vinay on cities

Vinay Gupta (@leashless) tweeted at 7:41 AM on Tue, Nov 05, 2019:
“The Cities That Will Walk Away” on building modular, containerized charter cities to make homes for the world’s refugees. I also cover GPS, blockchains and global trade. It’s the first time I’ve laid out the entire story, from the @hexayurt to @mattereum

1 hour talk by Vinay – from sept 2019 – The Cities That Will Walk Away

9 min – if want to think about whole systems.. hard to do if you think with a lot of detail.. detail kills our ability to do overview ..  being able to zoom back and lose detail w/o losing so much detail that your stuff just doesn’t work is a critical skill in being able to think at a systemic level.. a skill that’s very hard to find inside academia.. because academia spends a lot of time on detail and correctness.. t.. and whole systems thinking requires you to be pretty fuzzy with detail.. otherwise just can’t fit it inside a human skull

indeed.. detail also kills ability to see what real problem is..

i’m thinking you still need to let go of detail.. ie: detail we all keep assuming is legit .. when really it’s detail from whales in sea world

13 min – once your a refugee.. displaced.. you’re pretty much stuck there.. once slit out of system.. hard to get plugged back in again

14 min – classical model is the refugee camp.. design in ww2.. tents were basically ww2 army tents.. this model assumed that once peace broke out you would go back home.. that model doesn’t really apply when dealing with eco system shifts..  getting to point where if have to leave.. have to leave permanently..

17 min – the camp as a model just doesn’t work.. most of the time it’s not temporary.. the camp model has become synonymous with condition of refugees.. we wind up leaving people in camps for long time.. but not set up as cities.. where could rebuild.. the fundamental infra of life.. isn’t there.. can’t get back to econ sufficiency.. no jobs/services.. bad schools/food.. no exit.. the refugee camps just prolong the condition.. they’ll save your life but they won’t get you back out

19 min – what are we going to do instead.. not just warehouse people in camps.. new way of thinking of what to do to help people that are permanently displaced.. now 60m.. will be overwhelmed when 5x..

20 min – they’re on the road.. and permanently on the road until they get reconnected to global econ..t

hmm.. rather.. all of us need to get reconnected to global equity/interconnectedness.. global econ is big part of the problem/cancer

ai humanity needs.. augmenting interconnectedness

21 min – we could go with the flow.. urbanization as general trend.. what if we just roll with that.. that has an enormous amount of hope.. ie: 4 gens in refugee camp where can’t work.. or refugee city.. where can be first class citizens.. fresh start .. build from ground up.. so move toward a model of constructing new cities..

22 min – new cities is not the first choice.. better to have them absorbed in already existing cities..  but that’s not happening.. so i’m suggesting these alts.. so ie: don’t have to grant citizenship to 300m people.. et al.. but i’m not suggesting it’s the utopian model.. i’m grasping for new models..

27 min – need to make new things when growing at this scale.. we’re not very good at making new things.. but can’t do incremental..

2002 – rocky mtn institute – hexayurt – how to build geodesic dome w/no waste – my focus rest of life.. how bucky missed this.. i have no idea..

29 min – i had no interest in refugees at this time.. was thinking i’d like to live in one.. then looking at this thing.. then i made a terrible error.. i decided this was my problem..

30 min – humanitary funding cycle is completely intolerant of error..

32 min – i don’t know for sure if this is the right way to solve the refugee problem.. you have to believe in ideas enough to make them available to others.. but not to force them on the world..  ie: evangelical zeal.. ie: ted talk ism.. we’ve heard those talks for 15 years.. and i don’t know that it’s getting fixed

36 min – the shift pod.. that could fold and fit into back of car.. all over burning man and refugee camps..

39 min – modular relocatable cities.. can you build something much more city like.. that’s moveable if needed..

40 min – those kinds of approaches.. the modularity.. the reusability and the standardization haven’t yet come to the building industry in a big way.. frankly because the building industry is kind of a gigantic rip off.. but there’s no reason we couldn’t apply these kind of principles to a new kind of emergency urbanism and the back propagate that into the real world as a way of enormously reducing the price of housing globally.. and the overpricing of housing comes from market manipulation and terrible engineering practice.. housing doesn’t have to be this expensive.. we could fix it if you would let engineers build houses rather than architects..

42 min – we could container ize all the that is required to keep people alive and to gradually build a higher standard of living..

43 min – what makes a city a city is a service architecture.. a refugee camp provides you basically w food, sanitation and water.. maybe some medical care.. a city provides you with a vastly wider and broader service architecture but a lot of that service architecture is the sam basic components remixed and remixed..

45 min – on building on larger scale: too hot.. too cold.. hunger.. thirst.. illness.. and injury.. these are the 6 things that can kill you.. t

yeah.. but deeper.. more systemic.. what kills us is loss of maté basic needs.. let’s go there.. and trust the then alive 8b people to take care of the rest.. (ie: as an undisturbed ecosystem)

and then we build around us this kind of cocoon of services that protect us from the things that will kill us.. and this is called civilization.. the core of civilization is that it covers these basic needs..t

yeah.. again.. not basic enough.. ie: we don’t need civilization (civilization..can never be an ethical or sustainable model for human society).. what we need is to augment our interconnectedness.. and trust us/that to take care of everything else

jensen civilization law: ‘civilization..can never be an ethical or sustainable model for human society’ – Derrick Jensen

 45 min – if you want to understand civilization .. it’s actually a stack that goes from individual all the way up to global.. ie: what protects you from the cold is a tiered service architecture.. layer 1 is your clothes. layer 2 is the building you’re in, layer 3 is the energy that heats the building you’re in .. and layer 4 is the global markets that capitalize the infra that extracts the energy from the ground and then pumps it to your building.. nation state to individual

47 min – groups.. (communication.. transport).. turning into orgs.. shared plan.. map of action.. selecting new leadership.. et al.. then to basically a nation state level.. a sets of orgs.. a map of territories.. a list of citizens.. jurisdiction is very very important.. my defn of nation state is not the thing that has a monopoly of violence.. but the thing which has the ability to retroactively or proactively pardon crime.. so if you pardon murder you get an army, if you pardon assault you get police, if you pardon theft you get tax collectors.. and this i think is key to the understanding of what the state is and how this interlinks w theories of justice.. it’s a state of exception to be a nation state


48 min – and this is the big map.. a simple ish way of understanding the entire function of a civilization.. and when you start talking about building cities from an endless series of sea containers that get dropped off and unpacked by refugees.. it’s quite important to have some model of how it’s all meant to work even it it’s very abstract, because if we can’t do this kind of systemic and meta systemic thinking.. you wind up in a position where all the components work, but they don’t add up to a nation state or they don’t add up to a city at the end of it

hmm.. am thinking we don’t want a nation state.. or a city.. if that’s how a city is defined..

49 min – and we’ve all seen this kind of complex systems arch, like when corps try and deploy new software, the failure rate is something like 70-90%.. because all the individual components work but the thing overall doesn’t do what it’s meant to

this is exactly why we need to let go of all this civilization  and nation state and jurisdiction ness.. et al.. or we’re never going to see the dance dance.. ie: undisturbed ecosystem..‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

50 min – so.. we can build cities from scratch.. a sea container at a time.. maybe do some testing at the village scale.. make sure it all kind of works..

let’s go deeper vinay – ie: short bp

it’s not that diff from burning man.. the burners would be the people you would get to project manage it.. it’s a very plausible thing..

? not so sure..

51 min – but you have to do this in a model where what you expect to get out of it is a city and not just a cozier refugee camp.. and for it to be a city, the people need econ rights, passports, some concept of citizenship, some concept of sovereignty..

see.. ugh.. huge ugh.. ie: rights; id; citizenship ness; sovereignty ness; .. all cancerous to an undisturbed ecosystem..

because if you’re in a position where the entire ecology is simply controlled by a single bureaucracy w absolute power

let go of control..

which is the typical fate of the refugees, it’s incredibly difficult to do any kind of innovation, because innovation i s inherently messy and it’s inherently anti bureaucratic.. so we have to think very carefully about what it means to give cities as the way forward for the people that become permanently displaced persons rather than for it to be camps or resettlement.. it’s a very diff mindset because cities are extremely ancient

53 min – solving the coordination problem.. – to get this to work, we have to get an enormous number of moving parts to fit together neatly and smoothly.. otherwise we’re going ot end up w systems that just don’t behave.. most of the time.. large coord problem.. the pieces work but the whole fails..

coord we need most: augmenting interconnectedness.. so that we have the energy of 8b alive people.. coord via 2 convers as infra

we don’t need systems that behave.. we needs systems that dance .. or we’re just spinning our wheels with pieces

start looking at coord from global perspective – can manage the 1/3 second delay (from speed of sound) in communication of people.. but can’t manage it with machines.. 1/3 sec delay on 10 m transactions per second – ends up w 3m transactions out of sync

transactions don’t need to be in sync.. esp material/dead things being traded.. just people need to be in sync.. but our problem is we keep overlooking this or.. doing this partially.. and it has to be every single person at once.. everyone in sync for the dance to dance

so if i need to lock in purchasing for each one of these things.. there has to be some way of handling this delay.. or i might wind up with 2 of the 3 and i’ve already locked in purchases.. need to sync machinery of trade effectively

irrelevant vinay.. you’re focusing on a minor issue – mattereum .. sync ing machinery of trade.. is secondary.. if at all

55 min – we can’t afford the world to break up into less liquid markets.. because we weren’t able to figure out the software and politics of ensuring that global trade.. stays global.. this problem really matters..

oh my vinay.. so wish we were talking friends

57 min – blockchain.. ethereum..  the blockchain solves that speed of light problem by imposing a mandatory delay.. it’s an approach to solving the sync problem globally in a way that facils trade (sync america to china and make sure coin isn’t spent twice et al)

dang.. what we need is an approach to solving the sync problem globally in a way that facils interconnectedness

58 min – so if we slowed down the trade and everybody used same algo.. we could build a decentralized archi for global commodity trading.. that i think is the most important argument for blockchain.. did it (interconnectedness) for banks.. then internet did it for info.. and blockchain doing it for trade

nice.. improving on the mobility of what’s killing us.. the cancer..

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh

we’re moving into a world where everything is permanently interconnected.. and *we need to be able to measure and account for those interactions and interdependencies..or we’re going to get into real trouble..

*why?.. any form of measuring/accounting is a cancer to humanity.. that’s the real trouble..

and we’ve always been interconnected.. not new..

the predominant problem we have managing the environ is we can’t tell whose fault is that things are screwed up and we can’t send them a bill.. if we could figure that out.. exactly where the problem is.. we could just send people bills and it would stop

holy cow.. the problem is that we keep trying to manage things.. and we keep missing the deeper issue

we are building systems that understand the world in a holistic way

perhaps we’re building systems that understand whales in sea world in a holistic way.. but that’s not helping anything.. it’s distracting us from what really matters

1:01 – this global knowing system.. the global knowing about people which is most fundamental is passports.. but the passport system doesn’t actually serve our needs very well because you’re constantly losing the damn thing and it doesn’t give you any ability to interact w electronic services in a coherent way.. so you can imagine new global id systems that would work better than fb, credit cards, or passports.. a lot of these systems are called self sovereign id..

oh my.. let go of id ness

why does that matter? that’s a detail that is killing us

this is also very important in terms of understanding global citizenship

citizenship ness.. a cancer

another part of this is the engineering of borders

yeah.. killing us.. siddiqi border law: every border implies the violence of its maintenance – Ayesha Siddiqi

1:02 – so a border for goods and a border for people are essentially just software artifacts..

my company .. mattereum.. is a co that works on this problem.. of how we define what physical objects are well enough that we ca make decisions about those objects using software

1:03 – to all of this, we finally put it together, fits into a framework we think of as economies of omniscience.. if we know what’s happening with everything.. we can make optimal decisions about how to allocate resources..

missing the deeper problem.. that we (currently whales in sea world) don’t even know what we want/need.. if we get the whales out of sea world first.. that completely changes the idea of allocation of resources..

it’s like a super info rich, super info dense form of capitalism.. and it has the side effect that it allows us to manage the environ at the same time.. so as you’re building the deep understanding of physical objects.. it allows you to do things like establish prices for them accurately,

oi.. perhaps let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence

ie: ubi as temp placebo.. pricing is a cancerous irrelevant

you also get into a domain where you could track the environ footprint/contamination..

better to build a world where we quit contaminating.. no? and much simpler.. ie: everyone already knows how .. just that we’re all currently whales in sea world

this gives info to algos.. solves coord problem

not if the movement/dance is already cancerous.. ie: not us

1:06 – last thing i want to talk about is volatility.. worst thing that happens when poor.. if we had insurance for all those tiny little risks.. wouldn’t cost more money.. bi and micro ins .. allows you to be very poor and very stable.. bi alone doesn’t solve precarity.. because expenses can fluctuate .. but a lot of expenses can be turned into insurable risk

1:07 – so i can envision solving a lot of the problems we have .. dealing with the fact that a lot of us are poor.. by simply accepting that one of the predominant goals is to take the precarity out of poverty.. and we’ve done this in finance for decades

oh my..

1:08 – if we don’t figure out how to solve reasonably.. equitably for 9b people.. we’re going to have a century of increasingly destructive war with really high tech weapons..

much more reasonable.. much more equitable.. let’s try this: a nother way to live

w internet.. so connected.. eventually .. you realize that political accountability has to come along as part of the package

let go.. of any form of measuring/accounting.. or we’re just spinning our cancerous wheels

1:09 – the econ pressures (producers worker harder and having less) forces us into reality.. and as we’re forced into reality, we can get to grips w problems like climate

not reality vinay.. whales in sea world.. whales in sea world.. whales in sea world

so the future i see is that we build a world which id fundamentally more economically efficient, but also a world which is fundamentally more just, because the tools that we need for econ efficiency are identical to the tools we need for justice

any econ with money (any form of measuring/accounting) will never be just.. will never set us free

let go

1:10 – the actual software you need to run an efficient world is also the software you need to run a just world.. efficiency and justice when you fundamentally get down to it, rely on exactly the same data sets

only because efficiency and justice (‘just behavior or treatment‘ – whos’ deciding this?)are part of the same cancer.. we need neither.. if we get to true fundamentals.. ie: maté basic needs


Vinay Gupta (@leashless) tweeted at 5:11 AM – 7 Nov 2019 :
“How to reengineer our systems to address climate change’s refugee crisis and create new, high-density cities on demand” – @doctorow writes up my @PennyStampsLect talk for @boingboing – lovely, thank you! I’m glad to see these ideas getting out there :-) (

I don’t share all of Gupta’s vision here — I’m skeptical of his claim that we need capital (as opposed to material) to lift people out of poverty, and of the underlying economics of this notion

let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence


city ness

in the city.. as the day..

refugee camps et al

hexayurt.. resilience.. et al