We do not know exactly how we will travel in the near future. Trend researchers and futurologists pretend to see more clearly. Professionals who try to paint a picture of the future based on data.
Such experts have always existed. Two generations ago they described the world we live in today. In their imagination, our life today was “the world of tomorrow”. That was the name of a scrapbook in which knowledge about the future was collected and illustrated around 1960.
It was a favorite project of pasta patron Karl Christian Birkel. The attached pictures were supposed to stimulate sales of his “Hörnchen” and “Zöpfli”. With Stollwerck’s chocolate, Kölln’s oatmeal and Reemtsma’s cigarettes, the collectible picture had worked for a long time. So now with egg noodles. Birkel chose topics that corresponded to “adventurous hearts”: Indians, pirates, distant countries – and the future.
The future of the world at Birkel
The future then was a land of unlimited promises. Birkel had the predictions of technical specialists collated and committed imaginative draftsmen who had already visionarily enriched magazines such as “Hobby” and “Das Neue Universum”.
The optimism that came together with it in text and image has seldom been found between two cardboard covers. Cities and countries are bright, healthy and beautiful and, thanks to technical wonders, are invitingly open to curious travelers.
Let’s try it out! We are the lucky ones to whom this world was foretold. Let’s go, ideally as the experts have promised. So there is no gasoline car parked in front of our house, not even an electric car.
According to the predictions of yore, it would have to be a car with a gas turbine, 25,000 revolutions per minute, as powerful as a jet. “Its high speeds make traveling like a float.” However: “There is a high-pitched whistling noise when starting.” Only when starting?
A bicycle-powered airplane and flying cars
For the sake of our neighbors, we do without. We prefer to pedal sustainably – and will still float! For the little Sunday excursion, we get from the garage what the scientists have guaranteed everyone: the pedal plane.
“Here the mechanism of a bicycle drive is transferred to an airplane. You can fly with this air bike alone or take a pillion passenger with you. Even in a headwind, going thirty meters above sea level doesn’t require much effort. The speed only depends on the consistent performance of the occupants. “
Aha. So it could lead to a marital dispute. Also to surprising encounters. Because the air corridors are well attended. If we believe the faded experts, it’s not just air bikes that are on the move, fast flying cars also animate the sky. Maybe we will take one of these for the short trip right away? “The undercarriage remains retracted during the flight. A control handle works well in gusty cross winds. ”We should be able to do that.
When landing at the edge of the forest, we would only have to watch out for the purple sheep that cross the path. Sheep have been bred colorfully since the turn of the millennium, with burgundy, cinnamon, pine-green wool, “always in the latest fashion colors”.
Nuclear power provides energy when traveling
At our picnic area, we set up the sun mirror frying pan. This is a swiveling concave mirror one meter in diameter with the hotplate at its focal point. The bundled rays of sunshine should grill our steak medium-well within a few minutes.
We brought the vegetables from our own atomic garden. Hi there? Yes. “In the middle of the garden there is a steel pipe with a piece of cobalt 60.” In the morning, this radiant part is cranked from the cellar to the tip of the rod on a pull rope. A few hours are enough: “Then potatoes are the size of cabbages, cherries are like tomatoes, apples are like pumpkins.”
Were the experts too euphoric? Possibly. In the 1960s, the peaceful use of nuclear power was an unclouded promise of happiness. For the time after the turn of the millennium, for us, the futurologists prophesied: “Heating and air conditioning systems will be just as nuclear-powered as fly and mosquito killers.”
Goodbye to fly swatter. And bring on the “small nuclear power generator”, the “useful energy dispenser for every occasion”! We have it with us on longer trips or when we sail out to sea with our floating saucer.
Cruise on a gigantic hydrofoil
One sees this saucer – or if the scholars would have been right if it had seen it – in swarms on lakes and bays. Everyone has one. We put them easily in the trunk. It is inflatable, circular and equipped with a powerful motor and two swivel chairs. If you have to go to the toilet on the go, please crouch on the edge, preferably so that there is no imbalance.
The private submarine is available to us for bolder adventures. “You will buy the submarine for your own pleasure off the peg in a department store,” the hobby researchers once said. With the “Pegasus” or “Minisub” models, only beginners go diving in coastal waters. “The passionate weekend drivers buy the fast two-seater ‘Sea Pup’. It can dive two thousand meters deep and stay under water for eight hours. “
We are less brave. We prefer to take cruises, preferably with the gigantic hydrofoils on stilts that are now common. Or we can cross the Atlantic in two hours in a nuclear plane at three times the speed of sound. “A small nuclear reactor in the rear section generates the hot air. Mixed with uranium dust, it flows through the gas turbine, is freed from the uranium dust, rushes out through the nozzle and pushes the plane forward with tremendous force. “Well, please.
Plastic igloos and thawed floors in Siberia
Using a similar technique, we whiz on rails through the finally developed Alaska. A 7000 hp locomotive pulls the panorama car. “The heart of the machine is a reactor with stratified uranium rods that rest in the central lead chamber.” Traveling can be so easy!
Even the most distant countries can be reached within a day – if the present were as the past envisioned it. We pay a visit to the Inuit for afternoon tea. Turning to progress, they no longer laboriously piling up their houses from blocks of ice. Each family now lives in their own plastic igloo. “It consists of lightweight foam plastic panels, the seams of which are covered with a special putty.”
Our Arctic trip may have lost a little of the rustic exoticism. But the Arctic itself has also changed. By cleverly diverting the Gulf Stream, “Greenland has finally awakened from its frozen ice”. We stroll through orchards and vegetable fields. Greenland is green again!
Just like Siberia, where formerly frozen soils have turned into fertile farmland. The future planners of yore found freedom from ice to be desirable. The Birkel booklet is of course silent about the rising sea level caused by the large amount of meltwater.
The Amazon rainforest? Overrated
And how is it there, where it has always been a bit too warm, on the Amazon? Relaxing! We don’t need a yellow fever vaccination or anti-malarial drugs for our trip. “The primeval forest hell of yore has lost its horror.” Here, too, we stroll through bright fields and orchards. “Eight hundred million hectares of forest have been conquered by helicopters, huge road machines, special watercraft and an army of engineers, technicians and foresters.”
Now we follow as excursionists on our study trip, happily welcomed by the indigenous population. “The Amazon Indians, formerly equipped with poison arrows and extremely shy of people, now live in the most modern settlements as skilful and hardworking loggers.” Rainforest? Overrated.
Is at least the desert still desert? Or does it gradually look the same everywhere in the world as it does here? We will travel to the Sahara for the test. Surprise! Real camel caravans still make a pilgrimage through blowing sand! What for? Presumably so that we can take photos.
We film them dust-free from the suspension railway. While the camel drivers struggle through the dunes like in an oriental fairy tale, we glide from oasis to oasis in an air-conditioned and reclining chair. Each offers a hop-on-hop-off option, “a total of 14 stations on the route from Oran to Timbuktu”.
Vacation on the moon or mars
We’re going through today. Because at Timbuktu is one of the meanwhile numerous space stations. Mars is currently being colonized. It’s been the moon for a long time. Our friends recently moved to one of the vibrant cities that bloomed under glass domes.
We can spend the weekend with them. It will be something different, culinary too, as the plants there grow more luxuriantly thanks to lower gravity: “A radish reaches the height of a date palm, and an onion bush stretches nine-meter-long tubular leaves into the moon sky.”
May we be curious? Yes. At least on the predictions that today’s experts make wrong. “The futurologists of the past did not have the data and error corrections that we have,” Hermann Kahn taught in 1972. As a superstar of futurology, Kahn was one of Richard Nixon’s highest paid consultants. He predicted victory over cancer by 1980 and colonization of the moon by 1990. Doesn’t matter.
His pessimistic colleagues from the “Club of Rome” were also wrong. At the same time, they calculated the end of all resources for the mid-1980s. “There will be years of severe economic crises.” These were years of boom. “The results of future research look like a pearl necklace of errors,” criticizes the sociologist Richard Sennet.
Since today’s forecasts are currently quite bleak, we can look forward to the opposite. Not only will it be different, but with a high probability it will be much better than it is now predicted. We are encouraged to plan trips that still seem impossible. If Mars seems too banal for you, you can simply spend your next vacation on Saturn.
Dietmar Bittrich published the book “Do we have to go there too? Short stories of travel ”.
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