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SmashTheState's avatar

Would you agree to move to an arcology?

Asked by SmashTheState (14228points) September 20th, 2015

Humanity has had the technology for more than 60 years to build megastructure arcologies with zero or almost zero ecological impact. They have not been built because there is no will among the population to spend their entire lives living inside what amounts to a giant terrarium with limited space and rigidly-controlled levels of consumption, waste, and reproduction.

If an arcology was built today with free admission for anyone willing to agree to spend the rest of their lives inside it, would you move there?

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25 Answers

jca's avatar

No. I like my freedom and being able to make choices about where I go and how I live. This sounds like a good idea for the future, kind of like The Jetsons, but for me, not now.

ragingloli's avatar

I absolutely would.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The one that was tried (Arcosanti, near Flagsaff, AZ) was a colossal failure. In the end they commercialized it and ended up selling pottery and bells.

I visited it when I was in college; it seemed idealistic back then. I went back a few years ago and it was decrepit and falling apart.

I think that the reason it failed was that they couldn’t get enough people o buy into the philosophy and make it sustainable.

janbb's avatar

I think those days will come sooner rather than later. Life as we are living it on the earth is unsustainable.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Before that solution becomes necessary how about trying something we can control easily, with very money: limit our own birth rate. We are already bordering on unsustainable consumption (Some would say we are well past that point. Let’s reduce the number of new mouths that need to be fed every day. We don’t have to be draconian about it. Keep it to replacement rates 2.1 per female and let attrition take care of the gradual reduction

I wonder how large a terrarium a human needs. these are all guesses. A lot of grass and trees are needed to make enough oxygen for one person. They also need sunlight and water. What about food production? How much land does a person need to grow 100% of food requirement? Will soil additives be allowed to replenish the soil or will we use processed cadavers?

ragingloli's avatar

edit: wrong thread

LuckyGuy's avatar

i bounced around looking for some data on the air/oxygen question. There were many sources with similar values..
“Average O2 consumption for a human is 550 liters per day”
“Scientists estimate a safe oxygen consumption of 50 liters per hour for a human. Meanwhile, a leaf gives off about five milliliters of oxygen per hour. A person would need to be in a room with about ten thousand leaves. About 300 to 500 plants would produce the right amount of oxygen”
That is a lot of space.
This ignores the CO2, water, sunlight, mineral, and caloric requirements. That structure would be huge.
Would we allow the megastructure to import air?

SmashTheState's avatar

@LuckyGuy Most of the plans I’ve seen discussed involve things like massive vats of algae to process the CO2. It serves multiple functions, since the algae will also eat waste products (and corpses) and can also be processed into nutritious food. Essentially what you’re doing with a closed arcology is making a terrestrial spaceship: nothing comes in, nothing goes out. But with the benefit that if there’s a catastrophic failure, everyone doesn’t die.

Energy enters the system from the Sun (most of the plans I’ve seen include both photovoltaic cells and shelfed rooftop gardens) and whatever other sustainable backup systems you add (geothermal, wind, etc.) to replace inevitable energy loss to entropy, inefficiency, and background heat. The system then is theoretically closed, but open in practice, though to the least amount possible.

It would require a whole new way of living, and I don’t think it would be possible at all with the ultra-individualist Western way of thinking.

jca's avatar

Another question for the plan would be how would decisions be made? From what I see at work, committees of 10 people can’t make a decision about a holiday party centerpiece or some other foolishness, and much of the outcome of that is determined by politics and who is friends who with and who is aligned with who when they cast their vote. Would I want that determining what method is going to be used for me to get the oxygen that I breathe or the water that I drink?

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Nope not at all,as long as the earth holds out for another 25 to 35 years that’s all I care won’t be here after that, another reason why we chose not to have kids.

SmashTheState's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 Translation: “I got mine, fuckers.”

dxs's avatar

I doubt it. I like the idea but I’m way too accustomed to the culture I grew up in.

Berserker's avatar

Well that really depends on what life would be like inside one of those, and what kind of society it would create. I want to keep my freedom, my hobbies and all. If everything I do is scrutinized and monitored, I might have a hard time of it.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

BUT @SmashTheState aint that is what it’s all about in this Capitalistic world??
As long as I make my fortune I don’t give a shit about anyone or anything else, as for young ones having to deal with this fuck up we leave them, guess it sucks to be them, isn’t that Capitalism at it finest??

LuckyGuy's avatar

@SmashTheState The algae, plants, and trees use the same process, photosynthesis. They all need light to power the reaction. According to what I’m finding it takes takes a lot of light working on leaves to make enough O2 for a human. I don’t know how they get around that limitation . It seems like those numbers should be readily available and easy to calculate. The Laws of Physics are hard to beat.

SmashTheState's avatar

@LuckyGuy There’s wide variation of photosynthetic efficiency, but that’s not the only important thing. For algae, it can consume many waste products and, in turn, can be processed into fats, carbs, and proteins for both food and industrial use. For making sure every square centimetre of sunlight is used, there’s also green wall techniques which are starting to be used in urban, hydroponic, vertical farms in places where space is at a premium and arable land rare or nonexistent.

Where direct sunlight is insuffient, geothermal and wind power can also be harnessed to provide the energy for grow lights. Don’t forget also that slow breeder thorium reactors have the potential to provide safe, steady, long-term power for either hydrolosis (to free up oxygen and store up hydrogen as a sort of battery for periods of high energy use) or lighting.

Many of the problems faced by arcologies are the same ones we’ve been working on for colonies on the Moon or Mars, and we’ve been working on these solutions for decades.

rojo's avatar

@LuckyGuy limiting our own birthrate is not a problem among first world countries. At the risk of being accused of race-baiting, If you look at the birth rates of most Western European and North American countries you will find that the birth rate much lower than that of most 3rd world countries which was fine considering the number of infant deaths that were prevalent in those same countries. Problem is that sanitation and heath care improvements now a much higher percentage of those born are surviving into adulthood and are themselves breeding.
What good does it do a nation like to maintain a low birth rate among those who live there if you end up with a less fortunate mass of humanity, who have a much higher birth rate, streaming across its borders looking for security and a better life? It takes several generations for an immigrant population to adjust its social mores and customs and begin to attain a more sustainable birth rate and by that time you can expect the next rush of poor, less educated immigrants.

rojo's avatar

We could probably expect the same problem with a successful Arcology.

If it worked and worked well then you would have more and more people wanting to be a part of it until the system was overloaded and ceased to function.

rojo's avatar

Countries compared by people and birth rate

In 2013 the birth rate in the US was 13.66/1000 while the death rate was 8.39/1000. Ten years earlier the US birth rate was 14.14/1000 and the death rate 8.44/1000.

Darth_Algar's avatar


It’s easy to point out that western 1st world nations have a lower birth rate than 3rd world countries, but this fails to account for the fact that us 1st world westerners consume much more of the planet’s resources. In general any 1 of us here in Western Europe or North American will consume (and waste) more of the planet’s resources than several people in a 3rd world nation in East Asia combined.

And even much of the resource consumption of those 3 world nations goes to producing consumer goods for us 1st worlders. As an especially absurd example of this a friend of mine recently found, in a convenience store, a package of two ears of corn grown in Thailand and housed in a wrapper made from corn plastic.

johnpowell's avatar

Played a lot of SimCity 2000. I would be all over it.

rojo's avatar

That is true @Darth_Algar but what I was trying to stress was not one of consumption but one of uncontrolled population growth and where it occurs.

SmashTheState's avatar

@rojo More than half of all the animal biomass on Earth is in the form of ants, and the ecosystem supports them easily. This planet can support 7 billion, 70 billion, or 700 billion humans easily – provided we’re prepared to live in zero-impact arcologies. We don’t have a problem with overpopulation, we have a problem with the unsustainable lifestyle being used by these 7 billion people (or, more accurately, by the 20% of these 7 billion people who own 80% of the world’s wealth and are responsible for an even larger percentage of the world’s pollution).

LuckyGuy's avatar

@SmashTheState I’m glad you pointed out how low photosynthetic efficiency actually is. the number I had in my head for years was only 1.6%. The reference you sited shows:
“Plants, typical 0.1%[3]
Typical crop plants 1–2%[3]
Sugarcane 7–8%

Now even the crappiest solar cells are above 8%.
There are research projects underway (funded!) with the goal of developing a chemistry that increases the p. efficiency. The intent is to grow crops with less light or reduced surface area. Very cool. The researchers are thinking waaay outside the box. In 50 years crop plants might be very different.

@rojo At some point there might be a shutdown of aid. There is some truth in Sam Kiison’s skit about World Hunger.

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