S3T July 24 - Living spaces, Malls, Smarter cities, Network states, Participation, Peppercorn beer, Armored bugs...

S3T July 24 - Living spaces, Malls, Smarter cities, Network states, Participation, Peppercorn beer, Armored bugs...
Crypto Deer In Headlights - Digital Mixed Media - Ralph Perrine 2022

We are rethinking urban spaces at different levels of scale - malls, cities, nations - in hopes of ensuring a liveable future for ourselves and our children. But no spacial or organizational rearranging is a substitute for finding your role in the teamwork sport of navigating the uncertain future.

Living Spaces: Malls, Cities, Nations

The right to reshape

Christopher Alexander, the building architect who influenced software design and agile development, observed that for thousands of years humans created and shaped the spaces they lived in. This was exactly as it should be in Alexander's view, because individuals living in a space physical or digital are much more sensitive to their own needs than any professional architect would ever be. We have the right to shape and reshape the spaces we live in.

Alexander held that this iterative design process - making changes as lived experience delivers insights - was disrupted in the 19th and 20th centuries by the rise of professional class of architects and builders. People who would never actually live in the spaces they were designing inserted themselves into architectural design, with a new focus: trying to satisfy theoretical and process requirements put forth by academia.

Today we are retaking the right to reshape our living spaces, and rethinking how we want to relate to and make use of the spaces we live in.

Malls Being Repurposed

Malls are now competing with overseas manufacturers who sell directly to customers via web sites at far lower prices than retailers can offer. (The article above noted the USPS shipping from China can be cheaper than domestic shipping).  

But malls may have a different role to play, says Alexandra Lange. In the History of the Mall, Lange notes that malls offer a better urban experience than most urban spaces: level walking space, access to air conditioning and heat, water and benches, relative safety from traffic and gender related crimes compared to many city streets.

The so called Walmart phenomenon that played out from the 1980's to the present repeated a now familiar pattern: Walmart builds a store just outside of town then all the downtown shops close.

What kind of different path is possible if big box and mall developers partner with townships to nurture rather than displace the urban centers? It has struck me that this is what Americans find so appealing about the experience of walking through old towns or open markets that are vibrant diverse living spaces, not homogenized warehouses. They also tend to consistently follow Christopher Alexander's key traits of living spaces - for example, the presence and mixing of multiple generations -  inter-generational space - old people sitting around a town square with middle age and younger generation, and kids running around.

Clearly there is a need for sheltered inter-generational spaces - will retailers and communities partner and find creative ways to address this?

Cities getting smarter

The city of Toronto may have narrowly avoided misfortune thanks to via their wariness about the Sidewalk Labs project - an ambitious attempt to create a "smart city" on Toronto's waterfront.  As detailed in the article below, the Toronto citizens began having second thoughts about the project, alarmed at what they viewed as condescension and nonchalance toward personal privacy. Sidewalk Labs pulled the plug on the effort just before a crucial vote on the matter.

Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever
The city wants to get right what Sidewalk Labs got so wrong.
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Now Toronto hopes to have a go at it, but with their own citizens guiding the design of what they hope to be an exemplary implementation of 21st century urban space.

What gets in the way of the vision for well designed urban spaces - especially in the US - is the deep rooted real estate interests backed by regional histories and legal precedence in land use laws. The default for these incumbents is to develop a parcel of land, attract the affluent population to it, then develop other parcels and attract the affluent populations to them, leaving behind a growing inventory of deprecated (and often polluted) urban space - with no cost effective way to recycle it.

This begs for a technology innovation (plasma fusion is a possibility once control and cost issues are addressed), but another kind of innovation may be in the wings - the network state, as described below.

Nations competing with Network States

from The Network State (see https://thenetworkstate.com/networkstate.gif)

Earlier this year, Balaji Srinivasan published a fascinating book The Network State which you can read online here or order a physical copy here. The GIF image above shows how a network state would develop.

In the book, Srinivasan assembles a set of converging trends (tech, social, geopolitical) into a logical end point where people who are tired of political gridlock, tradfi, and delayed action on equality, climate etc basically opt out to design and build a new kind of nation state - the Network State.

A Network State functions as a "highly aligned online community...that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states." (At a minimum check out the 1,000 word summary here.)

The network state has advantages over the geography based states because it does not require contiguous plots of geography to exist. Instead it is comprised of blocks of land or property that can be exchanged for other properties or if necessary converted and held as digital assets. If the policies, pollution, gun crime, school scores of a specific region aren't satisfactory, then the network state dumps those properties and buys others elsewhere. In addition, the net worth of a network nation does not face the same limitations or challenges as that of a traditional nation state. In theory this forces incumbent nation states to compete to host properties/investments of the network states.

Summary - Addressing the Irritants

We are rethinking malls, cities and even nation-states - trying to address the irritants and aspects we are not happy with. But none of this will allow us to escape the reality that we have to work together in spite of our differences. The next segment digs into how people can find their place in the political spectrum - find a sense of belonging in spite of being different, and stop allowing political operatives to benefit from causing division among people. I worry that if we don't get this right, no amount of urban rearrangement whether at mall, town, or natonal levels will give us a liveable future.

Participation - Right, Left, Center

Earlier this month we celebrated the 4th of July, and now we look toward election season. How are you participating?

Every American should exercise their freedom to decide where they stand in the political spectrum. Right, Left Middle.

Important point: Its not just "ok" for you to choose your position in the political spectrum, its actually critical for the good of the nation, and here's why:

  • Some of us are idea people. - We see new possibilities and we are comfortable with ambiguous new evolving situations. We might not be as good at understanding the details or understanding our ideas might have unintended side effects.
  • Some of us are process people - we understand how things work, why they came to work the way they do.  We excel at making sure they keep working. We might not be as comfortable with change.
  • Some of us are synthesizers, dot connectors, and thus better negotiators. We can see ways to bring things together that to others may seem hopelessly at odds. We are more aware of the penalty of indecision, or fractured focus, and can align groups who otherwise will waste time resisting each other.

When you figure out where you are, then you need to figure out how you can be a credible, trustworthy partner in the great endeavor of making your nation a more secure more prosperous and healthy place.

You should be comfortable telling others, "Hey, you know me, I'll  always come in from this angle (right, left, center), but talk to me. Tell me if I'm missing something."

Why is that so important? Because of uncertainty: Any idea, project, great or small whether its a new invention, a startup, or a nation facing a complex future - any of these bring with them a great deal of risk and uncertainty.  

To successfully navigate these uncertainties and risks we have to think together and work together. Bring our diverse perspectives, talents and skills to the problems at hand.

Me personally, I tend to the left on most things. But I would LOVE to have a credible counterweight who can show me my blind spots, and help me strengthen my ideas and efforts so they can have a greater positive impact. It is disappointing to have people came at you with weak parroted arguments and personal attacks.

The people with new ideas can help us stop repeating the mistakes of the past, and raise our expectations of what is possible. The people with more conservative thinking can help us recognize and avoid the penalties of careless innovation. People who tend fall in the center can bring us together, so we can focus on practical test-and-learn approaches to implementing better futures for all.

This is very different from engineering court supported methods of suppressing the votes and voices of citizens.  Avoiding the penalties and achieving the rewards in an uncertain future requires a teamwork approach. This will be true with any endeavor whether its a networked state, DAO or traditional community. Advanced tech doesn't replace the need for human teamwork.

Sensible Ideas

I'm blessed to be in a family with kitchen skills and the good sense to stay ready to celebrate life. So each week I'll share a few "sensible ideas" for good food and good times!

Peppercorns in Beer?!

...I wondered as I pulled this can out of the cooler at the 5 Star Gas Station in Saxapahaw NC. Apparently its a thing. A very good thing, as I discovered later that night at dinner (call me crazy but it paired nicely with our Carnitas). These and many other varieties are made with care at the Haw River Brewery there in Saxapahaw.

And if you're looking for something to go with your peppercorn beer, here is a tempting tuna melt recipe:

Here’s How To Make A Tuna Melt Even Better Than Your Local Diner
The best thing you could possibly do with a can of tuna.

Nature Notes

Each week, this segment focuses on sharing knowledge about Nature's capabilities and lessons, to inspire learning and proper valuation of the ecosystems we depend on for survival.    

Bugs with Armor

Thanks to the iPhone's "live photo" feature, this photo inadvertently captured the process of a bug's body panels opening for flight. This is a Brown Stink Bug one of a family of little flying tank-like beetles. In the photo sequence note how the shoulder panel moves forward and the side panels move out to allow the wings to emerge. Links for learning more:

AskEntomologists.com has this handy ID chart for distinguishing helpful stinkbug species from the occasional pests species. The sharp shoulders (as seen in the photos below) indicate that this is one of the predatory stink bugs that helps control garden pests.

Virginia Tech has published a field guide to the different stink bug species (PDF).

Final Note

Hope you are having a great summer! If you haven't, take a minute to subscribe and get S3T delivered free to your inbox each Sunday morning.  

Thanks again for reading and sharing. Hope you are all S3T for success this week! Feel free to forward this to a friend and continue the conversation on the S3T Discord, Twitter or LinkedIn.


Opinions mine. Not financial advice. I may hold assets discussed.