3 … 2 … 1 … pfft! Big tech’s dream factory crashes back to Earth

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3 … 2 … 1 … pfft! Big tech’s dream factory crashes back to Earth

Like rockets and self-driving cars, the big ideas aren’t materialising, and all that fanciful spending is drying up

Olivia Rudgard

Google’s big projects division is called “moonshots”. The phrase encapsulates the big dreams which top executives know are ambitious but are exciting enough to be worth betting on, especially for a company with billions of dollars in the bank and dreams of world domination.

Silicon Valley’s biggest bets, including self-driving cars, reshaping transport, and conquering space, have absorbed huge sums in recent years as the industry enjoyed an astonishing boom. Until recently, investors were happy to sit back and let progress, however slow, be the master of profit. But as coronavirus unleashed economic turmoil, the boom times appear to be over, and some of these sectors have little to show for their investors’ cash.

Self-driving cars were meant to be available to the public already, a prospect which looks laughable given the halting progress of even the leading projects. Shared electric scooters, once ubiquitous and owned by companies valued at impossible levels, have been pulled from the streets of cities around the world. And commercial space rocket companies face the cancellation of launches and loss of income as deals dry up...

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