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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Urban Planning of Experimental Satellite Cities

Rapid urbanization in the third world offers a chance to cheaply try out urbaneering with various built from scratch functional "theme" cities. 

A resource rich continent like Africa that is experiencing an average annual GDP growth of 5-10% will soon have a lot of governments with funds to try out prestige projects. Satellite cities offer national elevation into global spotlight, economic usefulness, public works program, access to foreign technologies, and opportunity to leapfrog over the West in some infrastructure development. Other parts of the developing world already see movement towards concept theme cities built from scratch. Notable examples are Abu Dhabi's renewable energy focused Masdar City and China's 80,000 person green tech focused Great City. The latter shows the most likely design for cities of the future, that is, a densely populated walkable high tech residential core that abruptly ends into pure nature. It is more cost efficient for a developing country to surround a compact city with nature than design nature inside a spread out city. The energy inefficiencies of urban sprawl will soon be demonstrated in industrialized regions of the globe and compactness will be planned from the start.

Although an expensive project, a satellite city stands to rapidly pay for itself if it is themed (such as agriculture focused city providing fruits and vegetables not grown in that part of the world to well off people and government entities of neighboring cities). At first, many of the cities will be a net energy and monetary loss. The input will be greater than the output. However, although a drain, they do provide a public works project and a way to experiment and measure what type of satellite city actually comes closest to paying for itself (note the agri-city example above). In this regard early satellite cities are similar to Tokamak proof of concept fusion reactors. Those reactors were necessary to start building ITERThen of course it stands to rapidly pay for itself once figured out (much better allocation of resources than warfare and mass murder).

Some universities and even mega factories have membership of over 50,000 people. It is not too out there to design a compact city dedicated to a specific task that has a population capacity of 50 thousand with built in room for 100 thousand if needed (in case interest builds for foreign companies to try out a concept requiring service personnel and foreign presence).

City as a printer

A large printing station has hundreds of little parts with room for additional cartridges and paper amounts. A satellite city should be thought in these terms, as a singular unit that produces surplus objects for nearby non-planned cities. In the more distant future, the task based buildings within these cities will be thought of as printers as well. An example is a vertical automated farm building unit that will have hundreds of parts, inside room for expansion/machine replacement, and robotic harvesting/planting/growing systems that are designed to fit the building neatly the way cartridges are (this building has capacity to store harvesting systems coded 400A through 600A). This allows mass production of modular building floors and mass production of various large equipment units that efficiently fit within. The fitting would happen on construction site of modular floor units or at assembly site, whichever is closer.

Modularity from the machines inside the buildings, to the buildings themselves, to the city itself is essential to start tackling insane energy and resource waste generated currently. Although early experiments should and probably will occur in the developing world, first major and perhaps most interesting applications of satellite and planned cities will likely occur at ground zero of resource waste, North American continent.

Deconstruction of old suburban areas

The planners behind the process of satellite city creation should work in parallel with those in charge of removing and harvesting building materials from urban sprawl areas. Clearing paths for nature, total removal of ghost towns and rotting suburban/rust bell areas, and recycling materials from those areas towards satellite city construction is a multidecade global project. It stands to put millions of those displaced by automation to work during the transition period. Unlike some other job creation projects of no benefit being used in Europe currently (bus inspectors for example), this type of public works is essential for social stability and survival. It is also a type of decentralized public works as all levels of localities can begin to engage in the task of deconstruction and compact construction. City mining allows more readily available source of materials than conventional mining. For proper deconstruction to occur, material processing and reprocessing should become a lot more mobile and decentralized (at first, perhaps involving very large ships servicing coastal areas).

ships keep getting larger at South Korean shipyards
But all these grand causal chain reactions of what needs to be done first start with a prestige project of small compact city that focuses on a specific surplus creation task. Political elites of the resource rich third world (we should return to use of this term rather than developing world, since all are developing) have a chance to take global leadership through satellite city experimentation, leadership that they psychologically want but are unable to take due to military and financial weakness.

Reclaiming nature and construction of sustainable futuristic compact urban areas is the infrastructural "moon landing" of this century. All other infrastructure projects get enormous boost from such a goal. As JFK noted, "... that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..

A focused society is a powerful society. There is no need to wait until China becomes a hegemony to create a focus for the human herd in the West. The theme of "reclaiming nature" through urban wasteland deconstruction (much easier to rapidly do than compact city creation) is very likely to capture the imaginations of the young, especially in the Western world. Thus we have two exciting processes that mutually play off each other, one happening in post-industrialized areas and one in the pre-industrialized areas. Much of the task of generating new electrical energy for Western re-industrialization is a simple matter of bulldozing and harvesting suburbia and heartland towns (that are currently in the process of depopulation).

After a certain point, humanity's measure can be which % of population lives in planned areas versus those living in old unplanned areas. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

Post a Comment