Mailbag: Death Is Inevitable, but So Are Pilotless Passenger Drones

Q: Andy, let me just remind you along with everyone else: Death is inevitable, correct? Let me clarify by saying nobody lives forever. Have you ever seen that show 1000 Ways to Die? This just means now people could die by something going wrong with passenger drones. Are you claiming risk is off the table? Thank you kindly!

A: First off, I can introduce you to some very wealthy venture capital investors who might disagree with your assertion about the inevitability of death. They’re spending tens of millions to prove you wrong. But that’s a topic for another day.

To answer your question, risk is NEVER off the table. I could die tonight sampling my wife’s cooking. Maybe she mistook the arsenic for the salt. Maybe she grabbed something out of the fridge that was overripe and quite lethal.

But these things generally don’t happen often. And that kind of risk will go way down when we all have robotic chefs doing the cooking. As robots increasingly perform tasks previously reserved for humans, the risks we face on a daily basis will shrink accordingly.

Built-in automatic systems already do the majority of piloting commercial airplanes. And they will soon be doing the driving so we don’t have to. Pilotless passenger drones are just the next step as we transition to a robotics-dominated era. And they’ll give people a whole new level of speed and convenience.

Yes, there are risks.

A midair mechanical malfunction. A diabolical hack into the drone’s remote control system. A collision with a sudden swarm of birds. You, the passenger, mistakenly pushing the eject button. (Though I doubt they’ll even have such a button. Sends the wrong message.)

All of these could happen. But they are all extremely low-probability scenarios. And even if something like that happens to you, I have some good news for you.

You’re much better off relying on sophisticated drone software to return you to terra firma than a clueless flying taxi driver. There are not many Chesley Sullenbergers flying the good flight. But passenger drones will come with multiple sophisticated automatic responses to these scenarios, plus hundreds more. And “impregnable” protection from hackers will be part of the deal.

As long as there are humans, there will be mistakes, accidents, pratfalls… all caused by the vagaries of human error. But in the era of robotics, human error will not have the opportunity to cause quite as much havoc as it has throughout history.

I expect your odds of dying by passenger drone will be closer to plane odds than car odds. Car passengers meet their untimely end 130 times per 1 billion hours. Airline passengers – only 31 times per 1 billion.

Risk is not off the table. It never will be entirely. But it can and will be drastically reduced.

+ Early Investing Co-Founder Andy Gordon

Q: Why is the government going after bitcoin all of a sudden? Is this a real threat?

A: Yes, it is a real threat. A clash between government and crypto has always been inevitable. The fact that we’re starting to see more pushback from the establishment is a good sign, though. It shows that crypto is emerging as a legitimate contender on the world stage.

Today’s governments run on fiat money. Nothing finite, like gold, backs any country’s currency. Both physical and digital currency can be created at will. The value of fiat money tends to drop over time, and central banks often target an official inflation rate of 2%.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have limited supplies, so their prices can rise over time. Modern governments tend to dislike “hard” forms of money like bitcoin and gold. When the value of these assets increases, it makes fiat money look bad in comparison.

So it’s no surprise that President Trump and his team attacked bitcoin. The most interesting part of this is how Trump framed the situation. After attacking bitcoin and Libra, Trump tweeted

We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!

 

This is what the conflict between crypto and government is all about. Cryptocurrencies are the first real threat to fiat money in modern history. So naturally, there’s going to be turbulence along the way.

+ Early Investing Co-Founder Adam Sharp