I’m leaving for Sydney later tonight and will be flying on the Airbus A380. I know we’ve heard about wing cracks on the A380 and wifey was just getting a little paranoid that we’re going to fly in a potentially cracking aircraft tonight.

So wife’s paranoia* got me reading up on the cracks.

* I’ll have to convince her it’s safe to fly or she’ll squeeze my arms so hard on take-off that blood just stops flowing.

Anyway just to quickly summarize, the cracks were small hair-line cracks in the feet of ribs in the wings. This was a result of using newer, lightweight materials to save weight and improve fuel economy.

If you make an aircraft bigger, it gets heavier so you’ll need to make the wings bigger and the engine more powerful. It’s only natural that fuel economy takes a hit.

The automotive industry works similarly – the easier way was to make things more aerodynamic and lighter so that fuel economy improves, but with newer safety standards this is starting to become a challenge. Making an engine do more work with less fuel was the difficult part.

The aircraft turbofan is already very efficient (at cruising speeds) but automotive fuel-saving technologies still has some ways to go. Nevertheless, the automotive industry has seen some pretty awesome new technologies in the past decade, which explains why I am such a fan of them.

But I’m not going to talk about cars today. This brings me to another point: What drives technology?

Technology is an integral part of our evolution and my belief is that real world needs are the main drivers of good technology. Unfortunately for the folks who would like to believe everything new is good, I do not believe its true. Good technology is not just any new technology, but technology that works to solve a real world problem – hence my love for automotive technology. In fact, old technology can sometimes be better than new technology.

I think that aviation and automotive industries are two of the major drivers of technology; if not for space flight and aviation, we wouldn’t have GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes in the iPhone today.

In the recent years the automotive industry has gained a lot of traction. We’ve seen new engine technologies that improve both power and fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and new gadgets that improve safety. These are technologies put to real-world tests in everyday use, and these technologies are what I believe where the real money should be.

Not social networking. Not group buying. Not building some iPhone app.

Of course, these are just my personal opinions.

In today’s fast-paced environment we are distracted by the Internet. Our thoughts are becoming more and more shallow and short-sighted. Most new technologies are built around dreams and desires rather than real needs.

I’m not downplaying the importance of dreams but I my worry is that many are headed towards building dream/desire and we’ll soon be starved of real talents to serve our needs – and I think it’s already happening right now in our society.

If you’re thinking of building the next big thing, give a few minutes to think about what I just wrote here.