Welcome to the Fractal Civics Research Wiki
Fractal Civics Research is an outgrowth of a small group of friends from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts discussing the requirements of a world civilization that can live within the resource limits of the planet.
We found it best to frame our exploration of the problem space in the way that a lot of our technological problem spaces have been framed over the last 200 years: via speculative science fiction.
At one level, Fractal Civics Research is just another #SolarPunk sci-fi collective.
On another level, it's a think tank for brainstorming how to bootstrap a #SolarPunk future.
And on yet another level, it's the seed of an NGO built to facilitate local projects to help communities everywhere to become participants in future world economy that replaces the economies of scale developed for the fossil fuel era with economies of network effects that will best fit a decentralized and distributed suite of power and food systems.
Five forces are abroad in the land which are major threats to our well-being and prosperity:
- Energy Security
- Fossil Fuel is getting harder to find and more expensive to extract
- Our civilization as we've constructed it requires fossil fuels
- What fuels remain should be reserved for heavy lifting and as chemical feed stocks
- We can make a graceful transition or a disruptive one - it's our choice
- Machine Intelligence Revolution
- We are building machines to do most of the things people did that allowed them to participate in our systems of exchange
- There are not going to be enough jobs to allow most people to participate in the industrial economy
- We need a human intelligence revolution to allow us to reinstate pre-industrial systems to provide equitable distribution of food, water, shelter and other essentials
- Climate Disruption
- Everyplace is getting warmer. Some places will get wetter, others drier. Previously populated land areas will become uninhabitable.
- Vast numbers of people will be on the move by the second half of the 21st century
- We need new ways of accommodating people, salvaging unusable built environments and rapidly deploying shelter and other infrastructures
- The last time we had weather like this, we didn't have agriculture and we didn't have cities. That should scare you.
- Biological Security
- Climate will provide wider dispersion of disease vectors. Tired and hungry people will be more succeptible to disease.
- Fuel insecurity will make distribution networks for basic medicines difficult and expensive to operate.
- Technological advances are amplifying the risk of deliberate or accidental propagation of biological and nanomechanical life forms that put populations at risk
- We must be prepared with the organizational competence to quarantine ill effects of these technologies and to deploy treatment resources within our communities.
- Resource Misallocation
- Our economic systems have become extractive, where investor-fueled organizations draw value out of communities while providing superfluous benefit if any at all
- Our land use and soil management practices are modeled after cheap abundant fossil fuels, creating urban and suburban hellscapes that impair our ability to meet the needs of our people
- We must find equitable means to restructure our patterns of land ownership and use, fostering local stewardship and care to leave usable resources to our children and grandchildren
Does this make you think we're headed for a dystopia that looks like a cross between Fury Road, Divergent and The Walking Dead?
It's not pre-ordained. There are no valid Utopias, but can't we have a future that looks like what we thought we were getting when we moved to the 'burbs?
How about a future that looks more like Animal Crossing?
Replace economies of scale with economies of network effects.
Start from the bottom up. Localize everything. Share a lot. Waste nothing. Build a new economy in the ashes of the old one.
This is not a hippy vision of geodesic yurts in the woods. It is a vision that has been made possible by advances in a wide array of technologies and extrapolates technological trends in computing, permaculture, energy capture, robotics and computer-aided fabrication. Nor is it a utopia - it merely reverses the deeply dystopian trends of the last 70 years while making the best of where those trends have taken us.
It is a liberal vision insofar as nation-states and big capital are pushed to the periphery. They may still exist but they will have very different roles.
It is a conservative vision in that it builds strong communities and returns a sense of local control. Equality and compassion are conservative values.
- Localize the responsibility for managing access to and the use of water
- migrate settlement patterns toward confluences of surface water: ground water may not cut it
- we will stop shipping water, better to catch it where it falls
- irrigation as first use makes little sense
- desalinization will become cheap but may not outweigh the risks of living close to rising seas
- water is heavy and less power will be available to move it
- Localize the responsibility for the production of food
- maximize local agriculture all the way down to the homestead level as a hedge against supply disruptions
- eating Chilean peaches in January in Minneapolis will not be a thing
- food preservation arts will become as popular as artisan beer. Why refrigerate when you can pickle, ferment or cure?
- innovations in optical technologies will move sunlight without the double conversion penalty for use in urban (vertical) farming
- if the land is not producing food it is either bad land or you are not a proper steward
- Localize the fabrication of shelter and other aspects of the built environment
- apply local labor and skill to locally available materials, shortening fragile supply chains
- build tighter, build lighter - more people will need to know how to build
- new fabrication techniques from additive fabrication to laser lumber processing using open source blueprints will become widespread
- let the robots help
- remember to leave economies of scale in favor of economies of network effects
- Localize clothing
- we're drowning in last year's fashions. Time to take it down a notch. We ship bales of stale T-shirts to countries that can't use them.
- lost fiber and hide arts come back. When it's been worn to rags, it's paper.
- bamboo, flax and hemp will be popular but we have enough empty PETE bottles to clothe humanity for centuries
- even plant waste that does not yield good fibers can be used to make rayon
- small scale robotics can currently do everything but finish work, I love your custom buttons!
- Localize the responsibility for minimizing, treating, reusing, reprocessing waste materials.
- if we have the energy to throw it out (wherever that is), we have the energy to not have to
- waste sources of nitrates will be needed for agriculture
- the stock of plastic resins and old tires available for reprocessing has become bottomless
- Localize the systems by which we manage the wellness of our people and natural resources
- we have a long road to rehabilitation
- good local food, proper city design and meaningful work will make us much healthier people
- work across health care disciplines to make robotic and telemedicine a reality
- Localize the responsibility for energy efficiency and production
- stop and think - efficiency first
- when the power generated at your homestead sells to the highest bidder, you'll want to use as little as possible yourself
- maximize local renewable production and cooperative distribution with sale into the wider economy, linking local coops into a more resilient grid
- solar thermal energy, wind and water kinetic energy handle some workloads better without conversion to electricity and back
- kinetic storage is overlooked
- if your homestead is not producing much of its own power, you're losing money
- Localize our systems of wealth creation and management
- force out the extractive and rent-seeking systems that reach into our communities
- recognize that securitized systems of debt do not benefit anybody - if you're thinking of floating a bond, think harder
- our system of land-holding is so Holocene and cannot stand up to the challenges ahead. We do not own the land, the land owns us
- homesteads with on-site water and waste processing, power and food production, connected to cooperatively owned and operated communications infrastructure require far fewer exchanges with the wider economy
- ownership of resources that are not performing real work for real people and communities can no longer be accommodated
- Localize the production, deployment and ownership of our infrastructures including education, transport and communications.
- infrastructures that made sense with abundant fuel will become cumbersome and inappropriate
- CSX boasts that its trains, on average, can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel
- the use of drone aircraft is in its infancy and every hamlet will have drone services
- communities will build ad-hoc intranets independent of incumbent ISPs and allow cable and phone contracts to lapse, preferring a redundant pair of shared high-speed uplinks
- systems of education and training will be updated and re-purposed to help us retool for the transition. Training in new fabrication arts, homestead management, financial and civic literacy will make a big comeback
All Hands on Deck!
The procedure is to seed redevelopment projects in every homestead, hamlet, neighborhood and city. These projects will cover a myriad ways of implementing the 9 solutions described above.
There are tens of thousands of organizations currently in operation which seek to address different intersections of the solutions.
We will fund the labor pool for the transition by selling resources, finished goods and training into that portion of the economy that has not yet made the transition, easing the process for all concerned.
We have a mechanism for effecting the transformation which we call #Olmsteading:
- Promulgate a new set of core beliefs about how people use a new way of life to respond to the threats we all face
- Catalog all currently active social enterprises that are working toward a solution
- Extract the common features in groups of similar social enterprises into patterns and platforms
- Establish an incubator that standardizes the platforms
- Use the incubator to develop and document each platform, providing the training materials, instructions and patterns by which social enterprises interact with local legal and fiscal systems and with each other
- Use a franchise model to seed local social enterprise startups everywhere that take responsibility for local platform implementation , using blueprints tested and vetted by the incubator
- Use the incubator as a clearing house for social enterprise and to tune the platforms for local conditions and maximum success
- Use the incubator to identify and prototype new platforms that address issues that have not yet found solutions in the model
Once we're half way there, new political relationships - relationships between cities - will emerge and gradually displace the nation-states of the mercantile, colonial and post-war eras.
Where we Hang Out
Our Facebook Group
Our Whitepaper and Incubator