Elon Musk’s much-anticipated hyperloop, revealed.

I don’t have a ton to say about it on a technological level.  It sounds interesting; I have absolutely no expertise with which to assess claims about its feasibility; I am tentatively willing to grant the core premise on the credentials of its designers; I’m sure there would be unexpected hiccoughs in bringing it into reality.

The politics of this are interesting, and revealing.  So, look: the hyperloop is essentially a train.  It’s a ground-based mass-transit system that follows a set track.  It caters to the same needs that a train caters to — unlike cars and airplanes, it’s not any anywhere-to-anywhere system.  If you like the idea of passenger trains as an intercity option, then the hyperloop is basically a train system that has certain advantages (if it could be made to work).

But Musk leads off by criticizing the (eminently ridiculous) California HSR project and sets up the hyperloop as a rival.  He also speaks approvingly of airflight.  Which means that by the ironclad logic of tribalism in which liberals love rail and hate air while conservatives love air and hate rail, liberals hate the hyperloop and write long, angry manifestos saying that of course it will never work, while conservatives forget all of their objections to terminus-to-terminus systems and get enthralled with the technological wizardry of it.

Which is so nakedly absurd that it’s hard to actually talk about it.  When I was composing the previous paragraph, I briefly took leave of my senses and tried to find some reason why trains were congruent with liberal sensibilities and air travel was congruent with conservative ones, and quickly ran aground because, of course, no such reasons exist.  They’re just transportation modes.  They aren’t political.  They have no values.

The hyperloop should be judged not on whether it will put egg on the face of HSR supporters, but whether it will actually work.  Which, in light of my generally small-c-non-political-conservative views on technology, it probably won’t, but I’d love to be proved wrong.

Someone should find some useful, short freight path, and see if a hyperloop proves useful to moving automated freight.  Then we could scale up to bigger and more passenger-oriented.


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