The other day Peter Shankman tweeted, “After 16 hours of travel, I just really need to ask: It’s 2012. Where the hell is my personal jet pack?” That got me thinking, “Yeah! Where the hell IS my personal jet pack?”
We’ve pretty much gotten everything else we were promised: Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio? Got it. It’s called a smartphone. The instant meal machine Rosie used to make dinner for the Jetsons? Got that too. It’s called a microwave oven. Why they’re even cloning bladders, tracheae, and ears in Petri dishes for Pete’s sake. But as far as I can tell, no one’s got my jet pack yet.
Yeah, the Air Force drags an old jet pack out every other Fourth of July and flies it around a football field somewhere in the heartland, but that one costs nearly a million bucks and only goes about 50 feet or so. And I’ve recently seen a water-based pack that sucks lake water into a pipe and forces it back out the bottom, shooting its wearer a few feet up in the air. But that invention requires a big lake and you get all wet and can’t fly it in an immaculate tuxedo like James Bond did anyway.
Think about what jet packs could do for us. Regardless of where you live, I’m pretty sure you’ve bitched about traffic within the last week. But if you had a jet pack, you wouldn’t give two hoots about traffic at all. Got parking woes? Lets face it, a jet pack takes up a whole lot less room than your Cadillac Escalade ESV (or your Toyota Prius, for that matter), and you could stash it anywhere. Gas mileage? While I don’t imagine my jet pack will be hybrid or solar powered, if we figure out the technology to make these things work, I’m sure we can figure out how to make them frugal. And zipping around with our jet packs on, we won’t be wasting gas idling in traffic or at red lights.
Don’t worry. I’m not entirely quixotic about my request. I know my jet pack won’t work when it rains and I know it’ll be ineffective when I’m traveling with my kids. It also won’t work when I have a lot of stuff to carry or when I need to tow the boat. But the rest of the time, I think a personal jet pack is exactly what we all need to get around quickly and easily.
So who can create these for us? Yesterday I needed to look up the gestation cycle of the Byzantine Fruit Fly and Google found the answer for me in less than .00002 seconds. If they can figure that out, I’m sure Larry and Serge have the smarts and the resources to get my jet pack done. I also needed to communicate with my agent who was vacationing in Athens, Greece and did that in real time right from my computer. The guys who figured out how to make that possible could certainly figure out how to make me a jet pack. And today I parked next to a beautiful new Tesla that was created by the same guy who created PayPal and SpaceX. Surely someone like Elon Musk, who could dream up those things while also serving as the model for Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Iron Man could build my pack, don’t you think?
Of course I’d want to brand my jet pack but truth is, I don’t care who makes it a reality. In a perfect world, I’d like Apple to be involved so it’ll look cool and I’d like Porsche to be involved so it’ll be fast. Volvo could help make it safe and Taco Bell could make it affordable. If Starbucks would repair them there’d be a service station on almost every corner and if Swatch helped out they could make sure everyone could get one. And Marriott could make sure jet packs worked the same way no matter where you were in the world. But I don’t really care whose logo is on my jet pack as long as it works, it’s reliable, and I can afford it.
Am I setting my sights too high? In today’s world of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) it seems like anything that can be imagined can be created. Besides the examples I’ve already mentioned, our lives are chock-full of modern miracles — from the unbelievable capacity of tiny flash drives to contact lenses, to Saran Wrap, which Mel Brooks’ 2000-year old man says is “the greatest thing mankind ever devised.”
Have you seen those guys who jump off mountains with their flying squirrel suits on? They zip around the countryside with nothing more than some fabric stretched tightly between their arms and legs. I’m thinking we could sign a few of those yahoos up as our test pilots to make sure the jet packs work. After all, if those guys are gutsy enough to jump off mountains in skintight Slankets, they certainly won’t be afraid to try out our new jet packs.
If you want one too, maybe we could start a movement. Perhaps if we demonstrate significant market demand, some forward-thinking engineers will get started and build our jet packs already.
Franklin B. Adams wanted “a good five cent nickel,” Huey Lewis wants “a new drug,” and I want a personal jet pack. Is that too much to ask?