Cities Of The Future
May 2, 2013 9:42 PM   Subscribe

The story Crabapple mentioned in the 'Via' link is part of the Central Station story cycle, which was the subject of this previous post.
posted by homunculus at 9:43 PM on May 2, 2013

I must admit I rather do enjoy this current line of speculation as to our built future (although they mostly seem to presuppose we've gone through a couple of one-way technological gates..). Quite a few developments seem to hint at the potential adoption of e.g. bacteria (as previously noted here).

The think-tank/speculative workshop Under Tomorrows Sky is worth looking at as well, quite fascinating discussions underway there (in part the doing of Liam Young who has a blog/website that is also relevant to the topic.
posted by Ravneson at 12:18 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

That link sounds like a hint for the $10,000 Pyramid where the correct answer is "Headline posted on BoingBoing"
posted by wcfields at 12:44 AM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are supposedly about 20 million Americans employed in construction, so automation could save enormous numbers of man hours. America supposedly has about 15.5 million comercial trucks though, so automating driving might produce similar savings. If automated taxies are permitted to compete fully, say by eliminating taxi licenses, medallions, etc., then prices might decline until car ownership itself reduces, which translates into massive savings in both man hours and resources.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:04 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

which translates into massive savings in both man hours and resources.

Not to mention unemployment.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Which is, I admit, kind of glib. But enthusing over the 20 million jobs we can do away with without any discussion of what to do with those people is... well, is pretty much what futurists do. The problem, as I see it, is that introducing technology to a situation rarely saves money -- it just replaces more, less well-paid jobs with fewer, better-paid jobs (any gap is eaten up by the technology maintenance costs). So you are putting a lot of people out of work in this scenario with no thought to what they should do or what the generation which would be growing up to be the working class will do. Which I suppose, is the kind of scenario we should expect from the original article, ritten by a guy who describes himself as "a seasoned technology professional tired of the Fortune 500, an analyst who believes nature dictates markets, a science fiction writer disguised as a forecast consultant, a country boy being dragged to the city, and a musician who occasionally composes soundtracks for architecture."
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 AM on May 3, 2013

Give Up, Robot ¥[o_o]¥
Source:(1, 2, 3)
posted by lemuring at 4:19 AM on May 3, 2013

It's just a fairly superficial review article of ideas about future building tech. I've seen pictures of the huge 3d printer but I don't think it's done anything but art projects yet, and we're a really long way from nano-tech doing anything useful let alone architecture.

But why should housing be based on local materials and the constraints of what everyone else is doing along the street? There are certainly local environmental constraints, but look at all the charming and cleaver domes, tree houses, micro houses, tower houses that would be effective and just wonderful to be in but are not economically practical based on plywood and sheet rock. I want to live in my grade school design that had a bedroom on a tower at one end of the house, not some boxy box.
posted by sammyo at 4:33 AM on May 3, 2013

Short path to Utopia:

i) Instate a basic income system. All people will have the right to a dignified life, whatever they decide to do with it.
ii) Technologify everything, and look forward to robots replacing various jobs. Achieve the age old dream of a society free from menial work with people free to pursue their own interests.
iii) Tidy up the environment, and work out the kinks of a fully sustainable economy.
iv) Solve aging, allowing all people to live indefinitely up to accidental death.
v) Stop war, since life is now far too valuable. Slowly dismantle our vast systems of education and health care, since educating children is no longer necessary (we don't have them anymore) and health care is only necessary for catastrophic situations. Bam, the three major sections of public economies have been reduced to a small fraction of their former cost.

And we're done! Living forever in the garden of eden, with an infinite horizon of cultural and technological progress ahead of us. One million years to travel to nearby star systems? No problem, we've got time.

*sigh*. I guess I'll just come out and admit that this is actually what I want. Maybe it's hopelessly optimistic, but I can dream, can't I?
posted by Alex404 at 4:45 AM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

No children? Sounds like a distopia to me...
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:26 AM on May 3, 2013

If we can dream it, then we can do it
Yes we can, yes we can!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:45 AM on May 3, 2013

Interesting that they still assume there will be such a thing as an "architect".

No need for the untermenschen, but still plenty of glory for "Master Planners" eh?
posted by aramaic at 6:17 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Which is, I admit, kind of glib. But enthusing over the 20 million jobs we can do away with without any discussion of what to do with those people is... well, is pretty much what futurists do.

This is no doubt a difficult economic question, but it seems to me that simplistic answers aren't very helpful on either side. I notice that those who lament labor-saving innovations as they come over the horizon never seem to apply the same logic to existing ones. But surely if robo-taxis are going to be a disaster because they put people out of work we should also be lobbying to have bulldozers outlawed (think of the person-hours those have saved!). Come to that, shouldn't we outlaw taxis and revert to sedan chairs and rickshaws?
posted by yoink at 7:28 AM on May 3, 2013

When "teh jobs!" is used as justification for the continued logging of old growth forests in Australia it loses a lot of its appeal.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:55 AM on May 3, 2013

There is need for civil engineering knowledge and building codes, aramaic, but yeah the architects should be replaced by Thingiverse.

Introducing technology saves man hours, GenjiandProust. If humans squander those free hours by tweaking the economy to increase wealth inequality, well that's unfortunate, but the technology remains fundamentally good for freeing up time. All those hours remain available, waiting for the underclasses to claim by political action. Read In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell or The Abolition Of Work by Bob Black.

Do you realize the standard workweek dropped from six to five days only during the 20th century? I've retired coworkers who experienced half-day work on Saturdays in Scotland. Poland only dropped to five days in the 70s. China adopted a 40-hour week just recently in 1995, again eliminating half-day work on Saturdays. That's people's lives. That time is what matters. Fuck the money.

Yes, unions, et al. fought hard for the five day workweek, but technology made it economically necessary. France's 35 hours workweek sounds successful enough, eventually others will follow, eventually they'll drop another 3 hours to a four day workweek. Again, you must overcome the pro-work moralizing, austerity idiocy, etc. for the political reform, but the technology both makes the time available and creates the economic necessity.

Amusingly, there is an argument that workweek reductions make austerity economics appear workable specifically because they help simulate the full employment equilibrium that existed when austerity economics developed.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:04 AM on May 3, 2013

These might be the answer to space exploration, mainly the requirement to have a shelter built for when humans arrive.

Remember the Mars One scandal, and how people are wondering how to provide a suitable environment for humans? How much easier it would be if shelter construction could be automated to that extent, just dropping a swarm of worker mecha-bees and letting them build a hive for possible human occupation.
posted by kadmilos at 8:43 AM on May 3, 2013

I love futurist and miss Omni magazine. Has someone named the fallacy in thinking yet that equates technological progress with increased unemployment? It's an indicator that someone slept through history class and doesn't have much of an imagination.

One illustration for doubters: look up the percent of the population working in agriculture in pre-industrial revolution societies (something like over 90%). I think unemployment levels remain fairly constant and generally increase just before a 'new' wave of innovation puts the farmers to work on a new service or machine.

Rich back then? If you owned a cow. Things get better every year and I hope to live long enough to live in a living building someday. Great that the future will probably put us back up sleeping in the branches of trees one day and I suspect the trees will be much bigger (20 million geneticist would be better than 20 million construction workers). Nice article!
posted by astrobiophysican at 1:13 PM on May 3, 2013

That link sounds like a hint for the $10,000 Pyramid where the correct answer is "Headline posted on BoingBoing"

posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on May 3, 2013

There are already working concrete printers that they'll scale up for doing buildings (previously).

I've always dismissed the nanobot molecular assemblers ideas popular in science fiction, well reactions commonly require reaction vessels, but biological systems sound workable.

Imagine a printing 3d parts by electro-chemically directing bacteria or fungus to eat away wood, plastic, or ceramic. Imagine electro-chemically directing the initial plant, bone, coral, fungus, etc. growth! I expect biological growth happens too slowly for construction, especially compared with a concrete printer, so no living tree houses. There are categories of small parts that might benefit over existing 3d printer technologies. You might print complex by thin flexible membranes for example.

At minimum, there are surely applications for living coatings that cover and protect an inanimate surface from corrosion, go dormant, and wake up to heal wounds if damaged and fed. Inanimate coatings inside subways always get badly scratched up, but a self healing bacteria colony might keep it newer looking.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:25 AM on May 4, 2013

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