Re: Econ of Etalk and Cities

Eugene Leitl (
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 15:37:30 +0200 (MET DST)

On Fri, 6 Sep 1996, Robin Hanson wrote:

> Eugene Leitl writes:
> > [ HiveCity infrastructure ]
> Ask youself: then why it is so much more expensive for people to live
> in urban areas? The costs of getting gases, solids, fluids, etc. in

Erm, you got this wrong. I was not talking about front-user costs. Just
infrastructure-associated costs, which is a heavily free-market modulated
subset of the former.

> rural areas may be a bit higher than in urban areas, but not by much
> (does WalMart charge more there?). In contrast, the cost to get raw

I was referring both to current infrastructure, but mostly to near-future
infrastructure, which will be _extremely_ dear. Forbiddingly so.
Compacting cities is basically the only way how we can afford such
infrastructure, mature nanotech not taking into account ;)

That the need to counteract infrastructure deterioration, new
installations set apart, imposes a major drain upon the pocket of most
large cities is not open do doubt. Alone costs for Teutonic road
maintenance are atrocious, and I think U.S. has much higher costs due to
lower average population density. At a guess, multidigit Gbuck values?
Plus, moving heaps of processed iron by means of obsolescent ICU engines,
producing traffic jams and casualties en masse. This is sure sustainable
future technology.

Moreover, wholly different effects arise once a certain humans/volume
density threshold is reached:

The drastically better surface/volume ratio allows higher-quality surface
materials to be used, e.g. thin-film photovoltaics on glass. This gives
both power and makes frequent costly repairs unnecessary. (This also
applies to other brands of infrastructure, e.g. as glass/ceramics tubing,
stainless steel pipes, hitech ceramics coating, steel structures, etc).

There is no weather impact on traffic, since there is no weather. And
traffic is hidden invisibly into channels. Why do we tolerate this number
of car accidents, many of them fatal or crippling? Why?

There is no need to heat in winter, only to get rid of excess heat,
whatever the season.

A large cell-local fuelcell (or a natural gas ICU, or whatever) can
produce both power and heat. You can't do heat/energy coupling because of
large distances involved. There are none in HiveCity.

Rainwater can be cached. Due to it, sewage infrastructure's cheaper, too.

You don't need to decceleate/accelerate on every crossing, since traffic
routing in matrix buses make this a very rare event. The same
transportation system is utilized both for human traffic and deliveries,
all automagically. Painless: no noise, no exhaust, no need for a human
driver. Hang TV-shopping, but why not buying by telepresence?

Private (electro/hydrogen) airports can be put onto the upper level.
Parks, solar cells and/or hydroponics facilities can be located there.

But the basic reason for why we need HiveCity is need for undenaturated
landscape. Suburbia seals landscape, denaturates habitats. I want to be
able to see fresh green after 5 min travel from any part of the city, not
after hours of car travel, which pisses off other city inhabitants. I am
_not_ proposing anyone to turn into human RatMoles or bees, living solely
in windowless cubicles. Of what use are windows if all I see is a sea of
concrete and asphalt?

However, since windows will be rare, sufficient visual stimuli should
be provided. This can be done by inserting some ecosphere into the tiers,
by ubiquitous beamers or augmented reality. The bugaboo of endless gray
concrete corridors need not to be contemplated, a minumum amount of
inventiveness provided.

The only minus I am aware of, is the need for photovoltaics panes in
HiveCity's immediate neighbourhood. However, these provide only minimal
shading, so that there is sufficient ambient light below.

> space is very large. Why? Because so many people want to be there
> for their jobs. Why are the jobs there? Sure some people need to be
> physically present to run those pipes and delivery trucks, but not

Pipes must be present first, and this requires both pipes and
earthworks. Pipes are paid by the meter, earthwork by volume.
(I am assuming infrastructure channels to be present in the MallCity).
Both is not cheap. Pipes corrode, this requires tracking their state and
earthworks, again, if access is required. Proper channel infrastructure
can be implemented only in a HiveCity, both because of planning and costs

> very many. It seems it's mainly because companies show a strong
> preference for colocating their employees, and locating them near
> suppliers and customers, even when the physical cost to ship stuff is
> small. Why? It seems because people want to meet each in person a lot.

Nevertheless, there is a strong push towards teleworking. Currently,
most teleworkers need to shuttle into main office for 1-2 days a week,
mostly for social/company spirit recalibration reasons. In mature
VR/telepresence there is no need to be physically present, a minimal
fakespace fidelity provided. A a decade from now, you can render a cushy
bureau, filled with avatars, should you wish such a thing.

Admittedly, we are still lacking adequate displays and bandwidth channels
for above scenario to become realistic. Assuming hypergrid optical fiber
connectivity, HiveCities win hugely, again.

> I suggest you read a bit more urban economics before you so quickly
> dismiss this analysis by economics who I'm sure have read quite
> a bit of urban economics.

Afair I never implied that a more cost-efficient infrastructure would
make living in cities cheaper. It was not my intention to dismiss
anything, I was just seized by a fit of blue-skyeing. I thought that much
was obvious.


> Robin Hanson

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