We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

21st Century Paradigm Shift and Vertical Farming

How vertical farms illustrate the emerging post-scarcity societal architecture

A very optimistic story emerges when one looks at statistics concerning material activity of historically influential countries in the world today. As can be seen in chart below, vast majority of humanity are being gradually liberated from heavy toil and will be allowed to dedicate their lives to self-actualization. Dramatic rise in individuals dedicated solely to self improvement will regionalize, nationalize, and then globalize the same atmosphere of creativity, other centered activism, and solidarity that only existed on elite college campuses in the past. Currently, middle and even some lower class youths throughout the world are approaching the same level of psychic development as existed among their brethren in Ivy League schools in the 1960s. This time around they have superior numbers within their age group and the silent minority will either have to zip it or secede.

In 20th century, there used to be a 1-2 generation developmental lag between the various classes but the speed with which this lag is closing is accelerating. For example, we can see how people partying it up in places like Bushwick are rather similar to children of the rich in the 1920s when it comes to mannerisms, diversity of tastes, sexual exploration, and relationship patterns. There is even emulation of the hideous decadent art that results from disenchantment with hedonism, lack of societal vision from above, and inability to deal with nihilism (just visit most galleries in NYC you'll see). The rate at which musical and party trends from underground venues in trend setting cities find their way to small cities around the world is rapidly becoming exponential.

The Internet allows the type of autodidactic learning that the leisurely aristocrats of old could only dream about. Since the brain can only develop so much, we'll increasingly see individuals from below the social hierarchy catch up and even overshoot those on top. Dramatically increased resource sharing will then have to be made to preserve social stability. New institutional frameworks (to streamline the budding noocracy) will emerge. Rising mass popularity of events like TED conferences are a hint of things to come. Conversely, if you're a pessimist watch this (UK and US will show other key nations what mistakes to avoid in the transition).

Agricultural Sector

Efficiency of American agricultural sector is incredible considering how much is left over for the export market. Once the biggest companies within this sector are taken over and properly managed by the public, they'll be able to provide oceans of high quality organic food at virtually zero cost while continuing to need less and less workers to operate. One need not even mention the reform of currently homicidal subsidies to not grow. Eventually, after sufficient automation, the global farmer population will dip to less than 1% of 7-9 billion humans (not counting amateurish micro-industry hobby farmers).

click to enlarge
Current popular trend of grass roots farm redecentralization and localism is the product of the economic crisis and decades of inefficiency within suburban living (that requires very long energy expensive transport and chemical saturation to mummify/preserve the food). Such decentralization can be accomplished from the top down with competent management. For instance, central regional or national governments can tackle such classic corporate villains like Monsanto and Dole Food Company by:

1) Having their various headquarters raided simultaneously and all their physical and financial assets frozen
2) All their employees kept in place, wages increased, cooperative profit/product sharing introduced, and flatter directly democratic worker management introduced (to maintain technical talent)
3) Splitting key hyperindustrialized mega farms into however many parts are desired, mass constructing new smaller farms near or within the cities, and putting the smaller farms under local city, county, or state management (see below)

Rather than most people fleeing the cities to escape oppression and becoming farmers (ex: Rome well into its decline), we'll eventually see large entities taking advantage of economies of scale and rapidly mass constructing vertical farms to localize food deep inside the urban zones. Skyscraper farms will be a service and a fixture under local popular control the way police stations and libraries are. One must remember that current agricultural tech is so advanced that it allows us to easily feed a population of 50 billion humans. In effect, food is and will be recognized as a "too cheap to meter" utility and its delivery will be akin to the post office.

Industrial Sector

Similarly, heavy industry leaders like Germany and Japan continue to export highest quality infrastructural components while their actual sectors "shrink". In reality of course (as agri monopolists show) a sector can and does expand greatly while requiring less operators (brief hiring boosts from inventions like cotton gin notwithstanding). A good illustration is North Korea whose industrial sector is vast majority of its economy, is even higher than China, yet is laughable in its production. Meanwhile leaders like Tokyo and Berlin are increasingly paying attention to robotic development. Success will be measured in ability of making bigger and bigger objects while requiring less primate caloric expenditures. For instance, if it used to take say, 10,000 primates to make 1 jumbo jet airplane, in the future 5,000 primates should be able to construct a super jumbo spaceship. Once again, the public must provide the guidance to this process.

We can now see that agricultural sector is about to be reclassified since its destiny is to be fully integrated into the industrial sector. The fascistic corporate kleptocracy that English speakers live under has given a bad name to industrialized farming the way North Korea gives bad name to socialism. One just has to compare the quality of product that highly mechanized Swedish farms make to food in a local Wall Mart. As mentioned above, high tech factories churning out hyper clean and organic food product within efficient 3 dimensional space is something to be embraced. No need to revert to subsistence peasant digging in the dirt to get quality food in the 21st century (I can't believe I actually had to type that sentence).

Now is a good time to clarify a prior article titled Post-industrial Society=Beyond Idiocy. The point of the article was not to deny that we're headed towards a civilization where less people are involved in industrial production. The point was to counter the current pathetic Western neo-Luddite anti industrial outlook that is emerging. As mentioned above, as majority of the young intelligentsia today are becoming similar (in psychology and ability) to the leaders of 1960s social movements, they are partially re-embracing the hatred of "large scary dirty factories". As they are about to re-discover Marxism (by some other name, possibly within the Zeitgeist movement framework or its spin offs), there is a danger of further slow down in heavy industry development and even rougher transition within Western space. One just has to look at how these people killed  the nuclear industry in North America. In a decent society, political leaders calling for infrastructural stagnation would be impeached.

Instead of thinking "hey lets replace 100 dirty factories making 100,000 tractors with 5 mega high tech fission reactor powered modular factories mass producing 500,000 super large terraforming electrical tractors that are recharged by an underground 21st century standard power line hooked into fission/fusion reactor grid" they are thinking "lets replace 100 dirty factories with our homemade bike production facility and lets ride around on a solar powered bike and grow our own food and make our own clothing, look we're retarded". Industrial progress = mass production = taking say, a half a million dollar car, inviting NASA to make it crash proof, making it electric, and then stamping it out on automated assembly lines in such numbers as to lower the price to 10 grand.

We can't allow this type of neo-luddite outlook to infect our politics for a second time since the result would be a sustainable high tech reservation existing in a supposed "equilibrium with nature" (whatever that means). The ultra rich would love a bunch of dorm style facebook cities where the youthful citizens exert their newly released creative energies to make/trade art and toys for the rich to amuse themselves with (as they gently direct, spy on everybody, and continue to live as before laughing it up in safety as the Swedish oligarchy does currently). Lets leave the practice of artificially created scarcity in the 20th century.

We're familiar with a phrase "don't put this or that on a pedestal". This must especially apply to nature. The so called "resource scarcity" and "energy shortages" are completely dependent on the level of technology within heavy industry. Primitive people 2,000 years ago also had fears of overpopulation and resource shortages. With sufficiently advanced technology and energy sources, we can literally create new nature where it hasn't existed before (Sahara desert turned into a rainforest) and colonize it with biodiversity. Minerals from deeper in the earth can be brought via powerful laser drilling, ocean floor can be tapped, asteroids brought into orbit and mined, etc. Yes it'd be big "scary" heavy machines but just as with farming, they can be hyper clean and not only compatible with a more humane civilization but essential to bring it about.


Vertical farms are a symbol of this emerging dynamic since they create a synergistic unity between city and country and various labor types. It appears that the future will not only have fusion of agriculture, industry, and services on a macro level but that this process would allow individuals resources ("art supplies") to become their own individualized micro producers. More on that later.

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1 comment:

  1. I was impressed by this style of hard work, thanks for sharing it.

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