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The City of Eden

December 30th, 2017 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Imagine a city where everyone could live in absolute luxury, indulge to their greatest desires, and never have to work or earn a living. It sounds wasteful and unsustainable, but if it actually existed, it might instead save the world.

This is because everyone who actually wants to live in comfort and pleasure would go there.  It would concentrate the bulk of the population in one place while leaving the rest of the world free and preserved.

The best part is that there would be no need to force people to go.  This is most people's idea of heaven on Earth.  This is what most people work all their lives to attain and retire to.  They would *want* to come here.

And for those who don't, those who want more in life and would rather face the harsher world outside the city, it is perfectly okay that they stay outside.  In fact, that is the true end goal because the few who choose to remain outside would be the types to actually want to explore, discover, and create new things.

In other words, the city is the ultimate honey pot that actually lets everyone get exactly what they want.  Everyone who wants a "normal" life of pleasure and comfort would automatically move here, while the few that want to do more would stay out.  There would be no walls or enforcement required.  Everyone would move either in or out of the city on their own accord.  It is 100% self-selection and filtering.  There is no trick, no scam, no shortchanging because giving people everything they want in exchange for literally having the rest of the world already pays for itself.  While the masses flock to the city to live their dreams, those who care about the environment can then proceed to clean up the Earth and undo the damage that's been done.  The creators of the city would be incentivized to make sure it stays the best quality of life possible, to keep the inhabitants happy enough to never come out, and the inhabitants themselves would actually desire that and stay in.

The benefits of this partitioning of the population go beyond just cleaning up the planet though.  It also becomes much easier to find people who are doing things because they genuinely want to.  There would be no more people doing work out of an ulterior motive for profit or what they get out of it because such people would already have everything they want in the city.  You wouldn't do work anymore for the pay if everything you want to buy is already free.  People who do things just for fame or attention of others might still do things for that reason, but they would stay in the city because that's literally where the people are to give them that.  You wouldn't find them venturing out to be out in the world on their own.  The only ones who would venture out are those genuinely interested in exploring what's out there, delving into the unknown solely for curiosity's sake, and they wouldn't have to worry about anyone else they meet along the way only pretending to share that interest because such people wouldn't leave the city in the first place.

The other more significant benefit is it frees up the vast amount of resource in the world for those most passionate and able to make best use of them.  Again, you would no longer have those hoarding or controlling resource for the sole motivation of making a profit.  Resource can instead be diverted towards more far-reaching scientific goals which push the limits of our reality, such as discovering new sources of energy, figuring out interstellar travel, or perpetually extending our lifespans.  This might run counter to the point that resources would be used to make the city the best place to live in, but my belief is that there is far more than enough resource in the world to let the everyone live very happy, comfortable lives.  Having the human population sprawled as it is now is what leads to inefficient use of resources, wasted land, polluted environments, etc.  Shoring the population up into just one point on the planet, one fraction of a fraction of the Earth's surface, gives us literally the entire rest of the world, of which we only need a very small drop of to sustain the city.

Some might argue we are boxing people in based on first impression or judgement.  What if people change? What if someone is actually great at exploring and inventing things but was born in the city? That is all perfectly fine.  In fact, that is what we want.  Just as there are no walls keeping people out of the city, there are no walls keeping them in.  If people eventually want more in their life, they can venture out and explore of their own free will, and if it turns out they're not quite up for it, that the outside world is too harsh or they deep down are still motivated by comfort and pleasure, they can go right back in again.  The same goes for those who choose initially to be on the outside and want to retreat or take a break.  There is nothing wrong with deciding you've had enough adventure and want to come back home or even retire.  No one has to stay where they are, and their own choice to relocate in or out of the city is in fact proof of the system working.  The point with all this is that the people who aren't out to genuinely try to discover or create things for that end in and of itself would not get in the way of those who are, and the world is big enough for both sides to get everything they want.  There is no oppression.  No one is forcing anyone else to do anything, and no one “gets” anything from anyone else.  This is a way for everyone to choose exactly what they want in a manner that actually helps everyone else also choose exactly what they want as well.  We build the best place on Earth to satisfy the masses, and for the remaining few who can never be content, they have entire rest of the world open to them to shape and explore.

This all sounds nice in theory, but is it actually possible to build? The rise in AI, blockchain, sustainable clean energy, and other technologies eventually allows us to create self-sustaining societies managed purely by machine with arguably no work by humans.  AI and other automation can maintain the city and all necessary functions.  Blockchain and decentralized technologies allow them to run perpetually without anyone's attention required and with no one person who can control or shut things down.  Virtual reality lets us to pack entire worlds for the humans to experience without taking up real physical space.  Brain-computer interfaces then makes these experiences indistinguishable from the real world.  And advances in sustainable clean energy allow all this to keep running without slowly killing ourselves or the environment.

With so much outrage about machines taking over our jobs, very few seem to be considering it may be possible to one day live without one - in other words, skip the job and go directly to what you wanted to do once you had your freedom.  Most people don't actually want the job itself; they want what the job can get them.  It becomes a question of who reaps the benefits and excess accumulated as technology takes over more and more of the work.  Right now, the danger is that even as technology improves and society as a whole becomes more and more prosperous, most of the prosperity is concentrated in the hands of few who likely would never even begin to make full use of it.  At some point, there would be so much resource that everyone would actually be able to live very fulfilling lives if most of it just wasn't hoarded or locked away.  The logical answer to this, given just how much resource and value will be created over time, is to just give it all away in a manner that ensures no hoarding or fighting over it anymore - in other words, eliminate scarcity and thereby any reasons for greed, etc.  Why would you take from others or hoard anything if there were plenty to go around?

Actual implementation of the city though, even if all the pieces are there, remains the most difficult part.  In the beginning, there would surely be doubt and conspiracy theories that dissuade anyone from trusting it enough to move there.  The key is to make it exclusive at first, perhaps put it somewhere a bit difficult and out of reach, so only a small fraction of the population can attain it.  It creates an allure, and as word spreads of the "better life" to be had here, more and more people would make the trek to move there on their own without any coercion.  Pacing it this way also allows the city to grow gradually and still maintain an optimal experience for every additional inhabitant.  Ideally pockets of the world free up for more efficient use of its resources around the same rate as the city grows, and eventually the resource saved start to outpace the resource actually required for the city to sustain the population.  The end result eventually becomes something akin to the self-sustaining domed cities of science fiction, a sort of resort but one absolutely free to live in for all your life - a paradise, if you will.  The City of Eden.
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  1. Will said,
    Jan-03-2018, 01:16am

    Does such future-potential today suggest we're already City of Eden residents at reality level N-1?

  2. kztd said,
    May-11-2019, 08:06am

    Sounds like a universal basic income city.

  3. pftq said,
    May-11-2019, 09:40pm

    If absolute luxury and no work is basic income, then yes.

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