The Eye of the Fish

November 30, 2009

Where’s my Jetpack?

Seeing as today is the day that the WCC wants to get your feedback on what Wellington will look like in 2040, it got me thinking. Thirty years into the future – how much will Wellington have changed? Will we have had the big one yet? (as I presume you know, we’re supposedly well overdue for a 8.0). Will the sea levels have risen, flooding Lambton Quay? Will the world have run out of oil, and will the planet have heated up or cooled down? Thirty years ago, they were sure that by now we’d all be flying around by jetpacks, if the world hadn’t been blasted into interstellar orbit.
Thirty years is not that far away – look back thirty years and where were we then?

1979 ?

Disco still roamed wild in the streets, Erebus leapt up and crashed into the path of an Air NZ DC10, and The Dudes sang “Be Mine Tonight”. The Beehive was opened: and Rob Muldoon was in the middle of his reign of terror as Prime Minister. Thirty years ago they were all certain that the world was doomed and that the reason would be atomic global war, causing a nuclear winter. Well, isn’t that ironic: now we’re looking at endless summer.
So – reasons to be cheerful, part 3. Disco has long gone away, Air NZ no longer flies the DC10, The Dudes songs still live on, although Rob Muldoon doesn’t, and the Beehive has just been voted one of the world’s 10 most ugliest buildings. A bit harsh, I reckon.
But things are still ironic. If you’re looking for Iconic, you’ve come to the wrong place. We discussed Iconic some time ago, click here to be transported back. Iconic is different from Ironic, even if it is only one little letter. Ironic can be iconic of course, and even iconic can sometimes be ironic. Temples are mostly Ionic, although sometimes iconic, and occasionally ironic. An ironic ionic temple would be iconic if I could only find a picture of it. This one is just Ionic.
But I’m still miffed that I haven’t got a jetpack yet.
Apparently jet packs have been around since the 40s (sssshhh, don’t mention the war, but the Nazis invented a working giant jumping jetpack called the himmelsturner), but we’ve been hankering after them since the 30s, when they started appearing in comics. But what is ironic is that they’re being made in New Zealand (Martin Aviation is one of the world’s leaders), although their jetpack looks more like 2 lampshades stuck to a hatstand:
Personally I always thought that jetpacks should be cool, discreet, and highly manouvreable, not something that needs to be looks like you’re here to shift the fridge. This guy (Jeff de Boer) knows the biz, even if he’s only steampunking – I want one of these:
If we all had jetpacks of course the result would be chaos, a melee of paths crossing and criss-crossing, although the Aotea Quay off-ramp would no longer be such a big deal. There is a commercial model unveiled (the JetLev) that stays tethered to the water (operating on compressed water, so it needs to suck it up so as to spit it out – don’t we all know the perils of that..) but that really sounds like it would only be useful for commuters from Petone and Eastbourne.
And of course that’s the real issue with modern transport, of any kind. If you have an exclusive mode of getting around, then you’re cool, and your machine is cool, and people will part and let you through. But when everyone has got one, then the exclusivity has gone and so has the fun. Beijing worked well when everyone had a bicycle, but now that everyone wants a car, the city is in gridlock. London worked ok when everyone drove British Leyland Mini Minors, but now that people want stretch Hummer Limos and bendy buses (much the same thing really) the streets get clogged. Wellington works fine if we all take the bus, but on Sundays, when all the fat old geezers take their motors out for a spin, the arteries of the city clog up and the heart stops pumping. We need to keep to that high speed, multi-occupancy commuter mode of transport. So, given that my order for a jet pack is still some time and money away, my request to the City Council is: can we have a Light Rail system please?

30 - 11 - 09

where’s my jetpack indeed…. When I was 8 our teacher was showing us how great the future was going to be. We had a series of books in the library all about the year 2000 and how fantastically strange it would be.
It said that in my adult lifetime i would have to chose between remaining on earth or being one of the pioneers to go live in torus shaped “colonies” floating in space. That night I went home and gave it serious consideration. The next day I announced that I would be moving to the space colonies. The only prediction I remember from those books that has come true is that most of our transactions are done without cash. Pretty disappointing really.

AND YES! WHERE IS THE DAMN LIGHTRAIL?! Although I do have to ask, if we’re talking about wellington in 2040 why are we still having to plead for a technology that is hundreds of years old. I thought New Zealand was supposed to be only 20 years behind the rest of the world, not 200.

Lyle Lanley
30 - 11 - 09

Light Rail not sufficiently futuristic for you? What about a MonoRail ?!? There, my fine sir, you will find the finest in passenger transportation awaiting to whisk you away at a moments notice. All the best cities have one you know, including North Haverbrook.

Astro Boy
30 - 11 - 09

Jet packs? It’s not rocket science you know….

30 - 11 - 09

Well, technically, it is, actually.

30 - 11 - 09

I was so impressed with the Light Rail Stategy illustration until I squinted some more and realised it was a dollar value, not a finishing time for each line – I was suitably impressed while I thought you knew the time it was all going to be completed!

1 - 12 - 09

Zoomin – the Light Rail strategy is not mine – the link is just above it (under request to the City Council) – it’s the Green Party Light Rail Strategy. There are a number of advocates for Light Rail, of which I am just one – but this is the most thoroughly comprehensive that I have seen.

It may be worth having a post just on Light Rail routes some time – although I’d really quite like to get my hands on the one from the GWRC which I believe exists, but has not been made public….

1 - 12 - 09

“Where’s my Jetpack?”

Hasn’t this story been done before, like, a million times?

1 - 12 - 09

Indeed it has – well spotted. Did you also spot that this post was about irony? And iconic objects?

But I thought it was also time for an update – in that the technologies are actually becoming true, and because I have always liked jetpacks, myself. Of course, if I were a flying Fish, I wouldn’t need one…

1 - 12 - 09

excerpt for you from a really good conversation on this very subject of what will the world be like in 30 years:
Krugman and Stross Transcript – Paul Krugman (PK). Nobel Prize winning economist and columnist for the New York Times. – Charlie Stross (CS). Hugo-winning science fiction author.
full article at
Anticipation World Con, Montreal, Quebec August 6, 2009

snip….”The big change was really between 1840 and the 1920ís, in terms of what the physical nature of modern life is like. Thereís been nothing like that since. So we can do fancy information searches in a way that no one envisioned 30 years ago Ė as one of my colleagues at the Times, Gail Collins, likes to say all the time where are the flying cars?

CS: Yeah, where is my food pill, where are my jetpacks. Actually, flying cars are really bad idea, if I can just go off on a tangent. Your flying car is great, what about your neighbors flying car when his 15 year old son gets into it and tries to impress his girlfriend in it. Normal cars have a simple failure mode; they stop moving, hopefully at the side of a road. Flying cars, if they have a failure mode, they stop moving and then they move very rapidly straight down.

PK: But the robot driver for the car? Itís the other thing thatís supposed to be around by now, and itís not. Itís even on the information side.

CS: Partly, there are obstacles to getting some of these technologies out. …” snip

sea eye
1 - 12 - 09

loved ur post …. very refreshing !
reminds me of wired’s similar speculation a few years back via Clark+Kubric’s 2001 A space Odessey, which was equally intriguing, entertaining and beguiling..
kind of intriguing to think that with virgin gallactic kicking off, that it wont be long before welly could be open for saturday morning shoppers from china, america and even europe…. on route to the space-hotel (in philip stark spacesuits no less .
next stop googleland on planet moon…

but then it really is interesting to consider the stuff that’s coming currently being invented by 8 year olds…

which brings me back to public transport ….. yes we need some, but how about a faster cable telecom !
or rather… telecom you had your crack at the apple (monopolistically speaking) , move aside, time for some healthy compeditive spirit to innovate – and bring the critical advantage and real public infrastructure NZ needs, ie super fast information.

….and combine it with a twist of innovative “X-Prize” spirit – its just what we need to get things interesting, strange, and off-world at thinking central …. ie at the eye of the fish, of course we need the canoe too…

A Declaration of Interdependence !
According to eco-architect Bill McDonough, failure to protect the environment is intergenerational tyranny, and the key to saving the planet isn’t more regulations, but better design !

pity Auckland’s politicians didn’t have Bill on hand to advise them for Queenswharf !

prole in paradise
2 - 12 - 09

What will Welly look like in 2040?

Well, the weather will be better. And the traffic problem will have cleared up, albeit only because there’s no oil left, no cars, and few people left to drive them (mostly eaten by zombies I am sorry to say).

We’ll still have the Beehive. And it will now be the #1 ugliest building in the world, inasmuch as all the uglier buildings in the world got nuked. Of course, aforementioned zombies and various mutants will occupy the Beehive, lurching from one crumbling room to another, screeching and ranting, seeking out the flesh of any remaining human beings . Not pleasant. But not so different from today, really.

2 - 12 - 09

you’re talking of Roger Douglas there, aren’t you…?