Humans are terraforming the planet to meet our needs. For better or worse, we’re morphing the environment to create comfortable living standards. No corner is left untouched. Our language even guides us to talk about this as an inevitability — it’s only a matter of time until “third world” countries go first.
“ecumenopolis: a city encompassing an entire planet.”
We’re transforming the earth into a single large city.
In locations of high urbanization, cities become dwarfed by the metropolitan area they belong to. As a city expands, so does it’s sprawl — the suburbs, transportation networks, utilities, and other services that give character to the city. As cities begin to bump into each other, the lines between one city and the next blur and experiences homogenize as opportunity becomes available across the region instead of just the city you’re living in. It becomes more and more common to live in one city, yet work in another. As cities bump into each other, they begin to embark on shared infrastructure projects that take advantage of the increasing prosperity to pull off even more ambitious visions, such as mega transportation networks for people and more robust supply chains.
This isn’t being orchestrated by a master-planner, but rather through many individual developments that expand and cause overlapping developed areas.
Scalability Problems 😯
One (big) problem.
The American Dream™ is not scalable outside it’s borders. In other words, it would be an ecological disaster if every human lived like an American. The culture of consumption and dependency on carbon fuels is not a model that other countries can emulate if they want to create a similar standard of living.
This isn’t just a problem for developing countries, it directly affects the developed.
Society needs energy to run. Our standard of living is defined by how efficiently we harness energy to do productive work. Such as a truck carrying products across the country. Since our current society is powered by oil, everything relates back to it. Back in 2008, we saw economic shockwaves as China & India’s rapid industrialization spiked global demand for oil, peaking at $147 per barrel in July 2008 (later crashing to $30 a barrel 5 months later).
- This occurred amidst the housing boom, as American’s who worked in the city began to move farther and farther into the suburbs, made possible by cheap credit and cheap commutes. Americans’ who budgeted their commute at ~$2 a gallon were now paying ~$4. Just five months later, on December 30, 2008, the Case–Shiller home price index reported its largest price drop in its history.
- Global supply chains which move massive amounts of products and raw material were now paying double. Companies like P&G had to increase the prices of their products due to oil price increases (used as raw material for plastic wrapping and transportation). Combined with consumers driving less due to increased prices on the pump, further decreasing demand for their products.
This is what happens to Americans when the rest of the world tries to live like one.
There’s a correlation at play. As the price of oil goes up, so does the cost of everything. Our interconnected global economies fluctuate with the volatile geopolitics of oil. Demand increases as counties industrialize and improve their infrastructure — directly participating in this global feedback loop which affects everyone else, locally at the pump and grocery store.
Oil: an economic bottleneck
There’s a ceiling of economic growth that we are running into. As governments try to recover & build economies by stimulating growth, it can only grow so fast before increasing cost of living and doing business. This is dangerous because:
- Developed countries need consistent economic growth to maintain the status quo. Our market economy is based upon the idea of investing now to build a tomorrow that provides even more back. If there’s no economic growth, all investments which assumes tomorrow will be better than today, will default. For example, you might buy a house assuming the price of your house will always go up because of population growth (and thus demand for houses).
- Developing countries often lack ideal leverage when accessing oil and are more sensitive to shocks. “Nixon asked Faisal to accept only US dollars as payment for oil and to invest any excess profits in US Treasury bonds, notes, and bills.” Most trading of oil is done in USD since it’s the world’s reserve currency and the US compels Saudi Arabia to sell oil in USD in exchange for defense. Thus, many countries buy up large reserves of USD to maintain it’s purchasing power to maintain reliable access to oil (keeping the lights on). China is one of the first to break away from this, as of last year compelling imports of oil to be paid in RMB.
This creates opposite incentives. Developed countries cannot sacrifice growth and have incentive to control global oil use to maintain this growth. Developing countries wish to modernize their country through massive infrastructure projects to bring the American Dream™ living standards to their home.
If human history has taught us anything, when we perceive the world as scarce we tend to get… “territorial”.
Scarcity economics breeds nationalism, turning cultures towards ‘us vs them’, where you have to take from your neighbor to get ahead. The past 60+ years of relative peace and working together through global supply chains to share resources most efficiently — appears to be in jeopardy.
Back to the Drawing Board ✍️
So we need to create a new model that removes this ceiling of economic growth. It must be able to be deployed anywhere to create local abundance. It must be able to scale to every person who wishes to deploy it, without decreasing the experience of another.
It should be able to start with just a few enthusiasts and friends.
🌤 Let’s start with the energy source 🌬
A tremendous amount of energy is freely available every day of the year. The sun touches everywhere on Earth, and no government on Earth can restrict access to it. With the right infrastructure (solar & windmills), a community of any size, anywhere on earth, can have practically unlimited energy to industrialize to their heart’s content, without harming anyone else.
🌆 Powering Smart Cities 🌇
We now have an energy source that provides unlimited energy to power whatever we want, for free. It can be deployed anywhere simply by rallying local enthusiasm to invest in the infrastructure. This new energy platform allows us to create new decentralized and sustainable infrastructure.
For example: we can deploy new modes of transport.
Autonomous vehicles, each car partially owned by someone in the community, powered by the community solar panels, is able to drive around town exactly where it’s needed.
Instead of 20 people buying 20 cars that sit parked 95% of the time — 20 people can crowdfund and share one car. When combined with a fleet, everyone has transport when they need it.
These vehicles aren’t only for transporting people, they are also accessible infrastructure to local businesses. Moving materials, products, or deliveries is as simple as clicking a button spontaneously when you need it and a car takes it away where needed. Every local business would have free home deliveries turned on by default.
Let’s take this further.
What happens to the concept of ownership when you can click a button and have essentially whatever you wanted, whenever you need it?
- Would you stock your closets with cloths that you rarely use?
- Would you purchase power drills that you use maybe twice a year?
- Would you go to the grocery store and store food in the fridge when food from your share in a co-op farm is delivered to your door whenever you want?
- Would you stack books (used mostly as decoration and bragging rights)?
- Would you hoard a pile of phones in your drawer that you’ll never use?
- Would you own a bike when you can pick one off the street… anywhere?
- Would you rent an apartment when you can instead check into a variety of locations across the world, using smart IoT locks so you never have to deal with people to use it?
If you look through this list while shaking your head in disagreement, “of course I would!” — what about if you could reduce the cost by several magnitudes?
The radical economics of sharing economies
Instead of 1,000,000 people owning a hammer that they use twice a year, 1000 hammers could be stored in a central warehouse and delivered by drone whenever it’s needed.
Think of that iron and material used to make those hammers, the oil and massive supply chains delivering parts across the world — all saved by sharing. This allows the same standard of living (everyone having access to a hammer), with 999,000 less hammers. Everyone’s functionally wealthy.
While saving resources in hammer production, also remember that this transportation network (autonomous vehicles and drones) is powered by the community solar panels. Once paying for this smart infrastructure, it powers itself for free and operates for free, while using less resources and without a carbon footprint.
We’ll look back and think how strange it was we ever lived in a world where we each owned a hammer.
A Bottom Up Revolution
This movement is being done everywhere across the world, yet at the local level. Solar Panels can be setup individually. Batteries are rapidly becoming more practical. These technologies create a new level of freedom and independence, without sacrificing the comforts of life we have come to cherish. It starts first by claiming independence of their energy source. As communities transition away from carbon fuels, they can begin retrofitting with smart infrastructure. In aggregate, these smart-cities become nodes in a global network of interconnected hubs of opportunity and innovation.
Want to get involved?
NestEgg is building tools for community to crowdfund and own the infrastructure that powers their basic needs. When the community has a platform to organize their own sharing economies, anyone can take the initiative to begin retrofitting their town with smart infrastructure.
When one city succeeds, they inspire the next — tipping the snowball that inspires locals to transform their city into what they’d like to live in.