Chapter 20
The System Will Be Difficult to Sell

           The few dualmode transportation articles in technical magazines, on the Internet, and elsewhere have generated interest, but because so few people are aware of the existence of these articles they have been of very limited value in introducing this system to the public.  The difficulties in disclosing and “selling” a revolutionary project of this enormous magnitude have become increasingly evident to those of us working in the dualmode field.  The mass media do not recognize dualmode as news because they don’t know about it, and the public doesn’t know about it because the media publishes only news as they see it.  This book will hopefully break that stalemate.  

Currently dualmode transportation might be compared to a big snowball sitting on top of a rounded snow-covered hill.  It is too big and heavy to be moved further by the few who originated it, and few who come up the hill are interested enough to put their weight behind it.  Eventually there will be enough people to get it rolling down hill.  As it rolls it will pick up more snow and its size will rapidly increase.  As the slope of the hill gets steeper the growing ball will gain speed.  The originators couldn’t stop it now if they wanted to.  The proposed dualmode system is infinitely more important than a snowball, but even though such a system will serve mankind remarkably well in many vital ways, it will be difficult to get the ball rolling. 

The intelligent-transportation people, the maglev people, the automobile companies, the railroads, the computer people, the research organizations, and the universities are urged to seriously study dualmode transportation.  And the voting and traveling public is urged to insist that dualmode systems be studied.  Little dualmode work has been done outside of personal efforts and startup-companies, but that is beginning to change.  When the pool of supporters reaches critical mass the chain reaction will be underway.  Dualmode will snowball. 

“Not invented here” (NIH) is a powerful but abstract psychological force that often seriously suppresses, delays, and sometimes even kills promising inventions and innovations.  NIH stems from competition, ego, and pride in one’s own.  Engineers, executives, and other workers are understandably much more interested in their own ideas and in the products of their own companies than they are interested in competing ideas.  The new ideas may be better, but the defenders of the status quo will often either have trouble seeing that fact, or prefer to ignore and deny it. 

NIH rears its ugly head in many ways, but one of the most common manifestations appears in the reception an “outside” invention is apt to get when the inventor tries to sell it to a company that is already working in the field of that invention.  Don’t get me wrong, most so-called “inventions” are worthless and should be rejected, but NIH also frequently suppresses the few that do have merit.  Most of the dualmode inventions are free (in the public domain) but NIH will still be a recurring problem in trying to promote this system.  NIH is not necessarily about money; it is often about pride, jealousy, power, ego, and corporate clannishness. 

Michael Hiltzik wrote, “Innovation is inherently antiestablishment.”  That is certainly true in this case: Dualmode will upset and change many major establishments.  These include the highway organizations, the automobile companies, the railroads, the trucking companies, the transit and bus establishments, a number of labor unions, and other large and long established entities including many government departments and bureaus.  There is great power inherent in these giants; the fireworks will be significant. 

On the opportunities side, we must show suffering drivers that dualmode will largely solve their commuting problems, convince environmentalists that it will do much to save the earth, tell transportation companies that there are fortunes to be made in the dualmode business, point out to automobile companies the market for a huge number of dualmode cars, alert the unions to a few hundred thousand new jobs, show the produce shippers how fast and cheap their shipping will be, and convince politicians that supporting dualmode will win them votes. 

          “People are only influenced in the direction in which they want to go, and influence consists largely in making them conscious of their wishes to proceed in that direction,” — T.S.Eliot

Several dozen dualmode presentations have been made to many types of groups in the last few years, and the reactions have always been favorable.  Yet as this is written in April 2006, with minor exceptions the news media have ignored it.  Newspapers carry astrology columns and print endless trivia, but in spite of repeated dualmode news releases to them they have largely kept their readers unaware of this very promising, necessary, and doable option to gridlock.  They always publish the “ain’t-it-awful” reports on the traffic and environmental problems, but decline to disclose the future solution, or even mention that there is one.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they haven’t taken the time to understand dualmode, and they may assume that it is crackpot.  So far the newspapers are part of the problem, but they will become a necessary part of the solution. 

After a slow start, some technical, trade, and special-interest magazines have printed a few dualmode articles.  Most politicians are unaware of it or have ignored it.  If the automotive industry is doing much on dualmode they are keeping it mostly quiet. 

Negative attitudes in such cases are not surprising.  Concepts that are obvious to some are not immediately obvious to all.  Also, people in positions of authority or influence (politicians, editors, reporters, business executives, big investors, and professors) are apt to act more conservatively in their areas of expertise than do lay people.  Their reputations, jobs, and fortunes could be jeopardized if they hastily support a revolutionary cause that later fails.  Big steps must be approached much more cautiously than little steps. 

I once had a wise supervisor who instructed me as follows: “If what you have to tell me is important, and you know you are right, then it is your duty to keep telling me until I listen and understand, until you convince me.  You must do your best to keep me from making mistakes.  I am the boss therefore I will make the decisions, but you must help me to make the correct decisions.”  The bosses in the case of REV will be many and diverse, and they will include you.  I hope you will insist that Dualmode Transportation be formally evaluated—again.  If the concept survives such a study, as it did so well in 1974 (Chapter 4), we should demand that the system be designed, developed, and built, and as soon as possible.  Yes, “Demand.”  We, collectively, are in charge, through the ballot box and through the marketplace. 

Part of the problem in getting national dualmode is that to some people it looks too good to be true; to them it promises too much.  Most people, for valid reasons, are suspicious of claimed miracles.  And it may seem unlikely that a few amateurs could have come up with a really promising system that the transportation professionals had missed or ignored.  Actually we amateurs had an advantage; we could think broadly because we weren’t tied to any particular narrow field that by itself couldn’t solve the myriad problems.  The automobile people work only to make better automobiles, the train people think only about trains.  But open-minded unbiased amateurs freely considered the use of individual cars, guideways, magnetic levitation, synchronous-electric propulsion, and automatic computer control all integrated into one system. 

The problems are broadly the same for innovators in all fields.  In an article in Technology Review magazine for Jan.-Feb., 1999, Chemical Engineer Robert Langer, holder of more than 330 patents wrote, “When you start doing [innovative] things, no one believes in them, nobody wants to fund them, and companies don’t want to do them.  And you get criticized a lot.  The important thing to remember is that it’s not going to be by the efforts of one person or one lab that these problems get solved.  What makes these approaches work is ultimately having thousands of people working on them.  For me, ideas are like children growing up.  I want to nurture them so they are stable and so they will happen.”  Susan Sarandon wrote, “Change never happens from the top down.  Power always yields because it has to.”  Mahatma Gandhi said: “First they ignore you.  Then they laugh at you.  Then they fight you.  Then you win.” 

At this point perhaps those who ignore or reject dualmode are making us stronger.  A boxer can’t win without sparring partners to develop his strength, coordination, tactics, and teach him the game.  The opposition to dualmode will teach us the game of salesmanship.  But in my travel through life I have found salesmen I didn’t like because they didn’t meet my minimum standards for honesty and credibility.  This book is largely a sales effort, so I had better watch what I write or I could end up disliking myself. 

This book does bother me to a degree, because it does sound a bit like the kind of advertising hype I hate.  Too many superlatives, too much enthusiasm, hardly what one would expect from a professional engineer.  I must plead guilty to bias in this case (if taking a strong position on anything is a sin).  The dualmode concept turned out to be far too promising for me to report it in a neutral unbiased manner. 

Comments by reviewers of one of the author’s papers on dualmode in April 1999 illustrate some of the types of promotional problems the system faces.  One reviewer wrote, “Excellent discussion paper.  Publish it as a resource we should keep.”  That word “keep” scared me.  We need to get to work on a dualmode system immediately, not archive the information and passively wait for the future to arrive catastrophically without any action on our part.  Dualmode development should have started long before this, not long after things become even more desperate than they are now. 

          That reviewer went on to write: “[There is a] problem with which session [of the technical conference] the dualmode paper could be assigned.”  In accord with such limitations, imagine the problems the early automobile met with in the Horse-and-Buggy conventions: “This dreamer wants to present a paper on a horseless carriage.  Shall we ignore him, or put his paper in the Wagon-Wheels session?  Or maybe it belongs in the Team-Harness session since he proposes to move the carriage by power equaling that of more than one horse.”  Another reviewer of that dualmode-paper wrote, “It has no real fit at ITSA.”  If dualmode transportation doesn’t fit the goals of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, where does it fit?  I am wondering about the use of the word “Intelligent” in the name of that organization.  Should they call themselves “Traditional Transportation Society” instead?  Shouldn’t the ITSA expand its categories?  There is something terribly unintelligent about prohibiting study of the future because it doesn’t fit the present. 

          Another type of problem is also seen when dualmode is presented at transportation conferences: The attendees of such conferences are mostly engineers and others who have specific responsibilities in existing transportation fields.  They are sent to these conferences by their managements to help the companies in their specialties.  Therefore, where given a choice between attending a dualmode presentation or one in a narrow existing field an engineer in that field is almost forced to miss the dualmode lecture.  They can’t waste their time on “crackpot” ideas they have never heard of.  In spite of the tremendous importance of the subject, dualmode presentations are sometimes poorly attended—because the subject is generally unknown. 

The newspapers, the political structure, the government agencies, the transportation authorities and committees, the technical societies, the universities, the transportation companies, and the automobile companies all have their own agendas.  These agendas are full and do not include consideration of dualmode transportation.  These organizations in general are not open to radical new thinking on the fringes of their charters.  Or at least it is very difficult to get their attention.  So this book is more directed to the public, to you, the people who need better transportation. 

The intelligent people in most of the mentioned organizations will support dualmode once they really listen, study, and understand it—when it becomes their job assignment.  There is the old story of a mule, and its owner who was carrying a club.  A concerned passerby asked what the club was for.  The mule owner said, “Well—I’ll tell you.  He is a good mule, but you have to get his attention first.”  This book is sort of an attention-getting club. 

It is said that there are two classes of people in the world: those who separate people into classes, and those who don’t.  But I have in mind two other classes of people: those who make things happen and those who keep things from happening.  Sometimes the latter appear to outnumber the former.  I just looked up the word “doer” and found this definition: “One who takes action rather than thinking or talking about things.”  But in the case of dualmode transportation the thinkers and talkers also belong in the doer class because the dualmode system will initially require a great deal of thinking and talking.  The actual designing and building will come later, but it will also require a lot of thinking and talking.  Those who will oppose the system will also be useful doers, because their opposition will spur the necessary debates and result in wiser decisions. 

In her newspaper column, Marilyn vos Savant, who is credited with the highest known IQ, was asked the following question by a reader: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we solve social problems?”  In her answer Marilyn pointed out that in science what is right and what is wrong is much clearer.  “If a moon mission has an electrical failure that is clearly ‘wrong’ and all scientists will agree.  But in society we argue about what is right and what is wrong.  Was it right to send a man to the moon?  (For instance, should the money have been spent to feed starving children instead?)”

This difference between sociology and technology is a major part of our difficulty in trying to sell a dualmode system.  After studying the system almost all scientists and engineers will agree that the dualmode concept is technically sound, that it can be built, and that it will work.  But the system won’t be sold to the public on technical practicability alone.  It will be the much more controversial sociological issues that will take time and make the acceptance of this system difficult. 

We need to remember that all inventions start out unknown.  At their inception they are only known and understood by their inventor(s).  When word begins to spread, there will be doubters and ridiculers.  A high percentage of new inventions fail, some succeed, and a very few revolutionize society.  The Revolutionary Dualmode Transportation System is going to be among those few.  This is true because the need for a solution to our transportation and related problems is overwhelming, and the individual traditional fixes we have been applying are not working.  A dualmode system is the only solution that can solve most of these problems in one neat package.  We must accept the fact that that neat package will be huge and enormously expensive. 

         Next: CHAPTER 21
Help Needed



Last modified: August 02, 2006