This morning's incredibly weird Times story about humans flying with wings reignited a longstanding curiosity of mine: How much entrepreneurial funding -- VC funding is probably the easiest to trace -- goes to mainstream for-profit projects vs. do-gooder projects (like clean-water initiatives in Africa) vs. weird, edgy projects like human gills or personalized space travel?
I'd suspect an amount disproportionate to these projects' likely utility goes to the latter, fueled by thinking along the lines of "This is so awesome!" or "We must be the first company to cross the human-fish divide!" Not to dump on people who tread the cutting edge of progress, but we have this problem with mixed-up incentives in the military budget, too -- too much funding goes to super-high-tech submarine doohickeys and too little to, say, teaching soldiers Arabic. From the Times story:
“Is it possible?” said Roy Haggard, a founder of [aerospace company] Vertigo and a skydiver himself. “Yeah.” If [human flier] Mr. Corliss can raise enough money, Mr. Haggard’s company will help him design and build the runway. “Everybody wants to be the first one to do it,” Mr. Haggard said.
Which leads to an obvious and inevitable question: Why?
“Because everybody thinks that it’s not possible,” Mr. Corliss said. “The point is to show people anything can be done. If you want to do amazing things, then you have to take amazing risks.”
I dunno. How amazing is it to turn yourself into a gliding squirrel -- or, as in the video below, an image out of an Angel of Death B-movie?