Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Remembering the Automobile

Dark, whimsical questions: Is our way of life sustainable? Realistically, how much longer will we have a car in every garage? Will the world last?

Are cars on the way out? It will be a slow process. We may run out of fuel. We may become environmentally conscious to the point where we're no longer comfortable using fuels, or we can't afford them. We may develop hoverboards and teleportation devices that bend time and space. Will we be driving cars at the end of the century? What about twenty years from now? Disease, famine, flooding, pollution, nuclear war, asteroids, supernovae, zombies - will there be anyone left to fill our driver's seats?

Setting aside the overwhelming possibility of a return of the living dead or a Return of the Living Dead Part II, I have my doubts that the automobile, at least as we know it, will survive to the end of humanity. Sure, it will exist in some way, but think about what cars mean to us now. Most obviously, they are our most convenient, efficient means of everyday transportation. In many ways, they provide the core to society's physical place in the world. Where we live and how we arrange our homes and business - all a result of the road. Streets dominate the our landscapes. Our first toys are tiny cars, and soon we build our own Hot Wheels tracks, and before that, after we've left the hospital, before we even enter our home for the first time, we are strapped into our car seats and buckled tightly.

And it's all brand new. The Ford Model T was first produced one hundred years ago. There are people older than the commercially available car. Will they live to see the end?

Cars will not disappear in an instant. There are simply too many, and they mean too much to us, but are they timeless? There will be car enthusiasts in the future. The vinyl record upended our culture overnight. Now, it too has enthusiasts. They love the retro feel of dropping the needle into a groove and boast of the medium's superior quality. Meanwhile, the masses slip their iPods in their pockets and shuffle until the battery dies.

Horses. Bikes. Camels. Rickshaws. Sleds. Boats. Buggies. Trains. Feet.

How will you remember the automobile?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking stuff.