Thinking big: 30 people. 30 visions.

How would our world look today if these things hadn’t been dreamed up? No smartphones. No planes. No electricity. Many things that were pie in the sky yesterday are today’s reality. All because one single person made their vision of the future a reality and shared it with everyone. We spend every minute of every day thinking—so why not think big? Just like the trailblazers in the following 30 stories.

  1. 1. 

  2. Julia Römer has developed a fridge that works without mains power. The "Coolar" is designed to facilitate storage of medical supplies in hot developing countries.
  1. 2. 

  2. The “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” has one goal—to eradicate malaria.
  1. 3. 

  2. At Google X, Head Strategist Obi Felten is driving the “Loon” project. It launches enormous balloons into the stratosphere, bringing internet coverage to remote areas.
  1. 4. 

  2. The Swedish author Astrid Lindgren developed perhaps the most visionary female role model. Pippi Longstocking was a strong little girl who made the world into whatever she wanted it to be.
  1. 5. 

  2. Aboard the spaceship Enterprise, food was served by the Replicator. This could soon become reality. Numerous companies are already offering 3D food printers. One is Foodini. They can apparently print you a custom pizza in 20 minutes.
  1. 6. 

  2. Virgin Hyperloop One is working to create freight that moves “at the speed of light and closer to the cost of trucking” in the future.  (Sir Richard Branson)
  1. 7. 

  2. Ada Lovelace was an IT trailblazer. In 1843, she had already discovered the potential of machine information processing based on mathematics. Her note labelled “G” contained what became the first ever published algorithm. It took nearly 100 years, until 1941, for Konrad Zuse to build the first program controlled-computer.
  1. 8. 

  2. Well-known entrepreneurs involved in projects aiming for immortality are:

  • Larry Ellison (Oracle)
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google)
  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon)
  • Peter Thiel (formerly at PayPal)
  1. 9.

  2. "Cosmos" portrayed his understanding of the world: Alexander von Humboldt was an interdisciplinary universalist who explored networks and researched global connections. A visionary of the 19th century without equal.

  1. 10. 

  2. It was Steve Jobs who opened the door to a new world with the smartphone touch screen—things will never be the same again.
  1. 11.

  2. In 2017, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai became the youngest UN Peace Ambassador and Nobel Peace Prize laureate at just 19 years of age. Despite an attack, she campaigns for global freedom and the education of women.
  1. 12.

  2. The English suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 - 1928) was a pioneer in the fight for women’s suffrage, with women finally winning the right to vote 100 years ago.
  1. 13. 

  2. Reed Hasting couldn’t find the video he’d rented, and consequently had to pay a fine of more than 40 USD, leading him to begin dreaming about online video rental. And that’s how Netflix came to be. And binge watching.
  1. 14.

  2. Greta Thunberg (16) didn't go to school on Fridays for months, instead protesting to raise awareness of climate change. She held a moving speech at the UN climate summit in Katowitce. Thousands of school children worldwide are following her example.
  1. 15. 

  2. At the Institute of Biometry and Medical Informatics in Magdeburg, one of the world's leading bioinformaticians, Johannes Bernarding, is working on connecting computers to the human brain. With these brain-computer interfaces, computers learn to understand emotions.
  1. 16.

  2. As in the science-fictional classic, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there will soon be headphones that can interpret languages in real time. A joint Google and Baidu project is already making the first models available.
  1. 17.

  2. Alexander Pando promises a solution par excellence to energy problems. He’s working near to Houston with researchers from MIT to produce gas energy that creates no CO2. Pure energy, no greenhouse gasses.
  1. 18. 

  2. Sidewalk Labs is a company in the Alphabet Group that's building the city of the future in Toronto. It’s set to be the smartest of smart cities and depends on digital technologies. Robots will transport parcels and take out the bins underground.
  1. 19.

  2. In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager into space. To this day, the satellite is still transmitting data back to earth and exploring the depths of the universe. It’s currently 22 billion kilometres from us. And the only long-term man-made object in interstellar space.
  1. 20. 

  2. Dutch Boyan Slat is said to have begun working out puzzles from the tender age of two. In 2003, at age 19, he founded the Ocean Cleanup initiative to rid the world’s seas of plastic rubbish.
  1. 21.

  2. In Berlin, 1,000 lamp posts have been turned into charging stations for electric cars. The company Ubitricity is already developing other, similar projects in other European cities.
  1. 22. 

  2. In 2007, Felix Finkbeiner founded the charity “Plant for the Planet”. He was just ten years old. The objective of his “Trillion Tree Campaign” is in its name—to plant more than a trillion trees within the next 30 years. His initiative has currently encouraged more than 75,000 children and young people to plant over 15 billion tree saplings.
  1. 23. 

  2. A breakthrough for paraplegics. In October 2018, researchers from the Polytechnical University of Lausanne succeeded in getting patients’ paralysed legs to walk by electrically stimulating their spinal cords.  At the same time, MIT is working on microsensors in the brain and legs that could give paraplegics back control of their bodies.
  1. 24.

  2. The streets of the future won’t necessarily be tarmacked. In pilot projects, the lower layers were constructed from solar cells and recycled plastic. On a test stretch of the Swedish e-road, Arlanda, electric cars can charge their batteries without stopping.

  1. 25. 

  2. The historian Yuval Noah Harari believes in the power of great narratives. Only humans—in contrast to animals—are capable of linking actual realities and a vision of a reality. Humanity is facing the task of creating a narrative for the future.
  1. 26.

  2. The future researcher Angela Oguntala was born in Lagos, grew up in New York, and now lives in Copenhagen. She observes that people often have a blinkered view of the future. Rather than generalised visions, there are many perspectives and futures that exist simultaneously.
  1. 27. 

  2. “People who have visions should go see a doctor.” The immortal quote of Helmut Schmidt, in his lifetime both significant SPD politician and Chancellor of Germany.
  1. 28. 

  2. In its infancy in the 70s, the internet was something for specialists only. Enter Tim Berners-Lee The British physicist and information scientist wrote the World Wide Web program to publish information on computer networks globally. He was also the creator of the first internet browser and the markup language HTML.


Fail forward in DuckTales: Gyro Gearloose first appeared in the 50s in a Disney comic. Since then, the feathered inventor has created countless gadgets to make every-day life easier.

  1. 30. 

  2. Space travel for all: British billionaire, Richard Branson, wants to provide private flights into space with his company, Virgin Galactic. Jeff Bezos is also working on turning this dream into reality with Blue Origin, and Elon Musk similarly, with SpaceX.


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This post was published on May 8, 2019.