Some days I get distracted. Diversions into the internet start off with a clear purpose and then meander off-course to become unproductive and unnecessary. But one of the great rewards of my work is that many other days, diversions become useful in unexpected ways. Random ideas resurface from days, weeks, or years ago, and make a crucial contribution to what you are writing or trying to understand.
Last week, while thinking about the ambiguity of electric vehicles as part of my DEMAND research, I dredged from the depths of my memory the old animated children’s program ‘Inspector Gadget‘. While the inspector was himself rather inept at solving crimes, thanks to his niece Penny, her dog Brain, and an array of amazing gadgets, he regularly stumbled upon the culprit or foiled the plot in the end. While the cyborgian telephone in his hand and his extendable legs were quite impressive, he also had a car that could transform from a family van to a police cruiser, even while in motion. All you needed were the magic words… ‘Go, go, Gadget-mobile!’
This recollection set me off on a train of thought about how useful it would be to have gadgets that could become exactly what we needed (but no more) because it might make energy use more tightly linked with the functionality we need from technologies. That is, technical practicalities aside, it might be more useful to not have to drive a van around if we only needed a micro-car to get to work, and yet have its boot/trunk expand when we stop off at the store on the way home from work, or have extra seats appear if the kids need to be picked up from music lessons. It’s a fun proposition to think with. It’s also fun when childhood recollections can be meaningful integrated into your adult life.
While it is overstated to call it ‘prediction’, for those who want to reminisce, here is a fun diversion that considers how some technologies in Inspector Gadget are similar to contemporary gadgets.