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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Western Reindustrialization: Science Cities

When certain countries rediscover the political will to engage in macro level high tech industry and infrastructure building, they should keep in mind a few simple things. Physical architecture to spur creativity and plug and play integrated chains from concept to industrial production.

Western elites have a short amount of time to jump start a new wave of industrialization (to avoid being humiliated at international conferences). DARPA and Naukograds provide hints of how this should be done in the 21st century.

It is well known that a creative mind works best in a novel cutting edge environment. Google has long provided offices that could fit in The Jetsons, Steve Jobs knew it with his spaceship office building design, and president Medvedev intends to rapidly construct a hybrid of silicon valley and MIT in Skolkovo (the way IKEA packages a complex table). Chinese authorities are already constructing scientific campuses with top notch imported factory assembly lines as built in extensions.

For Westerners to begin catching up rapidly, the science-factory cities need to be rethought from the bottom up. The effort should be as holistic as the Apollo program was since it would stimulate and push the best of the human herd's abilities. How would an even larger concentrated effort to churn out 21st century machines look like? The science-factory (SciFac) cities can take on a multitude of forms and sizes but the basic framework may take on this form:

1) Location: A brand new dedicated area to house up to 200,000 people has to be set up in a region that is not too polluted by toxins from prior industrial thrusts. The climate conditions should not be depressing, distracting, or prone to too many natural disasters. Scenery should be inspirational for those who get mental breakthroughs from activities like hiking. Elevation above sea level and air dryness are additional considerations. The SciFacs should not be in the suburbs of any old design city (even if this makes resource logistics more difficult and costly, it'll end up being a blessing in disguise). A right country can of course be a giant plus when it comes to rapidly acquiring the right machines for SciFac's functioning. One can of course visualize Germany or Japan and parts of United States as being good candidates.

2) Lay Out: The SciFac city is optimal if it has a shell within a shell within a shell Matryoshka doll set up. The city as a whole can be viewed as a giant biophysical assembly line. Even the working teams can be further arranged via "psychological assembly" and management to fully utilize abilities of different creative breeds.

__a) The inner most central "research-brain storm" core is a well known basic DARPA layout where fundamental science research is done to create a bridge between current breakthroughs and long term potential breakthroughs. Various fundamental science laboratory complexes are to be integrated with novel housing for quick foot travel and each lab complex to have an immediate proximity communal club area where egos of the researchers can play off each other meaningfully. Obviously both the labs and their attached clubs would be like spokes on a small wheel so interdisciplinary brain storming can be unleashed via individualized healthy one upsmanship and tapping into NT narcissism.

__b) The secondary "engineer and engineering research" shell would be a series of institutes for developing practical application of the fundamental research breakthroughs from the core. These institutes can be looked at as continuation of the spokes from the core. Same system of clubs and interdiscipline friendly architecture is present in this middle layer.

__c) Tertiary shell is to have a network of modular easily replaceable factory floors to build and test prototypes as well as tools to make these prototypes. Real working technologies conceived within the core (brief biking distance at this point) are to be made available to continually inspire the humans in the core and secondary layer.

__d) Supporting final shell where personnel that maintains the SciFac city lives and constructs needed supplies. This shell includes high tech automated vertical farm buildings, clothing factories, grooming item factories, security, raw material processing for tertiary layer assembly lines, etc. The reason why things like clothing, food, toothpaste, medicine are built/assembled on site is because it is incredibly easy to do so and because part of the tertiary prototype layer can actually continuously improve these facilities. In fact, a thin pizza slice of a given SciFac (extending almost to the core) can be tasked with just conceptualizing improvements and constructing augmentation of the actual SciFac itself.

This constant renewal is essential to avoid stagnation and to promote the efficiency, culture, and psycho-physical health of the residents. Modularization of the city's buildings and infrastructure aids in this. Additionally, a small city owning the means of production and distribution and providing for its own needs can rapidly become a role model even before first prototypes roll off the assembly lines. Everybody understands that human primates have essential needs like grooming and an automated small factory can easily stamp out enough haircombs, socks, hats, dental floss, slippers, toys, etc for 200,000+ residents. The SciFac can of course be given ownership rights by the public over certain regional mines and agricultural lands to ship the raw resources to itself and streamline the process. Vertical and horizontal integration would not be just for robber barons anymore. Industrial 3D printing even allows consumers within inner layers to design and order batches of unique goods (if a specialized nanolined jogging sweater helps somebody in the core think better by all means let the person have it).

3) Culture and governance: Obviously Soviet or Chinese style regimentation would be stifling for creativity and a substantial amount of social libertarianism is to be the norm. Compartments within each layer, each layer itself, and the city as a whole can easily have direct council democracy with today's communication technology. A scientific polis in action may be more inspiring for outside observers than any TED conference. As with DARPA, the red tape would not only be cut to the bone but scientifically reimagined. Non-hierarchal flat management structures and direct participatory democracy would of course further aid in psychological productivity by reducing damaging ego clashes, providing healthy feeling of autonomy, and even allowing invention of new more humane and efficient governance (within guiding limits naturally so the core city mission is not jeopardized by endless political infighting).

Besides helping in rapid reindustrialization of the Western world, the SciFac functions to groom future cadres of technocratic political leaders. The exclusivity of the SciFacs may seem elitist and scary (raising some people's fears of scientific dictatorship) but it is a definitive improvement over the current oligarchic/lawyer/playboy elitism and parasitic dictatorship of finance capital. It definitely creates much needed experimentation for a more meritocratic and progressive society during a time of great planetary transition and danger.

A properly constructed SciFac city of course can function in parallel with the old society rather than hatching an embryonic socioeconomic replacement but it may be a futile exercise to stop its role model leadership once it begins. Ecole Polytechniques of the world and profit/patent based silicon valley type constructions would pale in comparison if we get a small holistic bubble of the 21st century up and running. Yes, purposefully killing the patent culture within city limits will do wonders for brainstorming while reducing individual neuroticism and jealousy based interpersonal barriers. Out of 7 billion people on earth, staffing will not be a problem. Conceptualizing proper incentives to work within SciFac (besides getting to live there) is the easy part.


Rather than a massive shake up of society or dictatorial large scale top down attempts at modernization, for some countries a SciFac City provides a rather benign foot in the door towards eventually rebooting the entire socioeconomic system. The public via state credit can easily set up a number of different highly automated relatively self sufficient SciFacs which share and learn from each other while keeping competition friendly.

The militaries of the world have engineer divisions that can quickly clear the needed areas and set up resource feeds for the SciFacs. The aesthetics and actual creativity inducing architecture are for the artistic breeds, organizational psychologists, and potential residents to decide upon. Soviets managed to rapidly catch up in technology and infrastructure using the shell within a shell compact living, researching, designing, and building Naukograd clusters. Dedicated Western power elite factions can do even better and overshoot rising competitors to the East when it comes to getting a top notch idea and getting it to the factory floor to take advantage of economies of scale. Of course SciFacs would function even better if they are international and cooperative in nature. In that case, China can aid in rapid construction of them in return for resource swaps as it has promised with high speed rail.

The public is hungry for state aided experimentation like this as the vacuum of ideas within elite circles becomes more noticeable by the day. The return on these investments stands to overshadow even the space race when it comes to ripple effects of emulation. Simple concepts like a city owning its own factories, farms, and energy sources to provide for basic resident needs (the way they provide police, the courts, and firefighting) will be revolutionary in terms of logistics and living efficiency. People will have a hard time believing it took this long and how they managed to live before such basic common sense practices.

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