’s the gamble you take. When the climate eventually fries half the planet, the world will start to take us cirrusly.

From clouds to computing, every day, ten years of video is uploaded to YouTube. All of this information has to be stored in huge data centers that need to be cooled at increasing expense on a warming planet. Eventually this will leave us two choices: Either vital recording of puppies and people falling over is going to have to be deleted or it – which is unthinkable – or it will have to be stored elsewhere.

Why not use human memory? As millions of us sit comatose in front of our Internet Browsers, there is huge spare capacity in our brains. Once science works out a way to read the mind’s eye, they’ll presumably work out how to write to it.  With very little effort Irish people getting angry on journal.ie could become the ultimate self-cooling mobile data centre for Google and Facebook. We all have something at the back of our minds. Why not get paid for it?

So c’mon Ireland let’s come up with something so mad, before you know it, Elon Musk is there at your door saying: “I want this to happen – for humanity.”

This article was first published in the Sunday Business Post on August 18th

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