Elon Musk, hero of many, madman to others, has hatched a plan to provide fast internet access across the globe, but is the man who has created a rocket that can return to earth off his rocker?
Sarah Palin may be cursing. Assuming she doesn't think the Internet is a hoax, and thus doesn't do it, her domain, Alaska, may be one of the places on earth not to benefit. Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla, boss of SpaceX, man who wants to take human like to Mars, man who first proposed hyperloop, and who is reportedly looking at neural lace, the kind of technology that alluded the most advanced creations in Star Trek, has filed a patent.
The patent is for coating the planet - that's this one, not the other planet Musk wants us to inhabit - in 4,425 lightweight satellites beaming one gigabit a second internet access to every man, women, child and indeed, humanoid, synthetic human and AI system in the world. Err, just to be clear, that's this world only, Martians won't be getting it.
But stage one is a more modest plan and will entail a mere 800 satellites, just covering an area between 15 degrees north to 60 degrees north, and from 15 degrees south to 60 degrees south, which apparently won't provide cover all of Alaska, so that why it's bad for Ms Palin.
Other reports say that, at first, the Musk project will only cover the US.
The satellites will weigh just 850 pounds, which is super light in the satellite game, and will apparently be roughly the same size as a Mini Cooper, which is small.
Here is one curiosity : that speed: 1Gbps, may seem fast now, but maybe not so fast in ten tears time? 5G, is reportedly going to be faster than that.
Also, talk is that Musk is projecting a $10 billion cost, which critics say is absurdly expensive, but actually for coating the planet in bandwidth, that feels more like a bargain.
Here is the other oddity. Musk is not the only one working on such as idea. Both Boeing and Virgin Galactic have plans. It's odd, because the cynics don't seem to want to mention that, they dismiss Musk, without saying that there are others thinking along similar lines. But then the Musk's plan would more than double the number of satellites up there, so that's not trivial.
But there is no shortage of cynics. Take this article from The Register, dripping with cynicism, stating: "This latest satellite project is an example of a master showman grabbing the headlines with more style than substance. Tesla, his electric car business, made a $4,000 loss on each car it sold back in 2015 and in its most recent quarterly financial results posted a loss of $293m. The ridiculous hyperloop high-speed train he keeps plugging is so far advanced that a group of students has only just managed to demonstrate a proof-of-concept maglev – well-proven tech already in regular use in Japan and China."
Here is the problem with the arguments presented by the cynics. Technology is changing rapidly, arguably it is changing exponentially. If you apply linear thinking, and assume technological change at the sedate pace we saw in the last century, then Musk is indeed out there, mentally on Mars, but with no hope of ever going there.
But these days, technological progress is such - accentuated by convergence, as different technologies merge, making new applications possible - that remarkable new opportunities are set to open up. The savvy, the astute business people, the visionaries, and those who care about the human race, try to extrapolate forwards allowing for exponential technological innovation.
Maybe, based on the current state of the art, hyperloop, a mass market priced Tesla, living on Mars, brain interfaces to AI (that's neural lace) and 4,000 or so satellites, may not be possible, but the state of the art in 2020, or 2022, will be different, and now is the time to plan for this.
And while many love to knock, at least Musk is trying to save the planet, as well as create a new breathing planet; maybe those who criticise are simply jealous.