Disneyland’s Magic Highway USA (1958)

Magic highway usa “As in the past, the highway will continue to play a vital role in the progress of civilization. It will be our magic carpet, to new hopes, new dreams, and a better way of life for the future.”

Watch the movie. Previously: Magic Motorways (1939) / London Traffic Improvements (1938) / Roadtown (1910).

The Misanthrope’s Guide to the End of the World

“Garbage eschatology (I claim credit for this neologism) is based on the premise that our technological infrastructure has acquired too much complexity for us to fix. It will kill us not by turning sentient and (for whatever obscure reason) wanting to kill us, but by stupidly and dumbly collapsing on top of us, like a gigantic Windows Vista, while we watch, powerless to prevent our impending accidental death. Technology will kill us by collapsing into a pile of rubble, turning the planet into a gigantic landfill. (…).

My view is based on the idea that the entropy of a software system (broadly defined to include the civilization-ware that runs the planet, including the mechanically embodied computational intelligence of such things as sewer systems) inevitably increases with time, past a point of no-return. Beyond that, we cannot stop it from collapsing under its own weight, and cannot marshal the resources to reverse the aging process either. The best we can do is hide and then emerge from the rubble and build ourselves Mad Max or Waterworld civilization resurrections. And don’t waste your time agonizing. We probably crossed that threshold in the 14th century, by my calculations.”

Venkatesh Rao = Joseph Tainter with a sense of humour. Read the whole thing. Via Ran Prieur.

London Traffic Improvements (the Bressey Report, 1938)

London traffic improvements

In 1935 Sir Charles Bressey was appointed by Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport, to make a comprehensive and systematic survey of the roads of Greater London. It was clear that the infrastructure required radical improvement to keep up with the expansion of traffic and Belisha said that Bressey’s report “would stir the imagination of the whole country”.

The report was published three years later and laid out a reconstruction scheme for London based on a detailed 30-year plan for highway development. Bressey’s plan to deal with traffic involved tunnels, overhead roads, new arterial and circular highways and ‘parkways’ linking the city to the rest of the country. Before any of this could be implemented the plan was interrupted by war and aerial bombardment. Nevertheless, many of Bressey’s ideas would influence post-war reconstruction and subsequent schemes for the capital’s reorganisation.

Source (if you’re in a UK school or library, you can access a movie about it).

Via Ptak Science Books, where you can see more illustrations of the “traffic improvements” outlined in the “Bressey Report”. Check out this blog, by the way, there is much more to be found (about 900 posts on the history of ideas and technology, to be precise…). It is written and illustrated by John Ptak, an antiquarian science bookseller.

Related: Magic Motorways, a similar plan for US cities.

London traffic improvements

Roadtown – a Railway in the Basement, a Promenade upon the Roof

Roadtown “The Roadtown is a scheme to organize production, transportation and consumption into one systematic plan. In an age of pipes and wires, and high speed railways such a plan necessitates the building in one dimension instead of three – the line distribution of population instead of the pyramid style of construction. The rail-pipe-and-wire civilization and the increase in the speed of transportation is certain to result in the line distribution of population because of the almost unbelievable economy in construction, in operation and in time.”

Roadtown“, Edgar Chambless, 1910.

More here, here, here and here. Via Alpoma.

Technical Illustrations by Karl Hans Janke (1909-1988)

Karl hans janke 3

The Deutsche Fotothek has uploaded a mind-blowing portfolio of around 3,500 drawings and documents by German visionary Karl Hans Janke. Via BibliOdyssey, where you can find a selection and an introduction in English about the man and his work.

Seasteading: Floating Utopias

The swimming city utopia

“As the earth’s population steadily increases, so does the pressure to open new frontiers. While the oceans have long been used for transportation, this book is an extended thought experiment about how they could support permanent settlements. Considering these issues will be invaluable no matter which way humanity next expands. In particular, the ocean bears some definite similarities to space: the final frontier, which will surely be an important part of our near future.”

Intro page / Book / Contest / Wired article. Related: the Venus Project.