In the pursuit of truth, mankind has developed the Scientific Method. Science is a way of determining the properties of our reality. If employed properly, the scientific method will find the truth of how something works. Science has the wisdom to not only admit that it has made a mistake, but to encourage everyone to prove it wrong. When we find a mistake, it gives us a chance to improve our understanding.
If we were to build an experimental city, whose purpose is to use the scientific method to find the optimal governing system, how would we do it? What tools do we need to build? What resources would we need? How do we go about planning and organizing such a massive undertaking?
I have a few ideas I would like to share with you.
If we’re doing an experiment, we know we’re probably going to screw it up. There’s no manual that says how to build the optimal city, so until such a thing exists, we must know we’re going to make plenty of mistakes. Let’s say I have a plot of land and one of the first things I need is water. Where do I drill the well? Perhaps a well isn’t an optimal solution. Digging a well cannot be undone, so I don’t recommend doing something so permanent with an experimental city. So perhaps I find a solution to collect rainwater and dew. This is a temporary, low cost solution to one of our immediate challenges. As the development of water collection develops, better ideas will be formed.
Let’s say I want to build a house, the first house in the experimental city. What if I put it in the wrong spot and it needs moved? If I make a permanent structure, I have to knock it down, completely destroy it and build a new one from scratch. But I knew I would make a mistake, so I designed the house with this in mind. Before we build a house, we must have a design that can be disassembled and transported and reconfigured in the event of a mistake. Is it possible to design a city with such adaptability in mind? Would we even bother laying fiber optic network lines? Or would we lay them in a conduit that allowed for disassembly and reconfiguration?
The problem with an experiment like this is two-fold. You can’t go to a city and say “hey, we’d like you to completely change your way of life for a science experiment” and expect them to cooperate. Also, a city that already exists was not designed with the levels of adaptability we’re seeking. We need to start this experiment from scratch in order to minimize our variables and have maximum control.
The citizens of the experimental city would be responsible for teaching newcomers how things currently operate and help them through the challenges of transition. It would be smart to carefully select the initial inhabitants. The more solidified our concepts become, the more we can increase population as training programs become more efficient.
The participants would have to be incredibly flexible and willing to work hard. If we do a sloppy job building something, it will create problems later. We cannot constrain our projects with deadlines and shortcuts. It will cost a lot more and it will take more time to do things right in the experimental city, but the results will be top notch.
The highest quality dairy products come from farms whose cows live in a stress-free environment. The work demands of citizens building the city must be balanced. Forcing workers to work will get you nowhere; they have to really believe in what they are working toward. Part of the experiment must determine the optimal rest-work ratio for individuals. This will help us achieve maximum productivity over the long term. It will be slower than our break-neck paced society currently, but the goal of our city is to achieve quality over quantity.
In order to achieve maximum adaptability, our experimental city must be immaculately documented. If we want to know how something, anything works, we should have all relevant data in a convenient location. “How do I take this building apart to move it?” is a good question. Sufficient documentation is necessary for the unit’s deconstruction and reconstruction. Furthermore, knowing how your products were made and what they’re made of is invaluable to progress and improvement. A product cannot get better if we don’t know how it’s made.
Organizing the actions of a city’s worth of people is a very difficult technical challenge. Getting sufficient data from the individual in order to coordinate with the group is a hurdle we must face. However, we must also respect the citizen’s privacy. Individuals cannot live without privacy. They must have a sanctuary that will protect them from the outside world. However, outside of this sanctuary, the city must know quite a bit about what a person does in order to coordinate action with the whole.
The ideas I’ve presented here should hold you over for a while, giving you something to ponder if that’s what you’re into. I certainly am. As I continue to build this blog, I hope these ideas might manifest themselves into the unconscious desires of the rest of the world.
To recap, a few things we would need are: Transparency and documentation. A lot of resources and time. Flexible and hardworking citizens that live fulfilling and stress-free lives. A communications platform to organize everything. Adaptive/responsive design fundamentals; the ability to mitigate mistake consequences.