Despite how sincerely marketers would like you to believe it, there hasn't been much innovation in transportation over the last 50 years. Excepting Ralph Nader, automobiles are more or less the same as they were in the 70's. The average age of the airplanes in the sky is 14 years. Amtrak runs on the same rails it has since the 80's. It is enough that Tyler Cowen claims: "
When it comes to transportation at least, There is a Great Stagnation" Yet when Iron Man himself comes and suggests there's a new way of doing things (even though it is a very old way indeed), people get excited.
There's a cycle of popular opinion which follows the advent of new, fanciful, catch-all ideas. We see it with wonder-drugs, wonder-food, and wonder-engineering, each cultivated by their own niche of bloggers, supporters, and idealists, and it has a name: the "Gartner hype-cycle":
Gartner Research posited the existence of the hype-cycle to explain the wild ways in which expectations grow, diminish, and plateau for new technology, and also to suggest how far away emerging technology was, all the way back in 1995. It applies just as well for new engineering developments.
So while dozens of people have written about the impossibility of the hyperloop project, its "Astronomical Pricing", and exhibited general skepticism, its worth noting that Elon Musk is to date the only person willing to put enough money into R&D to attempt such a project. Thats interesting enough, even if he fails.
Over the next few years, however, remember the Hype-Cycle. By tempering expectations, we'll temper disillusionment, and appreciate how fun (if arrogant) thinking this big actually is.
Oceanographer, Mathemagician, and Interested Party