When the Tesla Bot Takes My Porsche 911 for a Spin

Let’s be clear: I don’t own a Tesla Bot or a Porsche 911. But could a robot driver be the bridge to autonomous driving? Will we be packing our household robot—one that helps our kids with homework and cares for grandma—into our suitcase when we jet off on vacation? Or will it be sitting next to us on the plane?

With our human strive for individualism and aesthetics, will we all really settle for just the standard version of the new humanoid at home, or will we send it to the barber and order custom-tailored suits for it?

These questions have surfaced over the past few days at numerous events discussing future business models, the challenges of consumer society, and climate change.

The Future Problem – How Many Wind Turbines Does Germany Have?

Why do politicians, business leaders, and the media struggle to anticipate the future? I am continually confronted with studies that aim to tell me what’s not possible and what’s right or wrong. Millions tune into talk shows and listen to experts break down complex global issues into tweet-sized quotes. Then, half a year later, the situation often turns out differently. Need an example? Take the energy transition. The debates about the problems with solar power, the challenges with rare earth elements and raw material shortages, the impractical conversion of hydrogen into electricity, and the flaws of wind energy are endless. Are these wasted time or vital public debate?

To get closer to an answer, we should not rely on backward-looking analyses disconnected from our current technological realities. Instead, we should ask ourselves: What do we truly believe about how we will live in the future?

Building a nuclear power plant in Germany could take 15-20 years from inception to operation. For instance, construction of the new reactor in Flamanville, France, began in 2007 and is expected to be operational this year—twelve years behind schedule. It’s unlikely that with the current ‘German speed’ we could move any faster. But what will our technological world look like in 15-20 years?

A modern wind turbine can power about 4,000 households. Projections with older generation turbines suggest Germany would need about 40,000 turbines in rural areas to power all private households. With some permits taking up to eight years, that seems like a lot. Fortunately, there’s also the sun, and the topic of offshore wind is slowly becoming an interesting and affordable option. My home country, Norway, had a negative spot price per kWh in April — before taxes and network fees. You might think this is due to the snowmelt and the rapid development in the expansion of renewable energy? Although it’s a complex issue, it almost sounds absurd that Norway imported electricity at a negative price from Germany on this day, because the surplus of German offshore wind energy could not be transported to the southern federal states

But let’s focus on the land-based turbines. How many are there already? 2,000? 5,000? More? Herein lies the major societal issues. We neither understand what today’s technology can achieve nor do we think about its future development.

The Electricity Feed-in Act of 1991 triggered a powerful wave of wind energy expansion in Germany. Grid operators were required to purchase wind-generated electricity at fixed prices. Germany quickly became a global leader in wind power, and by 1997, just six years later, more than 5,000 turbines were operational. Today, we’re moving towards 31,000 turbines—just on land. Thus, from today’s perspective, we are already at 77.5%.

A headline in German Business Magazin Handelsblatt reads, ‘Renewable Energy: Germany Must Build Six Wind Turbines Daily by the End of 2029,‘ and experts explain why future goals are hard to achieve. Today’s turbines, although requiring more space, are significantly more powerful than previous generations. This is not an absolute argument, and factors like cost-effectiveness, local interests, and biodiversity preservation play roles. Do we really believe in a stagnation of development and base our future predictions on old technologies? Investment is increasing, and technological advancement is rapid. For instance, Hans-Josef Fell and Thure Traber, in a guest article for Climate Reporter, argue, ‘We don’t need more land and wind parks; we just need to replace the existing ones.’ According to Traber and Fell, to power all of Germany with 100% renewable energy across all sectors—electricity, heat, transport, industry—by 2030, about 24,000 wind turbines would need to be installed. A decrease! So, we are neither facing a problem of space nor a technological problem but rather an implementation and understanding problem. 

Regarding offshore wind power and green hydrogen, technological progress is opening up new possibilities, also in regards to distribution. Technologies like potentially recoating existing gas pipelines from Ukraine could solve future transportation issues for green hydrogen. The use of exotic materials and 3D techniques is just another example of ongoing progress. And we haven’t even looked at the big winner here… Because we have access to an almost infinite energy source: the sun..

What future can we anticipate? Do we really believe that in 5-10 years, we will still be working with today’s technology? ‘Atom batteries with a 50-year lifespan? Not in Germany—according to an expert’—a typical media opinion from earlier this year. Betavolt Technology manufactures batteries with the goal of a 50-year lifespan after one charge. Now, one could argue against this; the topic might be dismissed as unrealistic since the batteries are not suitable for smartphones, and perhaps it will not happen, and if it does, maybe it won’t be in Germany. But does this signify the end of development? Are we ruling out the possibility of batteries that could last 10 years, or even just one year, or at least one month in the coming years?

Our Exponential Future

Predictions are often overvalued in the short term, leading to disappointments. However, after initial skepticism and disappointment, a breakthrough usually occurs, which is then underestimated. This leads to rapid developments and new business models. Ray Kurzweil describes this phenomenon as the Law of Accelerating Returns, which states that technological progress accelerates exponentially. A famous example is the chessboard problem: According to legend, in the third or fourth century AD in India, Sissa ibn Dahir taught his tyrannical ruler Shihram about exponential thinking by requesting a reward for inventing the game of chess in grains of wheat. His request seemed simple. Sissa asked for one grain on the first square of the chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, and so on, doubling the amount on each subsequent square. By the 20th square, the total seemed manageable, and Sissa was laughed at by his ruler.


The total for the entire chessboard? 18 quintillion, 446 quadrillion, 744 trillion, 73 billion, 709 million, 551 thousand, 615. This is roughly a thousand times the global wheat harvest, or if one grain per second were counted, it would take 585 billion years.


Thoughts about a technological future are often dismissed as futuristic and radical. Yet, considering a continuous development that Ray Kurzweil has updated annually for 40 years, which can now be traced back 80 years, one might wonder: Why would it end now? What would be the reasons for that? I see none. Perhaps the pace might slow, but an end does not seem imminent. A continuation of this development seems more plausible to me. Even in the realm of green energy, we can observe an exponential development of both the technology and its expansion and usage. In quantum technology, there is even talk of double exponentiality.


The Anticipated Future

What do you think? After 80 years of exponential growth, have we reached the end, or do you even believe we are facing a regression? Especially since the breakthrough of large language models like GPT in the last two years, we should finally recognize that while we often overestimate the impact of technologies in the short term, disappointments and bold claims by experts follow. Then comes the breakthrough, and we underestimate the development—chaos ensues, large new business models emerge, and rapid development occurs. In the coming years, we will see massive developments in areas such as health, energy, education, and finance. The train of large language models has left the station. Niche areas and ‘specialized AI’ may still offer opportunities for the industry, but the exponential future lies in ‘Large Event Models’ as Kurzweil calls it, as the development already affects much more than just language today. Anticipating and shaping this is the role of all German futurists.

One of the most crucial skills we need today is the ability to anticipate the future. Studies can certainly be helpful, and experts still have their place in many fields. However, we must above all be forward-thinking. We urgently need to develop an implementation competence, with which we can turn a reflective vision of possible and especially realistic future scenarios into action.

Oil and gas will not run out on us, but in a few years, they will no longer be competitive. Before we build a nuclear power plant in Germany, it is more likely that there will be nearly free energy for industry and citizens, and nostalgics will have their old Porsche 911s taken for a walk in the countryside by a humanoid Tesla Bot, dressed in the Humanoid collection by Hugo Boss with hipster sneakers from Herzogenaurach.

The societal challenges are not the limitations of technology but understanding the potentiality with a collective decision on which future is desirable for us — humanity. We just need to look, think, and implement.




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