Thursday, June 4, 2009


Looking back, its hard to tell what the whole so-called cyberpunk movement was supposed to be about. Even careful study of the Thoughts of Chairman Bruce doesn’t bring us many clues. Arthur C. Clarke with a better haircut? How do your define “better haircut?” Would Sir Arthur look better in a flat-top? Dredlocks? Multi-colored spikes?

The closest I can find to an essential theme is the yearning for high-tech counterculture.

Those of you under thirty probably need a definition of the word "counterculture." It comes from the later part of the mythic Nineteen Sixties. "Culture" was what the "Establishment" – the Government, corporations, Hollywood, television – put out to keep the war machine going. On the other hand, the "counterculture" – rock and roll, comic books, certain artists, and advocates of "coolness" – was offering visions of peace, love, and spare change.

Though influenced by science fiction in a lot of ways, one of the core beliefs of the counterculture was that technology was evil, and progress needed to be stopped, or reversed if possible. Science fiction, except as religious allegory, was seen as a bad thing. New technology, except for bigger and better stereo equipment, was seen as the tool of the oppressor.

So that’s why a literary movement was necessary to show the youth of the world that Technology Can Be Groovy.

Of course in the post-World Wide Web world, where every agent of change, even when advocating destroying all human civilization to save the planet, first goes online to spread the world, this isn’t the problem.

The problem now is people take technology for granted. Nothing new seems groovy any more.

That is until a company called Festo revolutionized the airship.

I caught some footage on a late night rerun of a Discovery Channel show on the future of transportation. The sight of these magnificent flying objects knocked me out of my drowsiness. Their beauty and grace amazed me and sent my imagination soaring.

They are called the AirJelly – that moves through the air like a jellyfish – and the Air Ray – that swims through the sky like a manta-ray. The basic idea is having lighter-than-air craft move through the atmosphere the way aquatic organisms move through water.

This not only gives me hope for my idea of using airships for ecotourism, but opens up ways to explore gas giants and heavy-atmosphere planets like Venus. Even as models, they are incredible art objects. There’s something soothing about watching them.

Suddenly, the future is full of new possibilities. Dare I say that Technology Is Groovy, and revolution is in the air.

Example: What if we had saucer-shaped crafts propelled by mechanical cilia, like certain microorganisms? Wouldn’t that be fun?

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