Appendix D – Technology in the New Economy

When we started talking about our new economic system and our new city, we decided that the city needs to grow its own food. Why? Because if the city depends on some other group of capitalistic people for food, the city is vulnerable. Capitalistic principles allow (in fact encourage) the complete destruction of human lives, as manifested in the lives of billions of people on earth today. Given the chance, a capitalist will happily destroy our new city by withholding food, or arbitrarily jacking up the “price” of food.

The same logic can apply to everything in our new city. Where will the furniture come from for people’s houses and the restaurants? Where will windows come from? The laptop computers? The residents of our new city can make everything themselves.

This sort of independence is an interesting opportunity, and an interesting challenge. There are many, many, many things on Earth that we would need to recreate in a new city if the city is to be self-sufficient.

What about Semiconductor chips?

Let’s take a simple example: Will the residents of our new city have smart phones and laptop computers? The answer is obvious – of course they will. It would be silly to create a new city, but then to take the residents back to the stone age by leaving smart phones and laptops out of the picture.

Where will this kind of technology come from?

  • Option 1: Buy the technology in the world’s capitalistic marketplaces
  • Option 2: Manufacture the technology independently in the new city

To cut ties with capitalism, we need to manufacture laptops and smart phones in our new city. But this is not a trivial problem. Have you ever looked inside a modern laptop? There is a lot of stuff packed inside. Try watching these two videos for an introduction to the complexity:

Just think about all of the technology packed into these devices:

  • The screens are amazing
  • The touch panels over the screens are amazing
  • The batteries are amazing
  • The microprocessors and memory systems are amazing
  • The flash drives are amazing
  • The radios and antennas are amazing (every phone contains radios for voice communications and control, WiFi radios, BlueTooth radios, GPS radios, NFC radios, etc.)
  • The sound systems and speakers are amazing
  • The cameras are amazing
  • The biometric sensors are amazing
  • The operating systems and software are amazing
  • The cases, glass, adhesives, screws and hinges seem pretty simple, but they too are amazing
  • And so on…

It is amazing that all of these features can be packed into something that fits in your pocket. Yet the people in the developed world all use these devices every day and we take them completely for granted.

We will need to be able to imagine, design, prototype and manufacture these devices in mass quantities in our new city if the city is going to be independent.

Is it even possible for a small city to make all of this stuff? Absolutely. The city of Shenzhen in China, population 10 million, makes 90% of the electronic devices on planet Earth today:

It certainly is possible.

Our new city will need to be able to manufacture the semiconductor chips and other components that we find inside the devices. They look like little plastic rectangles, but they are the most complex devices humans create. A chip can have billions of transistors, and the manufacturing processes are stunningly precise. The tiniest speck of dust, the tiniest imperfection in the silicon wafer can render a chip inoperable.

The amount of technology that goes into making all of the chips that a modern society needs is significant. Our city will need:

  • the thousands of engineers who know how to architect chips
  • the thousands of engineers who know how to design and layout the transistors for the chips
  • the thousands of engineers who know how to manufacture the chips
  • the thousands of engineers and specialists who actually do manufacture the chips
  • the thousands of engineers who know how to design the factories that manufacture the chips
  • the thousands of engineers who know how to design and manufacture the machines that make the chips that go in the factories
  • and so on…

And keep in mind that chips advance constantly. The chips we have today are a thousand times better than the chips we had a decade or two ago.

But keep in mind that people – fairly normal people with an engineering mindset – conceive of and construct these chips. Not so long ago, China made zero chips. Now they make chips that rival Intel’s best. And open source chips are a thing too:

In order to be self-sufficient, our new city will need to keep pace. Chips and chip manufacturing are not static targets like, say, making nuts and bolts, or aluminum foil. Everything in the technology sector is always advancing, always getting better on a thousand different fronts.

And don’t forget cloud computing. Every major technology corporation in America – Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Dell, etc. – has millions of servers “in the cloud” storing petabytes of data and supplying petaFLOPS of computation. Here’s a look inside a massive data center as an example:

We need to recreate many of these companies and these data centers in our new city.

How many engineers, scientists, technicians, specialists, researchers, etc. will we have to train to replicate all of this technology? We will need to be able to manufacture semiconductor chips, smart phones, laptops, servers and data centers, plus all of the software, along with all of the specialized machines, technologies, robots, clean rooms, buildings, etc. underpinning the factories. Will it take 10,000 people? 30,000 people? 50,000?

Keep in mind that we need a certain amount of redundancy. If “the guy” who understands CPU branch prediction architectures [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branch_predictor] (just to pick one of the thousands of esoteric but necessary skill sets needed to design a modern CPU chip) happens to die in a freak accident, we will need someone to replace him. There needs to be more than one person who understands branch prediction, and all of the other arcane chip technologies that none of the rest of us ever encounter in our daily lives. And we need to train children to replace them as they age out.

So we educate and train these 30,000 people. Their educations may require several years of apprenticeship and experience in existing factories so they completely understand and know the ropes. Their goal is to recreate Earth’s technology industry and start manufacturing chips, smart phones, laptops, data centers, etc. Then these specialists will additionally start advancing all of these technologies forward through research and development.

We are going to do all of this so that the people living in our new city can use their self-made smart phones, using their self-made cell phone network, connected to their self-made Internet, connected to self-made data centers, electrified by their self-made power grid. And the reason to do it this way is four-fold:

  1. It eliminates vulnerability and increases autonomy for the new city
  2. It eliminates the need to fund the absurdities of capitalism, including insane executive salaries, insane profits, insane advertising budgets, insane executive perks, etc.
  3. It is good for the city to master these technical skills and move them forward. The smart people living in the city will want to exercise their intelligence in productive, imaginative and exciting ways.
  4. Once we do it the first time, it will be incredibly easy to transfer the technology and skills to future new cities. Once we create one self-sufficient city, it is then incredibly easier to create the second, the third, etc., and soon we have rescued all of humanity from the absurdity of capitalism.

Health Care

We will need the same kind of effort for pharmaceuticals, hospitals, medical devices, medical imaging, etc. As described previously, one out of every 25 residents in our city will be directly or indirectly involved in the actual provision of health care (e.g. doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, dentists, hygienists, psychiatrists, orderlies, etc.). This is 40,000ish trained professionals all by itself to handle one million residents. And we are also going to need to replicate all of the scientists, engineers, researchers, specialists and technicians needed to make therapeutic drugs, medical devices, medical imaging equipment, etc. And then we will need educators to train their replacements over time.

These videos can be helpful to understanding the medical manufacturing sector:

What about all of the other “Stuff”?

If you walk into a Target or a Walmart store and you think through what really lies in front of you, you realize that you are looking at a huge variety of products coming from a huge number of factories all over the world. According to Walmart, “Supercenters average 187,000 square feet, employ 350 or more associates on average and offer 142,000 different items” [ref]. 142,000 different items represents a huge manufacturing base, no question. Our new city is going to need to be able to recreate this kind of manufacturing capacity, and this kind of manufacturing variety.

This is why, in Chapter 22, we had a question about optimal city size. One million residents is likely to be too small to accommodate so much manufacturing variety. A population of 5 million or 10 million is probably closer to optimal.

It really can be difficult to get a full sense of the scale and scope of the manufacturing capabilities on Earth, but here is one way to do it: Take a look at the TV show called “How It’s Made”. This show sends crews in to film and explain how different factories work. If you go to a page like this one – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_How_It%27s_Made_episodes – you can get a full list of all of the episodes to date. Here are the episodes and the products they cover from just the first two seasons of the show:

  • 1-01, 01, Aluminum Foil, Snowboards, Contact Lenses, Bread
  • 1-02, 02, Compact Discs, Mozzarella Cheese, Pantyhose, Fluorescent Tubes
  • 1-03, 03, Toothpicks, Acrylic Bathtubs, Helicopters, Beer
  • 1-04, 04, Hearing Aids, 3D Puzzles, Rubber Mats, Toilets
  • 1-05, 05, Copy Paper, Jeans, Computers, Plate Glass
  • 1-06, 06, Nails and Staples, Safety Glasses, Fabrics, Bicycles
  • 1-07, 07, Kayaks, Safety Boots, Electronic Signs, Cereals
  • 1-08, 08, Trucks, Adhesive Bandages, Computer Circuit Boards, Liquors
  • 1-09, 09, Steel, Apple Juice, Aircraft Landing Gear, Cosmetics
  • 1-10, 10, Holograms, Package Printing, Skin Culture, Canned Corn
  • 1-11, 11, Plastic Bags, Solar Panels, Plastic Gasoline Containers, Hockey Sticks
  • 1-12, 12, Aluminum Screw Caps, Chocolate, Pills, Pasta
  • 1-13, 13, Bicycle Helmets, Aluminum, Car Brakes, Lithium Batteries
  • 2-01, 14, Eyeglass Lenses, Granite, Potato Chips, Computer Microprocessors
  • 2-02, 15, Honey, Fibre Optics, Bricks, Pipe Organs
  • 2-03, 16, Personal Watercraft, Wine, Particleboard Office Furniture, Ice Skates
  • 2-04, 17, Winter Jackets, Animation, Mushrooms, Gold Rings
  • 2-05, 18, Hydroponic Lettuce, Construction Wood, Recycling, Fishing Flies
  • 2-06, 19, Diamond Cutting, Wood Doors, Paintballs, Newspapers
  • 2-07, 20, Carpets, Drinking Water, Laser Eye Surgery, Acoustic Guitars
  • 2-08, 21, Fiberglass Boats, Clothes Dryers, Bubble Gum, Fireworks
  • 2-09, 22, Steel Safes, False Teeth, Airplanes, Maple Syrup
  • 2-10, 23, Gummies, Aluminum Cans, Fish Farming, Bronze Sculptures
  • 2-11, 24, Aluminum Pots and Pans, Artificial Limbs, Peanut Butter, High Intensity Light Bulbs
  • 2-12, 25, Cars, Grocery Carts, Rapid Tooling and Prototyping, Collectible Coins
  • 2-13, 26, Ball Bearings, Electrical Wires, Lost Wax Casting, Automated Machines

There are a total of 28 seasons so far. The show has visited 1,450 factories to date [as of 2017].

The very first thing they cover in the very first episode is something incredibly simple: aluminum foil. Aluminum foil has just one component – a very thin sheet of aluminum. That’s it. It is not like a laptop or an MRI machine, with thousands of parts.

Yet, aluminum foil, simple as it is, still takes a large, interesting factory to make it, as you can see if you watch the episode [ref]. And to make aluminum foil, there needs to be another factory to make aluminum. The aluminum factory assumes the existence of an aluminum mine (or some other source of aluminum). And all three of these operations assume the existence of factories that can make cement and steel (to construct the factory buildings), trucks, trains (and tracks), tires and engines (to transport the materials and machines), and all of the other specialized machines seen in these factories. Manufacturing in the modern world is an incredible human endeavor. The “How It’s Made” videos show you different manufacturing capabilities that we take completely for granted on planet Earth, and which would all need to be replicated in our new city, and then staffed by city residents, in order to achieve independence.

How many engineers, scientists, researchers, technicians, specialists, etc. will we need to train to recreate all of this manufacturing capability? Tens of thousands. And, like the people described for the technology sector and the medical sector, these initial trainees will all retire/die eventually, so we need to have an education system to train and certify their replacements.

Why this is all important

Why is all of this important when thinking about and planning our new city? Because we have to work all of this out. What we are talking about is booting up a new and essentially self-sufficient city.

We need an educational system and educational capability to train the people who will fill these different roles. Then we need some amount of seed technology to get the process started. For example, to build just about any kind of machine, we need a CNC machine. Even to make another CNC machine, we need a CNC machine, along with other machines. And so we need to have seed CNC machines available, along with the other machines to make new CNC machines and other machines. To make new CNC machines, we need steel, aluminum, copper, etc. There is some amount of “seed equipment” that must arrive in order to create a platform on which to start manufacturing in our new city.

And we need an overarching society and an economy that works for all of these people, so we can prevent all of the slums, hunger, poverty, inequality, greed, wars, suffering, etc., etc. that we find as a result of capitalistic economic breakdowns on Earth today, as described previously.

This is an amazing and inspiring set of things to think about, because here are our stated goals for everyone living in our new city:

  • Everyone has high quality, healthy food
  • Everyone has clean water and sanitation services
  • Everyone has high quality, safe, secure housing
  • Everyone has high quality health care
  • Everyone has high quality clothing
  • Everyone has high quality education
  • Everyone has high quality transportation
  • Everyone has 24×7 electricity and Internet access
  • Everyone has a computer and a smart phone to access the Internet
  • And so on…
  • And everyone has these things in a way that is sustainable, so that we do not destroy the planet we live on.

This is so obvious… Obviously we need our new city to work this way. Creating a 10 million person city that pulls this off will be an amazing achievement for humanity. Then we replicate this city several hundred times, and every human is rescued from the absurd poverty that we find infecting planet Earth and destroying the lives of billions of people today through capitalism.