You’ve probably heard that line from Peter Thiel:

We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.

That line expressed his disappointment about how technology has turned out.

Now, when rich libertarian entrepreneurs, especially ones I admire as I do Thiel, talk, I listen. I also evaluate.

So does Joshua Gans.

On flying cars, Gans writes:

Let’s start with flying cars. We should question the premise of whether we want flying cars. We would like quicker and less constrained options from getting from A to B but flying around in a car, while it may be a representation of the future with such freedom, when you think about it, cannot really deliver that value, at least in cities. Indeed, the fact that flying cars do not exist where they might be of value — in less dense areas — leads us to question whether people want them at all. This is at least enough to give us pause on the issue.

And Twitter? Gans writes:

Twitter is not just 140 characters. It is a new communications network. The best example of this is how you can communicate with customer support of companies. When you have a problem with, say, an airline, it is often easier to tweet about it and wait for the airline to respond than to contact the airline’s support number. Now this is currently an advantage from congestion but, in reality, you can see how it may be superior overall. First, complaints are limited to 140 characters. That is a feature, not a bug. That means if a company is getting lots of complaints about something, it can see it really quickly. Second, it is easier to find a way of communicating with a company via Twitter than searching for support numbers. It is just straightforward. Twitter is an address book with easy search. My point here is that Twitter is a new communications protocol and more than just social media. That puts it on a path to something more than just the trivial.