Can airlines learn from a Norwegian library, which just has embarked on a project that will not be completed until 2114, 100 years from now?
Just outside Oslo, a thousand trees have been planted. Once grown, these trees will be used for paper. On that paper, 100 stories will be published, 100 years from now. 100 writers, selected to build up a collection of 100 stories over 100 years, which will only be read in 2114. This is the Future Library.
I read about this project in Emirates’ inflight magazine (see pages 62-66), while travelling from London Gatwick to Dubai on May 9, 2015. “Every decision I make now regarding Future Library I have to think of in 100-year time spans,” Katie Paterson, the Scottish artist behind Future Library, was quoted as saying in the Emirates article.
“How will the library room be looked at and experienced in 100 years? How will the materials react over the decades to come? What languages will people be speaking in 100 years? What kind of technologies will exist? What will the status of the printed book be?,” she questioned. With this in mind, a printing press will be installed in the library to make sure that the stories are ultimately published.
This made me think about airline planning and how hard it is to conceive what the airline industry will look like in 2114, if airlines still exist 100 years from now.
It also reminded me of a conversation I had with Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam in Johannesburg in 2012, when we were talking about his airline’s strategic plan to 2025. “It is difficult to plan for the next quarter, let alone the next 15 years,” he joked. Yet, despite this, Ethiopian has a clear ‘Vision 2025’ plan stretching beyond the next decade.
Around the same time as I had that chat with Mr. Tewolde, Airbus released a video of what ‘Smarter Skies’ might look like in 2050. Another video from the European manufacturer shows seats growing, cleaning, repairing and shape-shifting themselves.
More recently (and perhaps more realistically), Airbus has released another film showing different onboard zones for activities such as relaxation and technology. There are already calls for this kind of cabin differentiation today, albeit on a much smaller scale.
This year we are approaching a key date, October 21, 2015. Does that ring a bell? It was the date that Marty McFly traveled forward to in the ‘Back to the Future’ film trilogy.
Will aviation look like the Airbus predictions by 2050, or will they be lost to future history like the ‘Back to the Future’ hoverboards? Maybe our ancestors will read all about it in the Future Library.