Back to the Future in California – The World in One Hundred Years

Illustration Susanne Gold; Text Bernadette Imkamp

Why do we collect visions of the future? You can find out here!

By chance I met Michael J. Fox

He was sitting in a wheelchair and looked very vulnerable. But I immediately recognized the heartthrob of my youth. I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I made an exception for Michael J. Fox. With hisParkinson’s disease, he could hardly write, but that didn’t stop him from writing something in my notebook that neither he nor I could properly read. He enjoyed the fact that I had been so direct with him. That probably hasn‘t happened to him in a long time because most people were afraid of death and he had been so close to it for many years.

Air travel in a hundred years?

We got into a conversation. I told him that my daughters were currently in California at a summer camp and that I had flown to visit them for a few days. I had a guilty conscience, because I knew that every flight brought us closer to the climate catastrophe. Nevertheless, I flew. “How will people feel about air travel in 100 years,” I thought aloud? Michael and I pondered this question a bit theoretically, and he asked me if I wanted to check directly what people would think about it in 2122. “Of course,” it escaped me faster than I could think.

How was I supposed to know he was serious?

Yes, I had seen the movie “Back to the Future” often enough in my youth to be warned. The time machine and the surreal impression of being ahead of one’s time. I should have known that living in the future as a person of the past was an imposition. I said “sure thing” … and now I find myself at a Venice Beach I couldn‘t recognize.

Michael is no longer there

There are only a few people to be seen and they are dressed very different to what I am used to. They wear plain clothes made of a material I can’t identify. Plastic fibers perhaps? They go their way calmly and unexcited. Where to, that is not clear to me. I see that they meet on the beach and discuss something. But it doesn’t look to me like they’re talking about the next bodybuilding or surfing competition, as it used to be the case on Venice Beach.

People look serious and at the same time at peace with themselves.
I don’t remember that from my time. People in 2022 are like startled chickens, constantly squawking like frogs. Everyone has an opinion on everything and concentrated action is seemingly impossible. This seems to be a community action where no one steps out of line. People walk the beach in groups and collect washed up plastic. They do it in a way that I have never seen before.

Consistent, convinced and friendly – a future without cars
As I push on, I notice that there are no cars at all. On Venice Beach in the U.S.A., the country where driving a car is a human right? Every now and then, electric buses purr by, but not a single car.

My thoughts spin. How could such a change have taken place? Who initiated it? How could everyone rally behind it and participate?

Who brought the U.S. Congress, Donald Trump or his descendants, and Greenpeace to the table and to a solution?
Intuitively, I keep walking. As I continue on my way, I come to Rodeo Drive. Here, too, I see no cars, although the most amazing sports cars used to cruise here. The temples of consumption also look different. They have been greened from the outside and inside there are no Gucci bags or Tiffany jewelry. Instead, spacious workshops have sprung up there, where the collected plastic is sorted and turned into all sorts of things – including clothing. It reminds me a bit of the pre-industrialization narratives. Can it really be that the world has gone back so many steps? No one seems to be unhappy with it.

In the colorful restaurant

I sit down in a restaurant that looks more like a Swabian broom than a McDonalds branch. Tables and chairs are wildly gathered together. Nothing matches, though in its entirety it looks good. I find an empty table and sit down. A glance at the menu shows me that a Coke and a burger are not to be found here. Instead, I can only order tap water and millet fritters. I don’t mind, because I prefer millet patties over burgers anyways. It doesn’t take long before I’m served both.

Only now do I realize that I have walked many kilometers. I am hungry and thirsty. The tap water and the millet patties taste great. While I eat, a young man sits down at my table.

This is common here apparently, I have noticed this sociability at the neighboring table already. That would have been unthinkable 100 years ago.

The young man introduces himself as Andrew. “Nice to meet you!” I’m happy to have a conversation, although I have qualms. What can I say? I’m not sure exactly where I’ve landed here or how this world works. I’m sure Andrew will think within no time that I’ve escaped the psychiatric ward after 35 years of incarceration.

How is that supposed to explain my unworldliness?

Andrew doesn’t seem to notice anything. He asks me how I like California. I say that I find it so decelerated, which he immediately confirms with a nod of his head. He confirms that people in 2122 feel the same way. Do they have any comparison at all, do they know the opposite, I ask myself.

Hectic, bigger-faster-further from my time does not exist here.
I talk to Andrew for a long time. He makes me feel as if i I belong here. It almost feels like I’ve known him forever. I’ve never had such a good conversation, and strangely enough, I feel like I know how we could turn things around in 2022, too. But there’s no need for that – I’m already in the future.

Unexpectedly, our conversation takes a turn

Andrew tells me that he bears his name in honor of his great-great-grandfather, whose middle name was Andrew, and asks if I know him. He would have been a famous actor – and in some ways a visionary – in his day.

I feel dizzy for a moment, and when I come to, there’s a Coke and a burger in front of me, and all around me is the hectic Rodeo Drive bustle of 2022.

Who is Andrew and when am I?

I eat my burger and drink the Coke. I would have preferred the millet patties. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew – He looked a little like Michael J. Fox. But Andrew doesn’t start with “J.” I pull my phone out of my pocket and Google Michael J. Fox. Sure enough – his middle name is Andrew. Probably he found the “J” more suitable than the “A” for the stage name.

Now I know what I have to do and eat my lunch in peace.

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