Drones of Well-Meaning

Here’s an interesting project.

Fabulous website, lovely presentation… a lovely video that looks like it cost more than the estimated cost of the project itself.

So obviously I’m in love with this stuff… but… they guy’s obsessed with the phrase “paradigm shift”… and he himself is (alas) coming profoundly from an old paradigm… a couple of them in fact.

1) Yet another western solution to be imposed top-down “as a product” on the the “3rd world” from on high.

I don’t know if these peeps have ever lived in the tropics… I have, and different laws of physics apply… or more accurately, different laws of biology. Shit stops working. Concepts of time are totally different. Things are jerry-built. Things are used for purposes that they’re not originally intended for. Stuff decays – fast. Everything turns into a habitat.

You can’t do “tropical” without 1/2 a lifetime of local-knowledge. If it’s not built and designed by the people on the ground, it’s probably going to fail. I know what would happen if these things were set up in the place I used to live – they’d fill up with spiders… or kids would play with them… salt would leak in somewhere… they’d fall foul of local politics. Within two years, you’d have these weird discoloured orbs everywhere, and the UAVs? Who knows where they went?… but you’d see the UAV part here or there, used for something else.


2) This is a great idea – but it’s a platform, not a product. “we can guarantee to the authorities that it’s not used for illegal purposes”


Are you shitting me? That’s what it’s going to be used for FIRST – especially in “3rd world countries” – where it’s the authorities themselves that are up to their necks in crime. Where do you think “Authority” comes from? The consent of the governed?

Platform, platform, platform. This is a fantastic idea, but it needs to be a set of vitamin parts in kitset form that can be adapted to local conditions and local materials. Forget the idea that it’s The New Pony Express… it’s not. That’s like inventing a horse and saying “this is a new way of delivering letters”. It’s like inventing an internet, and saying “this is a new way of sending faxes”.

As he hinted… they’re up against some barriers, the first one that sprang to mind… batteries. That’s the killer. If the batteries situation gets solved, then yes, we’ll probably see something like this in some shape or form. They’re already selling smart-phone controlled drones in a mainstream electrical goods shop up the road for $499 kiwi dollars. That’s a meteoric price-nose-dive… but it ain’t capable of carrying 2kg for 10 miles… and that isn’t a software problem, that’s an energy problem… and it’s a hard one.

I love this idea – but I think it’s vapourware. I think it’s someone with investment capital, producing beautiful presentations etc, fishing for more investment capital. In their “We’re Hiring” page, they’re basically after people who “can actually build it” rather than just talk about it. That isn’t a good sign. It’s style looking for substance.

I might be wrong about that last bit of course… but there’s a quick, easy way to check where new ventures are coming from… scroll down, scroll down, scroll down… and look at the very last thing on the page. If it’s a ©opyright symbol, then they’re mindset is from the past. They’re from hierarchy rather than network. They’re about controlling information.

When you abandon “Intellectual Property”, you get community…

… and community is the Intel Inside of the 3rd Industrial Revolution. Community can out-build, out-innovate, out-think, out-test and (increasingly) out-ship any competing secret-squirrel startup. We don’t do economies of scale (unless you’re dealing with pure information), but we do do diversity… and diversity is the hallmark of stability and vitality.

I’ve been writing about this stuff for about 4 years – most of the bright ideas never happen… but something that is clear as day… if an invention is emblazoned with copy-monopoly symbols, it radically reduces the chances of anything actually happening. Once you accept that mindset, then you’re basically swearing fealty to a hierarchy – you’re begging for someone “higher-up” to rescue you from obscurity.

Fuck that, just make it.

1 Comment » for Drones of Well-Meaning
  1. Chris H says:

    It would be interesting if they released their calculations. If all the numbers they give are accurate then they shouldn’t have any problem building the things.