On the Shoulders of Giants: Retro art and imagining future transportation
As a futurist, I’ve become enamored with past visionaries and their gift for imagining the future. While some of their retro-futuristic visions may seem poorly conceived or even laughable, each of them had a gift for opening the door of possibilities into the magical world ahead.
One thing I hope we all share, though, is an imagination and a curiosity about the future. Instead of limiting our focus on the present, I trust there’s a little futurist in all of us as we try to visualize the technology advances that future generations will find commonplace.
I really enjoy seeing those online posts where, for example, Millennials try to explain to Gen Z’ers how different life was “when I was your age.” That’s especially true with technology. The 1980s and 1990s versions of video games, computers, recording devices, music media, and so on, seem ancient today – similar to how young people would view a Victrola!
A friend at Budget Direct shared some insights, as a fun way of looking back on what our parents and grandparents considered “futuristic” modes of transportation.
As part of the project, they commissioned drawings of what these vehicles would look like today. (If you’re like me, you were drawing these kinds of cars in the back of your spiral notebook during middle school Algebra class instead of solving for “x”!)
No doubt these 20th Century futurists with a passion for transportation technology and design hoped their dream vehicles would be on the market within their generation. That hasn’t been the case, but if you look at the original and re-created images, I think you’ll see some things that are very familiar.
Let’s have some fun taking a futuristic look at the past!
I like this design because it seems that the car would look just as good (and maybe less bus-like), driving in reverse, bringing to fruition my idea from long ago of having dual direction cars with swivel seats.
Plus, it has kind of a Jetsons’ look to it don’t you think?
As the Journal of Classic Cars article points out, the Singoletta is essentially a canopy over a Segway!
There’s not much protection for the driver that I can tell (lots of glass to boot), but if everyone stays at or below the 40 km/hr estimated top speed (and if it’s used in this kind of congestion), how much harm could there be?
The New Urban Car, designed by Ken Purdy in the 1970s and drawn by Syd Mead, looks really, really familiar.
Last of course, we need to address the hover car issue that’s been a staple of imagination and sci-fi for some time. Some people are eager to jump right from four-wheels on the ground to widespread personal flight vehicles. But for intra-city driving, with no 3-dimensional road systems, I think we need to take it a step at a time and set our sights on hovering for the time being!
Again, working on behalf of the steel industry, Syd Mead put pen to paper to come up with a futuristic Anti-Gravity Car similar to the one here that’s based on his earlier designs.
How close are we to having hover cars on and over the road? Well, we have hoverboards and hover boats. The technology is there. Ford introduced its Levacar prototype in 1959. At this time, Volkswagen and Tesla seem to be in the driver’s seat in developing and marketing hover cars. None of the prototypes I’ve seen, though, come with the very distinctive TIE-Fighter-style side wings in Syd’s visionary plans!
As a final thought, keep in mind, all of the images of the future we’re creating today will look just as dated fifty years from now.
[Acknowledgment: Information for this blog came from the excellent article “Visions of an automotive future that hasn’t come to fruition,” which includes images commissioned by insurance company Budget Direct. All photos in this blog are reproduced from that article, which appeared in the Journal of Classic Cars on August 7, 2020.]
On the Shoulders of Giants: Retro art and imagining future transportation
I was thoroughly intrigued when I found out the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado was offering a degree in asteroid mining.
Yes, the idea of extracting water, oxygen, minerals, and metals from an asteroid sounds like science fiction to most people, but it’s not that far away. In fact, Colorado School of Mines’ newly launched “Space Resources” program will help people get in on the ground floor.
After thinking about the proactive nature of this approach, it became abundantly clear how backward thinking most colleges have become.
When colleges decide on a new degree program, they must first recruit instructors, create a new curriculum, and attract students. As a result, the talent churned out of these newly minted programs is the product of a 6-7 year pipeline.
For this reason, anticipatory-thinking institutions really need to be setting their sights on what business and industries will need 7-10 years from now.
The Risk-Averse Nature of Education
When Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen released his best-selling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, his core message that disruptive change is the path to success, was only partially embraced by higher education.
While many were experimenting with MOOCs and smart whiteboards, changes in the subject matter of their courses still evolved at the traditional pace of discovery.
This is not to say colleges are not innovative. Rather, the demands of today’s emerging tech environment are forcing business and industries to shift into an entirely new gear. And that most definitely includes our academic institutions.
From a management perspective, it’s far easier to oversee a contained system where all variables are constrained. But during times of change, we tend to give far more power to the “unleashers,” who are determined to test the status quo and release ideas and trial balloons to see what works.
For this reason, managers and creatives often find themselves on opposing sides, and the winners of these warring factions often determine what we as consumers see as the resulting ripples of change.
Offering Pilot Programs
When Facebook bought Oculus Rift in March 2014 for $2 billion, the job boards went crazy, as there was an instant uptick in the demand for VR designers, engineers, and experience creators. But no one was teaching VR, and certainly not the Oculus Rift version of it.
Colleges have a long history of being blindsided by new technologies:
- When eBay launched, no one was teaching ecommerce strategies
- When Myspace launched, no one was teaching social networking
- When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies
- When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models
- When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design
- When Amazon first allowed online storefronts, no one was teaching the Amazon business model
- When YouTube first offered ways to monetize videos, no one was teaching it
Since most academic institutions are only willing to put their name on programs with long-term viability, the endorsement of half-baked agendas does not come easy. However, that is exactly what needs to be done.
Colleges can no longer afford to remain comfortably behind the curve.
52 Future College Degrees
As a way of priming your thinking on this matter, here are 52 future degrees that forward-thinking colleges could start offering today:
- Space Exploration – space tourism planning and management
- Space Exploration – planetary colony design and operation
- Space Exploration – next generation space infrastructure
- Space Exploration – advanced cosmology and non-earth human habitats
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – policy and procedural strategies
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – advanced genetic engineering systems
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – operational implementations and system engineering
- Bioengineering with CRISPR – ethical regulation and oversight
- Smart City – autonomous traffic integration
- Smart City – mixed reality modeling
- Smart City – autonomous construction integration
- Smart City – next generation municipal planning and strategy
- Autonomous Agriculture – robotic systems
- Autonomous Agriculture – drone systems
- Autonomous Agriculture – supply chain management
- Autonomous Agriculture – systems theory and integration
- Swarmbot – design, theory, and management
- Swarmbot – system engineering and oversight
- Swarmbot – municipal system design
- Swarmbot – law enforcement and advanced criminology systems
- Cryptocurrency – digital coin economics
- Cryptocurrency – crypto-banking system design
- Cryptocurrency – regulatory systems and oversight
- Cryptocurrency – forensic accounting strategies
- Blockchain – design, systems, and applications
- Blockchain – blockchain for biological systems
- Blockchain – large-scale integration structures
- Blockchain – municipal system design strategies
- Global Systems – system planning, architecture, and design
- Global Systems – large-scale integration strategies
- Global Systems – operational systems checks and balance
- Global Systems – governmental systems in a borderless digital world
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - drone film making
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – command center operations
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – municipal modeling and planning systems
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – emergency response systems
- Mixed Reality - experiential retail
- Mixed Reality – three-dimensional storytelling
- Mixed Reality – game design
- Mixed Reality – therapeutic systems and design
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – designer baby strategies, planning, and ethics
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – surrogate parenting policy and approaches
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – organic nano structures
- Advanced Reproductive Systems – clone engineering and advanced processes
- Artificial Intelligence – data management in an AI environment
- Artificial Intelligence – advanced human-AI integration
- Artificial Intelligence – streaming AI data services
- Artificial Intelligence – advanced marketing with AI
- Quantum Computing – data strategies in a quantum-connected world
- Quantum Computing – quantum-level encryption and security
- Quantum Computing – quantum computing implementation strategies
- Quantum Computing – AI-quantum system integration
More so than any time in history, we have a clear view of next generation technologies. Naturally, we’re still a long way from 100% clarity, but for most of the technologies listed above, the shifting tectonic plates of change can be felt around the world.
Without taking decisive action, colleges run the risk of being circumvented by new types of training systems that can meet market demands in a fraction of the time it takes traditional academia to react.
The ideas I’ve listed are a tiny fraction of what’s possible when it comes to emerging tech degrees. Should colleges stick their neck out like Colorado School of Mines and offer degrees that may not be immediately useful? Adding to that question, how many college degrees are immediately useful today?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.