If I ruled the world

We need to find out how to put our cars up into the air
September 18, 2013

"When I was born there were two billion people alive on earth... there are now five billion more people looking for a parking space." (© Clara Molden)

I was once asked, in an American questionnaire, what I would do if I were the President of the United States for a day. I wrote that “I would spend the day in bed.” The reason I mention this is because behind my comment was a serious thought—namely that, had I been President for a day, and issued all kinds of commands, I would probably have caused utter chaos in Washington and staying in bed was probably the least damaging course of action I could take.

It is the same with answering the question of what I would do if I ruled the world. I have written several answers but have had to tear them all up because, when you start to take the question seriously, it soon becomes clear just how complex the problem really is and, incidentally, how difficult it must be to act as a world leader. But after much thought, lying on my back arguing silently with myself, I have finally come up with a few ideas.

First, I would demand a massive increase in research projects to solve the problem of designing and building anti-gravity vehicles. This would take transportation off the ground and into the air. At the present rate of population growth, our whole transport system will soon grind to a halt in a global traffic jam. When I was born there were two billion people alive on the earth. Today, the figure is seven billion. There are now five billion more people looking for a parking space. On top of that, fossil fuels are running out. We need research to find a new source of fuel and to find out how to put our cars up into the air. And we need to find a way of creating a crash avoidance system of the kind displayed by shoals of fish. No matter how dense a shoal becomes, or how rapidly it changes course when being chased by a predator, the individual fish don’t bump into one another because they have sense organs that prevent this. We would need to find similar “sense organs” for our floating air-cars.

Why hasn’t all this been done already? Because the force of gravity is one of the most mysterious of all natural phenomena. There is no iron in my body, so why don’t I just float off into space when I come out of my front door? Why does a massive body, like the planet earth, have an attraction for a smaller body, like me? Nobody has ever given me a sensible answer to this question. I can see no good reason why we should not be able to investigate it more thoroughly and come up with a solution that would give us the great cultural release of air-car travel. This would revolutionise our lives, giving us so much more freedom of movement and enabling us to explore this fascinating planet and enjoy in much more detail its many wonderful landscapes, natural marvels, and the thousands of different art forms that we have imposed upon it.

This brings me to the selfish pleasure I would like to enjoy if I ruled the world—it would be to experience, at first hand, every architectural masterpiece, every great work of art, every form of local folk art, every festival, carnival and celebration, and to listen to every kind of music and watch every kind of dance. As a species, our crowning glory is our artistic output and, if I ruled the world, I would do my best to ensure that we all had greater access to it in its many forms. An entirely new transportation system is what we need to make this possible.

We also need to nudge politicians more in this direction and away from their usual posturing. When we think of the ancient Egyptians we don’t think about their wars or their political in-fighting—we think about their pyramids and their wonderful temples. We measure their greatness by their art, not their politics. And it is the same with most civilisations.

I think that perhaps the time has come to remove the voting system of professional politicians and institute something more in keeping with modern times. The present system in our country, where we send professional politicians to the Commons to represent us and leave them to vote on new measures on our behalf, is horribly out of date. It was fine when we had no way of voting on issues ourselves, but technology has advanced so much now that every political issue could easily be put to a nationwide vote using the internet. This would give us true democracy for the first time, with the whole population making decisions about its future. If more than 50 per cent of the British population did not want to spend billions on involvement in some kind of foreign warfare, for example, then a national vote would stop politicians showing off on our behalf.

What would you do if you ruled the world? Tell us in 140 characters by tweeting @Prospect_uk with #ifiruledtheworld