Over the past two centuries, nothing has reshaped the geography of our lives more fundamentally than innovations in mobility. The American Geographical Society’s early days were guided by railroad tycoons, steel barons and bankers interested in connecting the American West through an extensive network of railways, enabling unprecedented commerce, communications and settlement. The railroad fundamentally altered the geography of America, and how people thought about the previously distant frontiers that they could now reach by the comfort of rail. Before railroads came ships that connected continents, and canals that connected landscapes. After the railroads came roads, buses and automobiles. Then the dawn of passenger planes, then the interstate highway system, then passenger jets with global reach. This is a continuous process of humans remaking the geography of their planet through innovations in mobility.
Now the Society is looking to the future to think about how new and emerging innovations in mobility will again reshape the geography of our nation and our world. Mobility has become a central issue within today’s technology press, with the exciting prospects presented by the future of driverless cars, trucks, and buses; flying cars and drone delivery; hyperloops and highspeed rail; hoverboards and electric bikes; supersonic jets and commercial space travel; augmented reality and virtual reality/mobility, and even additive manufacturing and 3D printing at the distant end of supply chains. These frontiers in mobility seem to be ripped from the pages of science fiction, yet early examples of each of these exist today. As always happens, a veritable Pandora’s Box of technologies have been unleashed on the world, and the implications for society and its future geography could not be less clear.
Geography2050 is a multi-year strategic dialog about the vital trends that will reshape the geography of our nation and our planet by 2050. In 2017, our Geography2050 Symposium will focus on the Future of Mobility. We will focus on how mobility innovations will reshape our world’s geography, how these innovations change our basic perception of space and time, and how the geospatial revolution will help drive this revolution in mobility. By exploring these vital future trends, the Society seeks to help thought leaders and decision makers from industry, government, academe and the social sector to “get ahead of the curve” so that they can help shape the future of mobility in order to make the world a better place.