Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Back in 2011, investor Peter Thiel's VC firm, Founders Fund, published on its website: "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters."

We may have gotten 140 characters first thanks to Twitter, but flying cars are certainly still in Silicon Valley's plans.

Why it matters: Silicon Valley is often criticized for pouring capital into startups building luxury products for the 1% or yet another photo-sharing app, but it's also going after much more ambitious goals. Often, these ambitions seem straight out of a science fiction novel, and yet some of the biggest tech companies are heavily pursuing those projects.

  1. Flying cars: Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts—or "flying cars"—are nothing new to the imagination of tech enthusiasts. But in recent years, a growing number of companies, including Uber and the Larry Page-backed Kitty Hawk, have started to seriously work on making it a viable transportation option someday.
  2. "Curing" death/Curing all human diseases: It may sound like science fiction, but significantly extending human life is a very real goal in which companies like Alphabet are investing. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced over a year ago that they'll be putting their fortunes toward curing all human diseases.
  3. Typing with your brain/hearing with your skin: Not content with just making social media apps, Facebook has taken up developing technology that would let people type using their brain waves and "hear" through their skin. In a way, it's not hard to see how these technologies would fit with the company's mission to help people connect with each other.
  4. Settling on Mars: For decades, rocket ships were the domain of governments, and were used for scientific exploration. But today, companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic not only want to make space travel a commercial option, but some have set their sights on going to Mars.
  5. Meatless meat/food: Some startups like Hampton Creek are replacing eggs with plants, while others like Impossible Foods want to feed you meatless burgers. With changes in populations, agriculture, and foods, it's no surprise that a slew of companies are looking to provide non-animal alternatives.
  6. Wireless charging: Scientists have been skeptical as to whether startups like uBeam can make charging devices wirelessly a reality, but top Silicon Valley names like Marc Andreessen are convinced. Earlier this year, uBeam founder Meredith Perry showed off her company's tech at a conference in Los Angeles, though she's yet to provide an in-depth demo to the press.

Go deeper

Parties trade election influence accusations at Big Tech hearing

Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A Senate hearing Wednesday with Big Tech CEOs became the backdrop for Democrats and Republicans to swap accusations of inappropriate electioneering.

Why it matters: Once staid tech policy debates are quickly becoming a major focal point of American culture and political wars, as both parties fret about the impact of massive social networks being the new public square.

1 hour ago - World

Germany goes back into lockdown

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will enact one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns since spring, closing bars and restaurants nationwide for most of November, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Germany is the latest European country to reimpose some form of lockdown measures amid a surge in cases across the continent.

How overhyping became an election meddling tool

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.

Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!