Being a Technologist

Or, “Where’s my flying car?”

The Recode/Decode pod had this great interview with Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, authors of the book The Future is Faster Than You Think. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a futurist, and the concept of accelerating technological change has been on my mind for a long time. FutureShock might have been the first foray into the subject for me, and I followed that up with several books by Ray Kurzweil, including The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near. The years have given me some skepticism that we’ll see the type of changes that Kurzweil envisions, but 2040 does seem like a long ways of from here. Given just what we’ve seen in the past couple of decades, I’m am certain that we are going to see a continuing rapid transformation.

Diamandis is a colleague of Kurweil, they both are co-founders of Singularity University, which aims to help business leaders understand the changes that are on the horizon. The confluence of new technologies are enabling things that were just not possible a decade ago: robotics, genomics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, blockchain. Having an understanding about these trends is a huge competitive advantage.

Diamandis and Kotler were both on Impact Theory as well, and the host asked them what technology they are most interested in seeing, and the answer was flying cars. They’re pretty confident that we’ll be seeing autonomous flying vehicles hit the market in the next two to four years, and it reminded me of a thesis I heard from ARK Investment’s Cathie Wood a while back. She’s betting that it will soon be cheaper, based on cost per mile, to take a flying taxi than it will be to own a vehicle. She gets into a discussion about utilization rates, how personal automobiles are in the single digits as they sit in our driveways. Autonomous cars will be more like eighty percent.

Considering this bull case for the flying car market, I did some research to see what companies were on the forefront of this tech, and, more importantly, which ones were available as publicly traded companies. I was unable to find many pure plays, as most companies making progress in the space are either startups or subdivisions of other larger companies. The list that have are all the companies I could find that are currently available on the public equities markets.

  • Ashton Martin
  • Amazon
  • Audi
  • BA
  • Borg Warner
  • Delphi
  • Airbus
  • EHang
  • Gelly
  • Hyundai
  • Lear
  • Moog
  • Porche
  • Rolls Royce
  • Toyota
  • Tesla

Besides the larger firms like Tesla, Toyota and Boeing, there are also some smaller car companies like Rolls Royce and Ashton Martin making plays in the space. Chinese car manufacturer Geely has also acquired startup Terrafugia, which seems to be a leader in the space, and has also invested in Volocopter. I also added two parts suppliers to this list, including Borg Warner and Y. The firm that I’ve chosen to dip my foot into, however, is EHang, a Chinese drone manufacturer.

This is a straight gamble play on my part, but I’m only taking a two percent stake of my portfolio, and will be averaging in daily over the next 90 days. The stock has only been trading since December, bewtteen eight and fourteen dollars.

I’m also opening a position in additive manufacturing firm XOne, based purely off the fact that they are on the ARK Invest Autonomous Tech fund, and that their current price and chart fit my personal preference as well. So starting today, I’ll be adding these two stocks to my value averaging program, along with Lending Club and MTLS, another 3D printing firm.

During the interview with Kara Swisher, Clayton M. Christensen’s name came up. Clayton, who passed away recently, is the author of The Innovators Dilemma, a book that has been mentioned by so many leaders over the years. I went to the library to pick up a copy, but found that I had unintentionally picked up a copy of the sequel, The Innovators Solution. Thankfully, copies of the former are easily found online, so I downloaded a copy to my iPad and started reading it last night. Once I finish these two, I plan on getting on to The Future is Faster Than You Think, after I read the two books written by x and y before that, Blank and Blank.