Marcus, what is your background
I've traveled all my life. I was born in Australia of U.S. parents
while my father was a Fulbright scholar. I spent all my teenage
years living in Switzerland and traveling frequently. Then I followed
the hippie trail overland to India at the end of the 1970s, before
settling on university in the Southern Appalachian mountains of
Carolina near Cherokee and the Great Smokies to study psychology
and tourism for five years.
What is the history of Vagabond Globetrotting?
Prior to finishing university, I published the premier edition
of Vagabond Globetrotting, which quickly gained nationwide Associated
Press coverage in the United States. Following university, I traveled
nearly constantly flogging my book all over the United States
as well as back and fourth across the Atlantic, of course taking
the occasional time out for romances. In 1989, I published the
revised edition of Vagabond Globetrotting, then promptly set off
on an extensive multi-year exploration of the Eastern part Europe
during the softening of the Iron Curtain. In 1994, I published
another book, The Electronic Traveler, which was the first book
to appear about travel information on the Internet, which then
took my career on a technological tangent into the dot-com boom
and bust. The current 20th anniversary edition of Vagabond Globetrotting
appeared in 2004, after nearly two years exploring Brazil and
the Amazon over the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE2002).
You are enthusiastically working on the creation of
artificial intelligence in virtual worlds. How does this dovetail
with your work in tourism?
My father was a mathematician, worked for IBM something like
29 years, and was a professor of computer science. My mother studied
psychology at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich. So, I naturally
have an interest in the intersection of computer science and psychology,
in this case AI. One of the things I find fascinating about the
new 3D virtual worlds, such as Second Life, is their similarity
to dreaming or visionary experience. We all know that tourism
is about dreams. My feeling is that anthropomorphic AI bots will
become the new robotic guidebooks or robot guides, in particular
as convergence continues from mobile phones across to high-definition
television and even PlayStation interfaces.
Do you see ways that AI can be used to facilitate poverty alleviation?
Is "synthetic" food better than no food? In some cases,
yes. Is "synthetic" experience better than "natural"
experience? Particularly in the current context of global warming
and climate change, I would say in terms of physical travel and
transportation yes, some "synthetic" experience may
be preferable to unnatural travel. In general though, automation
seems to displace as many jobs as it creates. Intercultural exchange,
in this age of globalization, is still an art and not a science.
No one really knows the right way to do it. I have worked my whole
life toward bridging these divides and feel that more awareness,
increased consciousness through communication and shared experience
is the way forward. Smarter is better.
How are tourism technologies changing in relation to human
Globalization is bringing in its wake undreamt of new tensions
and conflicts as diverse peoples come into contact that have literally
never been in contact before, and this may be only just beginning.
As a result, we are seeing new immigration regimes tightening
controls on movement internationally. This is not completely unlike
the passport regimes instituted following the Great War, World
War I. In the medium term, this may result in physical travel
returning to an era of elitism, where people with antisocial records
or without approved income may be prevented from traveling.
How do you use Wikipedia?
Right now, I'm involved documenting the recent history of travel
technology, what I call the "Travel Technology History Project:
1991 - 2001", part of which is working on the Wikipedia travel
technology entry as well as other entries interconnected with
How is green travel developing in Australia?
In terms of large countries, Australia is one of the most developed
with regard to sustainable tourism. There is quite a bit of sustainable
innovation happening in Australia that is not being adequately
shared or marketed with the rest of the world, particularly the
developing world who need it most. What we are talking about here
is mostly cross-over from other fields of sustainability, practical
things being implemented within the broader tourism sector. Permaculture
is one system that was originally developed in Australia that
is having an effect worldwide now.
What is the future of tourism?
Obvious trends include short haul airlines and the burgeoning
economies of India and China. There is a general feeling that
now is the time to strengthen sustainable tourism practices, before
the impacts of increased tourism from Asia appear.
What is the history and future of the green-travel list?
I started green-travel at igc.apc.org (EcoNet & PeaceNet)
in 1991 as a result of my bicycle trip to the then Soviet Union,
which is documented in my ebook From
the Balkans to the Baltics. During that trip, I visited green
movements and Green Parties throughout Eastern Europe to discuss
sustainable tourism and demonstrate Internet email with an early
solar-powered laptop. It was actually my involvement starting
the green-travel group that eventually lead to me writing The
Electronic Traveler, the first book about travel information on
the Internet in 1994. Having been online since 1985 and watching
everything related to travel happening around me, as well as scurrying
to get people involved in green-travel, suddenly placed me in
the position to write that influential book at the dawning of
the web. I call the green-travel group an information cooperative,
no more and no less than the members want it to be. The Internet
began as an alternate channel, and my vision for the green-travel
group is to continue to provide that service as an alternate channel
for cooperative information distribution indefinitely.
What sort of future do you see for Planeta.com?
I always felt the concentration of Planeta on opening the grassroots
Spanish speaking world of Latin America and exposing it to the
English speaking north was exceptional. I also admire the pioneering
online service of Ron Mader in facilitating global communication
events among diverse stakeholders, such as during the International
Year of Ecotourism (IYE2002). Gisela Treichler, owner of the Travel
Book Shop in Zurich, always tried to tell me that you can't sell
the whole world to people. You can go broad and shallow, or narrow
and deep. My feeling is that there is a lot of broad and shallow
in the world today, and particularly from a green perspective
what is needed is more narrow and deep.
Good point. I see Planeta.com going broad and deep with
local partners. A final question: Do you accept financial donations?
Yes, gladly, as my father is fond of saying, "just send money!"
He reckons I've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into
my online activities since 1985, and now it really makes my day
whenever someone contributes even $25 to lend a hand with ongoing
expenses. Donations are
now accepted via paypal.com (Visa or MasterCard).