December 30, 2013
Supersonic Business Jets And The Cutting Edge

Spike Aerospace claims they will deliver a supersonic business jet in 2018. A competitor, Aerion, now puts their own supersonic jet delivery in in 2021 (a multi-year slip btw).

Since the world now has so many billionaires and highly paid CEOs I would like to see more cutting edge products developed to address their needs and desires. They can afford to pay high prices for small volume and technologically sophisticated products. What would be ideal: major efforts to develop rejuvenation therapies that at first only the wealthiest will be able to afford.

Our problem: as long the wealthy make most of their personal expenditures on just more of the same stuff everyone else can buy (e.g. the whole 787 rather than just a seat on it; a house with more rooms) their purchases aren't doing much to push the cutting edge of technology. But if they buy stuff moves the edge of the technologically possible then they fund early stage development of technologies that will some day reach us all.

So what we need: ideas for cutting edge products that the wealthy would want to buy first at very high prices. Got any ideas?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 December 30 10:13 PM 

RC said at December 30, 2013 11:36 PM:

This is the main problem. The wealthy are motivated by relative status, not absolute wealth or technical sophistication. They'd rather be the wealthiest in a poorer, less technically sophisticated society than be average in a more egalitarian society that was more technically sophisticated and had greater absolute wealth.

James Bowery said at December 31, 2013 11:18 AM:

More to the point is what appeals to the cortigiana onestas. For instance, the reason the Gates Foundation focuses on a "green revolution" in Africa based on sending out seeds that can be cultivated by subsistence farmers for greater yield, rather than, capitalizing the manufacture of the Alga6 photobioreactor, which would quadruple world production of protein on 20% of the land area (shifting that land area to deserts thereby saving the Amazon and the endangered species in Africa while also relieving natural fisheries by providing cheap fish food for aquaculture, and doing so with far less fresh water requirements, etc.), is because the cortigiana onestas are too shallow to to find the Alga6 emotionally appealing.

Likewise, a supersonic private jet is more of a "boy" thing whereas -- and a little risky at that. Brin and or Page chartering their own 747 for a flying party while on the way to Africa to, again, pretend to be doing philanthropy is the dream of every Ivy League cortigiana onesta. I mean, what's the rush when you've got more important things to do like party down with your oh-so-concerned-for-the-world Ivy League cortigiana onestas?

don wilkins said at December 31, 2013 11:23 AM:

I cannot agree with the blanket statement of the previous commentor. Unless he is familar with the thought processes of the wealthy, I assume he blows smoke. I am not wealthy by any means but have no desire to be average in an "egalitarian" society if such does not violate the laws of thermodynamics.

One idea I have been pondering is a medical facility with the latest stem cell and nanotechnology operating somewhere outside of the gentle constraints of the FDA. Many football players have sustained terrible injuries, such as torn ACL, this year. Considering the money involved and the risk-taking of pro athletes would an advanced medical facility draw in these folks? Would the work with the pros improve the technology, reduce the costs so the average smoo would have a shot at it? Pro football paid billions of dollars for concussions caused by head impacts. If stem cells and/or nanotechnology could reverse those efects what would that cure be worth to military and civilian victims of concussion?

RC said at December 31, 2013 1:09 PM:

don wilkins,

The "thought processes" of the wealthy like most people derive in large part from our evolutionary history as social primates.

Among social primates, the name of the game is clawing your way to the top of the social hierarchy, acquiring the most social status, and translating that status into reproduction. Social status is fixed. It's inherently a zero-sum game. The whole point is to have more than the other guy. It's completely relative. Having just 1 banana is fine as long as everyone else has none. It's better than having 5 bananas if the other monkeys also have 5 or more than you do.

Needless to say, burying wealth once you've acquired it into fixed, monopolistic goods like land, fine art, precious metals and jewels, sports teams, etc., is a better way to maintain your relative wealth and thus relative status than risking it on technological progress and absolute wealth.

Nick G said at December 31, 2013 5:21 PM:

A clear example is the Tesla. In fact, leveraging the willingness of affluent buyers to fund R&D of cheaper models is central to their business model.

I'm baffled that the very wealthy don't see the value of funding medical research. Why does Michael Milken put very large dollars into prostate cancer (the thing that he suffered from personally) and neglect longevity research? Aging is certainly going to get him, even if prostate cancer doesn't. Unless, of course, he gets it first.

What about subscription models? Does the Longevity Foundation do much good quality research? Would the Buck longevity center consider selling subscriptions?

James Bowery said at January 1, 2014 10:14 AM:

Nick G, your question "Why does Michael Milken put very large dollars into prostate cancer (the thing that he suffered from personally) and neglect longevity research?" is central.

My cortigiana-onestas refinement of RC's perspective may be applicable. The cortigiana onestas don't really care about SENS. They're too shallow to realize that they're effectively high-class prostitutes with very limited shelf-life. Moreover, no one is about to tell them what they are in a way that would elicit responsible decisions. The whole milieu operates at an unconscious, hence irresponsible, level. The patrons of these women don't consciously see them as cortigiana onestas and the cortigiana onestas don't see themselves that way. They're all just Olympian gods -- living as though they are already immortal -- deigning to bestow their beneficent attentions on we mortals.

One tactic that might penetrate the fog would be to combine the Michael Milken phenomenon with RC's perspective:

Something like the M-Prize but that will keep the SENS results proprietary and provide the benefits only to the subscribers. This would sacrifice the "church lady" moral vanity that is central to the "Olympian god" milieu, so a lot of the cortigiana onestas would see the subscribers as "evil". On the other hand, the more realistic among the cortigiana onestas would wake the f*** up to their true status as high class prostitutes and devote themselves even more intensely to their prospective patrons -- those who were among the elite recipients of SENS technology -- in hopes of escaping their dire fate as they age. Some of this awakened mileiu would, of course, try to hold on to their sense of Olympian moral superiority, which would provide we mere mortals richly entertaining displays of the extremes to which those who are both highly funded and highly motivated will go to stroke their moral vanity.

Randall Parker said at January 1, 2014 4:39 PM:

don wilkins,

I very much want to see the rise of very credible offshore stem cell treatment centers that have lots of researchers working at the centers. Rich people could fund the research at a few such centers and thereby create the expertise that would enable the centers to deliver credible experimental therapies to anyone who could afford them. Then the payments for treatments and the donations could help fund much faster iteration on cell therapies.

Rejuvenation therapy development is what I would most like the billionaires to treat as their favorite philanthropic endeavor.

Randall Parker said at January 1, 2014 4:47 PM:

James Bowery,

I took the trouble to look up cortigiana onesta:

There were two types of courtesan. In one category was a type of courtesan known (in Italy) as the cortigiana onesta, or the honest courtesan, who was cast as an intellectual. In the other was the cortigiana di lume, a lower class of courtesan. Although the latter was still considered better than an average prostitute, the former was the sort most often romanticized and treated more-or-less equal to women of the nobility. It is with this type of courtesan that the art of "courtisanerie" is best associated.

Perhaps I am being dense. But I do not see how Ivy League grad women in non-profit organizations are preventing billionaires from funding rejuvenation therapy development. Or am I missing (your very unclear) point? Sometimes your bitterness or sarcasm gets in the way of whatever point you are trying to make.

James Bowery said at January 1, 2014 11:02 PM:

I make reference to cortigina onesta because there is a well-defined historic role, evincing an evolutionary psychological phenomenon, that seems to fit the emergence of the new "courts". The evolutionary psychology of these "courts" deserves serious analysis -- particularly when those presiding exhibit seemingly insane behavior (such as failing to plow money into the M-Prize or similar SENS initiatives).

I did say my "very unclear" point "may be applicable".

There certainly aren't any alternative hypotheses on the table that I've seen that are plausible. These guys just seem crazy when it comes to some very big issues that the "rational man" hypothesis should deal with, don't they?

Randall Parker said at January 2, 2014 9:30 PM:

Well, the "rational man" hypothesis is clearly wrong. But why don't billionaires fund more research into rejuvenation? One plausible reason for the older ones: they do not think the benefits will come soon enough to save them. That's certainly true for Warren Buffett.

I think we need to get younger billionaires interested in rejuvenation.

Nick G said at January 3, 2014 3:01 PM:

I think you've hit on the fundamental reason, in general: people get discouraged at a very early age about the inevitability of death. It's so painful that they can't really revisit the question in a rational way: they just assume that nothing can be done.

And, yes, I suspect that youth would help. For instance, people at Google, a very youth-oriented and "infinite-possibilties" company, seem to be trying to do something.

Brett Bellmore said at January 4, 2014 4:18 AM:

I would be more excited about cheaper means of long distance transportation, rather than faster. Granted, it would be cool to know that some tiny fraction of the population could get around faster than the speed of sound. But, short of hitting the lottery, I won't be part of that fraction.

For a while there, though, I could afford long distance air travel. And that was far more cool, it's why I'm married to somebody from the other side of the planet. I'd like to have that time back, to be able to see the world again. And that needs cheap, not fast. Given that most of the cost seems to be for fuel, it needs efficiency, not speed.

Make air travel half as expensive, rather than twice as fast, and that will be a bigger thing.

Zing said at January 4, 2014 6:57 PM:

a billion dollars doesn't get you much in the way of life extending research, and there are very few people worth multiple billions who have their wealth as ready money.

I'd spend my money this way for sure.

Bowery: your writing is dense and nonsensical.

Nick G said at January 5, 2014 6:27 AM:


You'd be surprised. Last time I checked, the National Institute on Aging had a budget of around $1B, but almost all of it was dedicated to specific diseases, like Alzheimer's. Only about $30M was spend on basic research on the causes of aging.

A billion dollars would make an *enormous* difference.

Tim said at January 5, 2014 2:31 PM:

I think the problem of a Michael Milken or Bill Gates supporting age reversal technology in general or SENS in particular is two-fold. First I don't think that the SENS people have yet gotten fully passed the "giggle factor", the idea that this is some kind of snake oil. They have made considerable inroads in recent years convincing some (the google calico initiative being one obviously example) but they haven't yet fully gotten mainsteam medical science on board(yet).

A Bill Gates or a Milken wouldn't want to be perceived as being "suckered" by some kind of con man, tricking the "old fool" out of his money. That and the fact that some posters have mentioned, that the tech would likely come to late to benefit Warren Buffett, Gates, Milken etc.; maybe a younger billionaire like Elon Musk would look at it differently. Sure Musk has probably heard about this:

"Australian and US researchers hope an anti-ageing compound could be trialled on humans as early as next year, following a key breakthrough that saw the ageing process reversed in mice.

The study, involving Harvard University and the University of NSW, discovered a way of restoring the efficiency of cells, completely reversing the ageing process in muscles.

Two-year-old mice were given a compound over a week, moving back the key indicators of ageing to that of a six-month-old mouse. Researchers said this was the equivalent of making a 60-year-old person feel like a 20-year-old."

James Bowery said at January 5, 2014 3:41 PM:

A billion dollars in something like the M-Prize buys you a _lot_ with virtually zero "giggle factor".

My writing may be dense but trying to understand the nonsense of people who don't get the power of objective-criteria prize awards demands deep excursions into nonsensical territory. Of course, we can forgive the likes of Zing and perhaps avoid his depths of nonsense in our search for explanations, but when it comes to guys like Gates who not only has billions and has not only placed billions in supposed service of mankind but has made his money in an industry based on operational definitions (algorithms) it is epic nonsense that of the nearly 200 references to "prize" on the Gates Foundation website, not one of them is for an objective criterion challenge backed up by a prize awarded for achievement of that objective, such as the Longitude Prize, the Orteig Prize, the X-Prize and the M-Prize, as well as the Hutter Prize).

Putting money up for a prize with an objective criterion -- operationally defined -- does not subject one's self to ridicule since the money is only being given out upon objective achievement. This is because it doesn't put the money at risk in any way other than that implied by the quality or lack thereof, of the operational definition. Get a reasonable objective criterion and then plow money into the prize for achieving it commensurate with the value delivered.

It's a no-brainer really -- so we have to ask ourselves, what kind of nonsense is going on in the heads of all these people who are funding all kinds of stuff with up-front money that they could have put into an objective-criterion prize -- people who have high IQs but clearly are operating as though they are brain-dead when it comes to the most important issues? Try to explain that nonsense without sounding dense and nonsensical yourself in 25 words or less, and good luck.

Randall Parker said at January 5, 2014 5:05 PM:

James Bowery,

I make reference to cortigina onesta because there is a well-defined historic role, evincing an evolutionary psychological phenomenon, that seems to fit the emergence of the new "courts".

I gotta say I have no idea what you mean by new courts. Wikipedia won't help me on that one. You obviously do not like Zing's response but I can not make sense of you when you go sarcastic and bitter. I'm well versed on what evolutionary psychologists think. But it is not obvious to me what out of evolutionary psychologist theorizing is relevant to the point you haven't successfully communicated yet.

James Bowery said at January 6, 2014 4:05 AM:

Think of the tension between polygamy and monogamy in European human ecologies going back to the paleolithic environmentally imposed monogamy that likely forms a lot of the character of indigenous Europeans. Agriculture comes along reduces the environmental pressures in pre-civil Europe. Pre-civil Europeans respond with normative natural duel. Natural duel not being compatible with civilization, JudeoChristianization effectively outlaws it but in its place provides restrictions on the nobility as well as Paulist normative restrictions on female power in relation to their husbands. This compromise works relatively well in civilizing the northern Europeans for centuries until the southern European nobility begin institutionalizing de facto polygamy in among the nobility -- their courts having "courtesans" fulfilling the role of the harem. This breaks the social JudeoChristian social contract and, in combination with the Guttenberg Press we have a rebellion against the Catholic Church in the form of Protestantism -- ironically triggered in part by Henry the VIII and his attempt to ape the Italian courts. Be that as it may, at least the fiction of a monogamous nobility is reinstituted until the last century which saw the falling away of, first, the Paulist norms and then the erosion of the fiction that the "nobility" was really monogamous. The "liberated woman" became the corporate concubine -- the neo-courtesan. The highest class of such women -- whether they were married or not -- served as the neo-cortigina onesta to those above the "glass ceiling". In the periphery we have various classes of lower status males, many of whose wives long to be admitted to the neo-courts as neo-cortigina onestas so they, too, can be "admitted to court". A large part of the tension in these neo-courts is the moral vanity that is reminiscent of the Italian courts, with their intimate relationship to the Catholic Church hierarchy prior to the Protestant revolt.

Nick G said at January 6, 2014 7:28 AM:


I'd say the basic problem is that fatalism and acceptance of death is deeply in almost everyone's psychology, rich or poor.

On the other hand, mainstream medicine really isn't excited about longevity research: it threatens their day-to-day business model, because it threatens to eliminate the various diseases of aging which are their bread and butter. Drug companies, especially, want to develop incremental drugs - things just good enough to get another patent, and extend their income another 20 years.

It appears to be verboten in the medical community to say out loud that one wishes to extend lifetimes - one is allowed only to say that one wishes to reduce disability and disease, and extend "healthspan".

Tim said at January 6, 2014 9:16 AM:

And governments Nick worrying about paying for longevity treatments in its pensioners; who now aren't going to die on schedule and will continute to draw benefits. But along with the "fatalism" I wouldn't underestimate the power of ridicule. Imagine if Buffett announced that he was withdrawing his fortune that he was going to leave to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation; announced that instead he was giving it to SENS; imagine the abuse that would be directed at him from the media. Selfish old man who doesn't want to die; no fool like and old fool taken like that, etc. The strongly leftist leaning media really hates rich capitalists anyway; they rarely say much about Gatesí philanthropic work (or at least as little as possible). They would love to denounce what they would label as the ultimate rich manís self-indulgent desire to not die, like the selfish bastards havenít lived long enough already.

Nick G said at January 6, 2014 11:41 AM:


Ridicule is only possible if people can't bring themselves to accept something, so the question is: why can't people accept longevity extension? And, why would anyone think longevity extension was selfish, when no one thinks curing cancer is selfish?

The answer: it's too painful to consider hoping for it, only to have one's hopes dashed. Better to rely on a life after death...

Mark Bahner said at February 3, 2014 9:13 PM:

"So what we need: ideas for cutting edge products that the wealthy would want to buy first at very high prices. Got any ideas?"

If I were rich, it wouldn't be a supersonic jet, except in rare circumstances. It would be an absolutely fabulous teleconference full-wall 3-D video screens with 4k definition and surround speakers.

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