Innovation And Regulation: Tacocopter Edition

Tyler Cowen blogs about this article which describes the so called Tacocopter, a driverless vehicle that delivers tacos to wherever you happen to be.

Indeed, the concept behind Tacocopter is very simple, and very American: You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order — and your location — are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you’re standing.

The problem? Regulation.

The U.S. government is single-handedly preventing you from ordering a taco and having it delivered to you by a totally sweet pilot-less helicopter.

Whether you think the Tacocopter is awesome or silly, this points to a genuine problem. Government regulation has grown significantly over the past 50 (or 100) years, and it is getting in the way of innovation, slowing down the pace at which we discover things that could make our lives better. It seems particularly harmful in areas such as medicine, or energy, but since innovation is about discovering the unknown, there is no way to tell what we are missing.

Lawmakers need to keep the longer term in mind when regulating us. Otherwise we risk staying in the great stagnation for quite a while.

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A Life, Analyzed

Stephen Wolfram has collected data on his daily life for a long time, and having analyzed some of it, written a fascinating blogpost.

Every day—in an effort at “self awareness”—I have automated systems send me a few emails about the day before. But even though I’ve been accumulating data for years—and always meant to analyze it—I’ve never actually gotten around to doing it. But with Mathematica and the automated data analysis capabilities we just released in Wolfram|Alpha Pro, I thought now would be a good time to finally try taking a look—and to use myself as an experimental subject for studying what one might call “personal analytics”.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s an interesting read. Google, and companies like them, have started to show how powerful massive amounts of data can be when combined with intelligent tools. I suspect we’ve only just scraped at the surface.

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