Yglesias pushes back on my notion of radical exurbanism. What I mean by radical exurbanism is a supermassive sprawl of loosely connected and socially independent towns. No place that is recognizably “rural” but no place that is recognizably “the core”.
None of this is well thought out at this stage I am just thinking about how emerging trends could come together to create a new paradigm.
I see lots of techs that are in promising stages that could make a big difference in how we live because they lower the cost of distance.
Telecom: I mentioned this before but want to come back to it. We have a sense about what it means to interact face-to-face versus virtually that is limited by our communication technologies. We see these rapidly expanding.
Thinking about 3D-Skype is clearly not way out of the box.
Here is Kinect used to project 3D
Here is the Kinect device used to capture 3D
Of course we already have 3D without glasses TV.
What makes this significant is we are talking about an already mass produced techs being at the center of this. That makes a low cost usable device in the near future (5 years?) seem not crazy.
Combining them all could give us 3D without glasses interface that captures you in 3D and give you back in 3D.
This seems like the sort of thing that changes the nature of what face-to-face means.
Solar: Lots of people see solar as a possible greenhouse gas solution and it is potentially that. However, what comes to my mind is cheaper power. Solar that is cheaper than coal is significant in that it displaces coal but its also significant in that it is cheaper than coal.
Which means we can potentially think about living arrangement that more energy intensive, not less. That possibly means more transportation. Which is why the next innovation is important
Diver-less Cars: Material goods will presumably still be made in factories and shops. Pizzas will still be made in crappy pizza chains. However, the ability to deliver these items at extremely low cost would change things.
Matt brought up pizzas
In a radical exurban community there might only be the population base for a Papa John’s.A larger community that supports a Papa John’s, a Pizza Hut, and a Dominoes will be better able to match idiosyncratic customer preferences with available variety of crappy national chain pizza. Consequently, the larger community has higher productivity in the crappy chain pizza sector (for the record, Papa John’s is the right choice).
And this same dynamic applies to a wide range of face-to-face services in a way that militates in favor of some kind of metropolitan living.
So lets consider how that would work in this scenario. Imagine that I order a pizza online. It is put into a driverless delivery vehicle that’s tiny and electric. The vehicle travels 50 miles at 150 miles an hour to where I am to deliver the pizza and comes back.
If the computer can drive at that speed without being a threat; the vehicle is electric and has that kind of range; and is cheap to produce – since it has no occupants to protect or comfort – then this seems like a potentially low cost operation that can serve huge swaths of land.
We can think of other real goods being delivered in this way, lowering the costs to distance.