[ExI] Cities

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Tue Sep 12 00:38:11 UTC 2017

On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 2:44 PM, Tara Maya <tara at taramayastales.com> wrote:
> What do you think about building canals? You could have water-powered energy, transport and obviously the water itself all at once, so new cities would grow up alongside the canals. Of course, right now, the expense isn’t worth it, but could some technological innovations change that?

Again, you need some place that's worthwhile for the city to be.
Which spots along the canal would be more worthy than others?  A canal
would help with but not solve this issue.  If you're going to dig
canals for transport (of people, goods, and water), why would it not
be a superior use of resources (as in, achieve almost any result other
than "make a new city for the sake of making a new city" better) to
simply connect existing population centers, and thus help them expand.

> Those periods of Anglo-American history when cities have grown disproportionately to the countryside have been the difficult times, the bad times for the ordinary people (though often good times for the nobility, when labor was cheap). When the countryside or suburbs have grown, those are the good times for ordinary people, when the divergence between rich and poor goes down but average standard of living goes up. When housing in the country or suburbs is cheap, young people marry early, and have larger families. When housing is expensive, young people remain single longer, and live a larger portion of their lives in the city. Wages are suppressed by the excess urban population.

But is the growth of cities the cause or a result of this change in
disparity?  Or are they merely caused by the same factor?

> Obviously, a huge reason for this is the ongoing industrial and post-industrial revolutions, which make food production more efficient and thus slough off excess labor from the countryside to the city. But in the short term, this increase in urbanization (now over 50% world-wide) is not necessarily a good sign. Because cities are not really good places for family formation, or at least, not in the Anglo-American tradition. Those young people are supposed to match up and move out to a house with a yard. Where are they going to go? Where are they going to raise their children? Right now, in cities around the world, the answer is—in dense apartments, in shantytowns, in slums, in ghettos.

Really?  I personally am familiar with raising children in ordinary
houses, and I have lived almost all my life in the urban sprawl from
San Jose to San Francisco.  That aside, most apartments are not
comparable to the other three you list.  (There are apartments that
basically are slums, which you may have meant, but this seems to be a
minority of all apartments averaged across the entire world - though
there are certainly parts of the world where slum-quality apartments
are the majority.  See
for some statistics.)

> If those people aren’t going to move back to the country or to the suburbs for family formation, and if urbanization is the future for everyone, we have to drastically change how cities work. Otherwise, expect the cities to do their real job—cut the population down ruthlessly.
> In so many science fiction futures, I see whole planets that are just one big city. Which I guess would work if you have dozens of other planets which are nothing but farm and forest. We don’t actually know how to build a self-sufficient city yet, a city that not only feeds itself, but breeds itself. Contrast us with termites and ants, that forage outside their next, but always return to it at night. Ants never invented suburbia.

I think you might be interested in a visualization exercise I tossed
out on this list some time ago: the design of a self-sufficient space
colony city, including space for families to form and raise children.

Take an O'Neill cylinder, a bit over 2 km diameter and about 5 km
long.  Spin to 1 G at the 1 km radius mark; put the housing there.
(About 30 km^2, at 20,000 people/km^2 - a bit above SF, somewhat below
NYC - that's 600,000 people.  A less dense suburban-style layout could
take it down to 60,000 people.  Reality would probably be between
those; since the limit would be hit by older, more built-up - and thus
more urbanized - cylinders, I've been assuming around 500,000.)  Make
another "deck" beneath that for hydroponics and water storage, both
for on-colony food production and as radiation shielding.  Reserve the
center for mass transit, city services, and industrial machinery
(particularly any industry that benefits from microgravity).

As the cylinder fills up, build another and connect through a (large)
airlock with mass transit.  Build more and tessellate as the colony
grows.  (If you need a specific layout, say a flat hexagonal pattern
with spokes - an innermost ring of 6 cylinders plus 6 more connecting
the ring's corners to the centerpoint, a second ring of 12 plus 18
connectors to the first ring, and so forth - adding adjacent layers at
about the same rate it adds rings.  Distribute solar panels along the
outermost ring's edge, moving them further out and building more as
new rings are constructed.  Given the population numbers, it might be
a while before there were more than 3 rings and/or 3 layers.)

Given that this city could build its own land as needed (assume an
economic engine capable of funding this, and city planners interested
in doing it for their own/their city's benefit), how would you design
the habitable areas?  Allow for gentrification of existing cylinders,
immigration (especially at first: quickly getting to 100,000 or
1,000,000 or however large it needs to be to be recognized as an
independent political entity), and the issues most Western cities pick
up if they last long enough.

What would the "frontier" (recently constructed) cylinders look like
as opposed to the original, innermost ones?

Would the fact that it is largely immune to terrestrial natural
disasters, and can control its own weather, substantially alter life
aboard?  (I suspect it would need rain every once in a while, to wash
the air and prevent buildup of pockets of CO2 or other unwanted gases,
but this could at least be scheduled and announced.)

Also, what do you think of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_city ?

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list