So a "small British company" claims to have built a jet engine that is going to make jet engines look like propellor engines [relevant]. All they need is $400 million to build a bigger prototype.
Once in a while, we hear about these sorts of scenarios. A good example was Bussard's Polywell Fusion Reactor, which promises unlimited, clean, terrorist-proof, electrical power generation at low cost. They had a small prototype and just needed one Godzillion dollars to build a bigger prototype and move towards commercialization.
Yours truly is a big fan of breakthrough tech. In my lifetime, I'm hopeful I'll get to upload my brain to a computer. I'm hoping powered exoskeletons become a commodity. I'm hoping driverless cars become the only legal kind. I'm hoping a cheap injection of nanobots will cure anyone's cancer. I'm hoping that neural interfaces allow us to access the internet directly from our brains. I'm hoping widespread deployment of breakthrough solar energy along Earth's equator makes electricity free, robust and ubiquitous.
Do we really need to get from Tokyo to New York in 4 hours? How many business transactions require intercontinental commutes that cannot be as easily accomplished via video conferencing and/or email? And were we to invest hundreds of millions on a prototype, then assuredly billions of dollars on actual aircraft that utilized this hypersonic engine...how much would tickets have to cost to recoup the development costs as well as return a profit to the investors? While they develop a really fast, really expensive 4-hour intercontinential flight, elsewhere fiber optic lines, satellites and increased data integrity allow better-than-ever teleconferencing. If it cost...say $5,000 a ticket to take this hypersonic flight, how much video-conferencing equipment could be bought in lieu?
And in the meantime: what other projects could take that $400 million investment and dramatically increase the quality of life for human beings? I realize that I sound a bit Young Idealistic when I ask this. But the (as an anecdotal) truth is my company has 24 medical device projects in our development pipeline that could help with diseases ranging from heart valve failure to autism to infant scoliosis and cancer. With $400 million I am 100% sure I could have all 24 devices on the market in the next five years and then return $380 million back to the investors unspent (not to mention the massive profits they'd realize from the 24 devices).
An engineer I know at another company in town is leading an effort to build a groundbreaking device that should make brain aneurysms a thing of the past, but needs $12 million in venture capital to get the device through clinical trials.
Or the venture capitalists could spend $400 million on a hypersonic aircraft prototype.
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