# if sailing ships replaced jets

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Once upon a time, sailing ships dominated intercontinental transit. Today, passenger jets have replaced the function sailing ships once had. Do you think it would be possible for sailing ships to bear all intercontinental traffic once again? If they did, do you think intercontinental travel would decrease due to the inconvenience or do you think sailing ships could provide sufficient convenience to satisfy modern consumers despite the long travel duration?

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The main thrust of this article is on airships (blimps, dirigibles), but they have an analysis of power vs speed, and power(energy) is a proxy for cost. Moving people around has similar arguments.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=helium-hokum-why-airships-will-neve-2011-05-27

Then of course there are cargo airplanes. They aren't cheap; you'll need roughly 2.5 to 5 times the energy to get it there compared to a truck, and roughly 10 to 20 times the energy if you used a container ship or train; but you can get it there about 10 times faster than trucks and trains and over 20 times faster than a container ship. So if it's a really important last-minute package or if you want something like a fresh pineapple from Hawaii, it can be worth it.

Time is money. I can fly just about anywhere in a day. If the goal is to be at my destination, flying is worth it. The mere existence of airlines show that other people think it is, too.

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The main thrust of this article is on airships (blimps, dirigibles), but they have an analysis of power vs speed, and power(energy) is a proxy for cost. Moving people around has similar arguments.

http://www.scientifi...neve-2011-05-27

I would like to past the chart from this article into the thread but I'm not sure how to do it. I was able to select it and click "copy image" but uploading an image requires a url it seems.

Anyway, freight trains, cargo ships, and semi trucks are all clustered into the bottom left corner to show airships and jet aircraft as outlyers. I would like to see such a chart that includes passenger vehicles, sailing vessels, and maybe motorcycles.

Time is money. I can fly just about anywhere in a day. If the goal is to be at my destination, flying is worth it. The mere existence of airlines show that other people think it is, too.

Yes, time is money because an economic culture has evolved in which it seems as if the more we do, i.e. the more labor and energy we expend, the more economic value there is to be created - limitlessly. In reality this is not the case though, since inefficiency and waste actually produce more deprivation for more people. If there was unlimited energy and resources, then it would always make economic sense to work harder and faster to produce more because doing so would logically lead to sufficient means of consumption being produced for the maximum number of people. As it is, however, I would say that most energy/resources/labor gets wasted on maintaining non-essential cultural prerogatives of privileged developed economies.

What I'm thinking is that if everyone in the world wanted to become rich enough to fly around in passenger jets all the time, there wouldn't be enough resources for that. However, if fleets of sailing vessels were once again free to roam the continents, and they didn't destroy each other and sink in storms, etc., this could be a means for everyone globally to travel the world using only wind energy. It would indeed take a lot more time, but is time really money when people are using it to waste energy and resources?

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If someone is making $50 an hour, or$400 a day, the the difference in cost of a $600 plane ticket and a$200 ocean ticket is 1 day of work. If the ocean liner can't get you there in 2 days, then the person had better be able to do work while traveling; otherwise you are paying them to sit around. If it's a vacation, then you're talking about ~2 weeks of travel on top of the time at the destination. If it's last-minute for any reason, there is no other option, which is why those tickets are more expensive.

What you are arguing is a fundamentally different culture, but that's not how your first post framed the question.

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If someone is making $50 an hour, or$400 a day, the the difference in cost of a $600 plane ticket and a$200 ocean ticket is 1 day of work. If the ocean liner can't get you there in 2 days, then the person had better be able to do work while traveling; otherwise you are paying them to sit around. If it's a vacation, then you're talking about ~2 weeks of travel on top of the time at the destination. If it's last-minute for any reason, there is no other option, which is why those tickets are more expensive.

What you are arguing is a fundamentally different culture, but that's not how your first post framed the question.

That might be because I don't view radical cultural differences as fundamentally different. Rather, I should say that I don't share the view that cultures of norms and economic structuring are as fixed and defined as they seem to appear to many people. Look at the current economy, for example. On the one hand the news is always full of recession, budget cuts, calls for stimulus and job-creation, etc. yet on the other hand the media and everyday life is full of examples of unprecedented wealth and energy/resource-consumption. So it seems that both cultural pressures are present, but it is unclear what will cause people to start radically expanding their horizons as to what kind of culture and technologies to create to allow more people to live well within the parameters of what Earth can provide.

That's all phrased very global and philosophical, but in terms of your fiscal analysis, the issue is that increasingly less people will be making the high wages you speak of, and as a result more people will not be able to afford expensive plane tickets. So as economic restructuring redistributes jobs in a way that allows more people to work less, because it is not worth the resource drain to have more people working more, they end up having to save more for lower-priced means of transit. It makes economic sense that if less labor is needed, then people can organize the labor they do into shorter blocks of weeks/months leaving more time available for surface travel. Sailing just makes sense as fuel grows increasingly expensive and elite. Obviously elite culture will continue for a very long time, but that doesn't interest me as much as how mass-culture will evolve to accommodate more people with scarcer resources and fuel/energy.

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With fast internet communications, more and more people are able to work remotely. So, this might be the solution that could be applied to swansont's scenario to allow people to work while travelling.

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The main problem is this: the fastest ever transatlantic crossing is 4 days, 8 hours, 23 minutes and 54 seconds. And that's not exactly a comfortable way to get across (racing catamaran). Flying is only about 7-10 hours, if you include security, check-in and the bagage handing. I think that if a trip across the Atlantic would take nearly a week, only 10% of the travellers would even consider it, possibly even less.

So, you cannot replace jets with sailboats. You would replace only 10% of the jets with sailboats. The other 90% of the people wouldn't travel at all, or would go somewhere else. You would effectively be replacing 90% of the jets with things like online communication, different tourist destinations and more local economic models.

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I would like to past the chart from this article into the thread but I'm not sure how to do it. I was able to select it and click "copy image" but uploading an image requires a url it seems.

What you want is "Copy Image Location", at least in Firefox. Then you can post it with the "insert image" button in the editor, pasting in the image URL:

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The main problem is this: the fastest ever transatlantic crossing is 4 days, 8 hours, 23 minutes and 54 seconds. And that's not exactly a comfortable way to get across (racing catamaran). Flying is only about 7-10 hours, if you include security, check-in and the bagage handing. I think that if a trip across the Atlantic would take nearly a week, only 10% of the travellers would even consider it, possibly even less.

So, you cannot replace jets with sailboats. You would replace only 10% of the jets with sailboats. The other 90% of the people wouldn't travel at all, or would go somewhere else. You would effectively be replacing 90% of the jets with things like online communication, different tourist destinations and more local economic models.

Many people like to travel between continents for cultural pilgrimages. I can imagine that in an energy-scarce future, increasing numbers of people will opt to migrate for a period of at least several years to some other continent since it won't be practical to work all year long and fly somewhere for a couple weeks vacation.

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I would like to past the chart from this article into the thread but I'm not sure how to do it. I was able to select it and click "copy image" but uploading an image requires a url it seems.

The way i do it: Right click the image, highlight its properties, copy (Ctrl C), then in the thread, go to insert image, Paste into the url address (Ctrl V).

Edited by michel123456
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Once upon a time, sailing ships dominated intercontinental transit. Today, passenger jets have replaced the function sailing ships once had. Do you think it would be possible for sailing ships to bear all intercontinental traffic once again? If they did, do you think intercontinental travel would decrease due to the inconvenience or do you think sailing ships could provide sufficient convenience to satisfy modern consumers despite the long travel duration?

Partly, technology adapts to fit our lives, and partly our lives adapt to fit available technology. To replace all passenger jets, you're talking about a major change in lifestyle. The world would be a very different place. But I think people and lifestyles could adapt to it.

I envision a future that has overlapping phases of both increased technology (and travel speed), and reduced resource use due to scarcity. That might involve perhaps "floating cities" that use wind power or similar, where people can freely drift all over the world, while at the same time there may be space planes that get you anywhere in an hour, but that are only used by few people or in rare circumstances. This is a very different lifestyle than the "work in one place; get away as quickly as possible" lifestyle.

Anyway, there are a lot of possibilities to imagine. I think that the only thing that would reduce the number of people traveling or greatly increase the travel time, would be resource scarcity, and when that happens it will happen along with some major changes in lifestyle and technology. Hopefully it would be evolutionary and not disruptive.

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