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Technology and Imagination

For one year, 334 and approximately one-half days at the time of writing, Markus Pukonen, a Tofino BC resident has been engaged in circumnavigating the globe unassisted by engines or motors.  His journey began in Toronto, his original home city and via rowing, sailing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and swimming, walking, running, and walking backward, biking, velo-mobiling, skateboarding, skiing, and, amazingly, pogo-sticking, he has now reached Hong Kong.

You can follow this great adventure online, the website of the registered non-profit society he founded, ‘Routes of Change’ to “use adventure and entertainment to support the unsung leaders of our planet as they work to create a healthy future for all beings…a new sustainable way of life on earth.”  These days water-crossing/trekking adventures to raise awareness for worthy causes seem like they are legion and, furthermore, without “here be dragons” regions on Google maps, it’s easy enough to skim over their telling.

But being face-to-face with the adventurer himself sharpens the focus.  ‘Herculean’ hardly begins to describe his mission, leaving you parsing the definitions of ‘engines’ and ‘motors’, searching for possibilities he may have overlooked to ease his self-imposed challenge.  At the same time, your appreciation for the miraculous and beneficent endowment to mankind wrought by engines and motors is rekindled.

We may look to the giants of 18th and 19th century invention, the likes of John Barber, Thomas Mead, Robert Street, John Stevens, François Isaac de Rivaz, Samuel Brown, Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, Nikolaus Otto, George Brayton, Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, Karl Benz, Rudolf Diesel, and in the 20th century Robert Goddard.  

From the paddleboard to the drawing board we see other adventurers engaged in envisioning a better (or at least, more efficient) and cleaner future.  The 2017 Spring/Summer issue of Mercedes-Benz magazine profiles Gordon Wagener, Daimler AG’s Chief Design Officer since 2008.  The subject of a new book published by Condé Nast International, …Gordon Wagener on Design, Wagener oversees an advanced design studio engaged in creating the “design drafts of the future—a future in which mobility blends seamlessly with life, in which skyscrapers and gardens coexist, in which bridges have become high-speed glass tunnels and in which drones glide past us overhead like birds.”

Consulting with “neuroscientists, visionary architects and digital nomads” Wagener’s team aims to “explore the realms between knowledge and dreams, to push the boundaries between the possible and the impossible, and to… (give) California surfers as much of a say as German engineers.”

Google the book title to see some of these fantastic imaginings online.  Another automobile designer recently profiled is Fiat Chrysler’s global head of design, Ralph Gilles.  In Season 1 of the Netflix documentary series, ‘Abstract, The Art of Design’ Gilles is shown leading the design team working on a prototype for a self-driving electric van.  Soon, Driver’s Licences may not be so culturally important as they are today.

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