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Vision

We show, on this site, that the ability (technical, production capabilities, financial, ...) exists today to improve the quality of life for every person (and significantly for most) within a decade, and to have that improvement increase substantially over time. The primary basis for the change we envision is a revolutionary modification to our transportation infrastructure that we specify in detail here. This is augmented by the many evolutionary improvements we, and many others, project in both the effectiveness and efficiency in all our other major systems. But all those changes are significantly enhanced by the characteristics of our proposed transportation system.

On this site we discuss 14 systems that we divide into 3 categories with the first two: basic needs (water, food, shelter, clothing, health care), wellbeing (entertainment, social interaction, curiosity/education, travel); relate to Maslow's hieraarchy of human needs, and the third being the major infrastructure systems (energy, information, transportation, building, manufacturing, finance).

The non-infrastructure systems have measures directly associated with the quality of life influences specific to that system. The infrastructure systems indirectly impact quality of life through their interactions with the core systems that use them. For example, our food supply and distribution system has measures related to the quantity of energy (calories) in the food, the various essential nutrients, the diversity of the foods and the taste, presentation and smell of the prepared meals are important influences on the quality of life once basic survival levels are met. We specify what we believe are the the essentiall metrics for all 13 of the systems we discuss.

Most significant among such changes is the discarding of the notion that "jobs", requiring an average in most countries of 1400-2000 working hours per year, for the average of 55-65% of the population that are employed, is needed to provide an "income" to support an "acceptable" quality of life for the members of the household. Note that the hour number is for time spent at the place of employment and does not include time spent commuting to and from that place, which can often be 10-25% of the work time. We show here that an "exceptional" quality of life, can be achieved for all with less than 10% of todays labour inputs. This could be realized in many forms including combinations of:

Our work was initially motivated by our observation that our current transportation infrastructure was far more costly, and less performant, than what was intrinsic to the problem it was addressing. We designed the alternative system(s), outlined above and specified in detail on our transportation subsite, but that lead to many follow on implications regarding all our existing system for supplying the needs of our global population.

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Systems

We discuss here a general model that applies to many of our systems, either in total (e.g. water, food, energy, information), or as a part of a larger system that fits the model. As illustrated in the image on the right, this model has three main levels: one that deals with the collection of primary resources (e.g. mining, harcesting, farming); a middle one that processes, stores and distributes the key elements handled by that system; the variety of end user applications that provide the demand for what the system does.

On this page, and many of our system sub-sites, we show how this model applies to systems such as our water and food ones, as well as our energy and information infrastructure. Infrastructure systems we consider include our transportation infrastructure system that plays a key role as the distribution network for some of these applications, as well as its major role for moving people and our manufacturing system that plays the processing roles in many of our systems that produce goods.

To some degree our model is related to the . The big differences are that:

Primary resources

For some of the systems we discuss here the first element involves some mechanism for collecting "resources". There is a wide range of resource types and corresponding collection mechanisms associated with each that are specific to the individual system. We use three main categories for these mechanisms:

  • Extractions are the mechanisms that collect non-renewable resources. Examples usually include mining type operations for things like metallic ores and fossil fuels.
  • Harvesting mechanisms involve collecting renewable resources for which the renewal has no (or very little) human interventions in its creation. The obvious candidates for this category are the forestry and fishing systems (or hunting/gathering). But we believe that a primary source for much of the information, handled by our information infrastructure, should be described as harvesting. This would include the capture of video, still images, and audio by cameras and microphones. But as we shall see lots of primary resource extraction related to information should be categorized as farming.
  • Farming uses human processes to develop renewable resources that can be collected by a harvesting technique. We are used to thinking of farming in the context of growing food crops and raising animals for their meat or production such as milk or eggs. We show how this categorization can, and will, be applied to many other domains. These would include aspects of our energy and information infrastructure systems.

Processing, Distribution and Storage

The middle level of our model is am inter-connected system of facilities that perform processing operations to transform their inputs into various outputs, and others that store the various items for some period. These are interconnected with some type of distribution network that is appropriate for the elements being processed or stored. The inputs to the processing or storage elements may come from the primary resource level, or other processing or storage elements in this middle level. The outputs from each type may feed other processing or storage middle tier nodes, or some of the application areas in the third level.

Examples

Application demands

The final stage of our model is the manner in which the system satisfies the demands of the various applications that the system is intended to service.

"I have a vested interest in the future because I plan on living there"

NEIL GERSHENFELD

BASIC NEEDS

We refer to the systems that support our survival as the basic needs. If the level of satisfaction of any of these needs falls below certain levels the person is unlikely to survive for long. The primary needs we consider are food, water, shelter, clothing, and health care. Note that shelter and clothing levels needed will be related to environmental conditions, and under many of those survival will not be an issue.

There is a significant difference between the levels needed for survival and those that would be acceptable or desireable. We discuss the range along these dimensions in the detail documents.

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Water

Our primary concern in our basic needs section is systems that are essential for keeping people alive. But in many cases the corresponding system does many more things. Our water system is a strong example of this. The aspects of our water system that are directly related to human consumption of water generally make up a small fraction of overall water demand. That demand is usually divided into 3 areas: domestic, agricultural and industrial. In our water site we go over each of these areas in detail, including variations that occur in the demand in each area across different regions. In addition to these demand related topics we also discuss the characteristics of the various extraction mechanisms as well as the processing, distribution and storage mechanisms.

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Food

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Shelter

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Clothing

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Health

WELL-BEING

We differeniate what we refer to as well being, from those we refer to as basic needs, by the fact these are not related to survival, but once survival needs are met than contribute strongly to ones happiness. Entertainment (such as reading, listening to music, watching video media), social interaction with other people or groups of people, travel for leisure or entertainment, and satisfaction of curiosity or education. There is a lot of overlap between these needs and the mechanisms that satisfy them.

Entertainment
Social
Curiosity
Travel
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Entertainment

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Social

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Curiosity

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Travel

Infrastructure

Our infrastructure systems provide key capabilities on which the basic needs and well being systems are built. With all of the infrastructure systems we discuss, any resources consumed to support that system are costs that we believe should be eliminated as far as possible while also enhancing the effectiveness of the associated end user system. Almost all of the infrastrucutre systems we discuss already have at least acceptable trajectory towards such effectiveness and efficiency goals.

We believe that our transportation system is the one system that most impacts all the others, and that the developments in that area are also the weakest in terms of overall effectiveness and efficiency. Much of this site is then dedicated to specifying a transportation system that would produce overall effectiveness and efficiency benefits that would exceed the changes achieved in the last 40 years in our information infrastructure. Those have gone from wired analog lines capable of half duplex communication at a couple thousand bits per second, to today's networks with wireless connections able to almost deliver high quality streaming video to a mobile device per person.

Transportation
Energy
Information
Buildings
Manufacturing
Finance

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Transportation

The transportation system we specify is much lower cost, faster and safer than the current system. Our transportation system comprises 5 main new sub-systems, and 3 sub-systems that are similar to those that target the same applications today, but with a far smaller footprint. These are:
  1. >a fully automated system US (Urban System) for moving most people and goods, with trip times reflecting an average speed close to 140kph.Our US operates from door to door, and does not interact with third parties, like pedestrians and cyclists. As indicated in the first images on this page US replaces our existing urban road infrastructure with US, and we provide a detailed migration plan for getting from where we are today to US. We have specified two other systems to deal with the applications supported by today's urban transportation infrastructure that are not handled US: handling loads that are too large for US (LL), and providing ermergency response services (i.e. fire and medical) (ER).
  2. systems (LL) for moving larger and/or heavier loads than can be transported by US, or our inter-urban systems.The primary elements of LL in an urban environment are a fleet of semi-automated flat-bed vehicles that can carry a wide range of "containers". These would be supported by heavy lift VTOL craft to transport these cargo over obstacles such as rivers. Outside the urban environment large loads would be moved either by rail, our IC, heavy lift copters of some form (e.g. quadcopters), or the rigid hybrid air ships that are starting to be deployed.
  3. a specialized emergency response system (ER) The two main categories of emergency response are medical (e.g. heart attacks) and fires. The most significant metric for emergency response systems is the time it takes from the report of the emergency to the arrival of the responders. The response today typically uses ambulances and fire trucks. US would not support such vechicles, but our ER is calculated to reduce typical response times from 7-10 minutes to 3-5 minutes. ER uses fewer resources, particularly human ones, and eliminates the need for guideways that support large and heavy vehicles.
  4. a system (IC1) typically for 200-1000km trips that provides inter-city transportation at average speeds of 500-700kph. US, with IC1, would allow a door to door time for a trip from anywhere in New York, to anywhere in Washington DC, of 30 to 40 minutes (versus 3-6+ hours today). IC1 would use existing expressway, and/or train, right of ways, but would be mostly comprised of covered trenches that support low pressure vehicle movements. The vehicles would be bus sized, as with Elon Musk's Hyperloop, but the guideways would be far cheaper.
  5. a longer range system (IC2) that would support intra-continental trips at speeds ultimately reaching in excess of 3000-5000kph. IC2 would not be in an initial deployment, but would occur as the necessary technology was developed. IC2 would be a much coarser network than IC1, but based on the same principal of low pressure, mostly covered trenches. To achieve such speeds though the guideways would have to be very straight and level. This will neccesitate diverging from the IC1 guideways, and building tunnels and bridges to support that requirement. Fortunately, few of these guideways would be needed. Our projection for North America, would be less than 10,000km in total.
  6. a system (AIR) for inter-continental, or continent to island, transport of people and goods. XC would use similar, but eventually supersonic, version of todays commercial airplanes. However, as most intra-continental travel would occur with US, IC1 and IC2, the airports would be much smaller, and would be located relatively far from current cities. Our analysis indicates that in North America, 4 airports would be needed for XC: an east coast one (for trips to Europe and Africa), a west coast one for trips to east Asis, a northern one for trips to east Europe and northern Asia, and a southern one for trips to South America and areas bounding the Gulf of Mexico. These would all be close to intersections of IC2, or IC1 and IC2, guideways.
  7. all water based systems (WATER) would be similar to what exists today These would include ocean going cargo and cruise lines, river based systems (e.g. barges for cargo), and recreational water systems, But there would be less needed for many categories of cargo movements. For example, none of our ST systems would use oil as a primary energy source. Thus, the need for oil tankers to ship oil to be used for transportation fuel would be eliminated. Many other changes we project would place more production closer to the point of demand, requiring less water cargo transportation.
  8. Some remaining rail lines (RAIL) that are divided into people and cargo movers:
    • people movers would primarily be the subways and elevated trains that have been built in large urban areas. Although a similar, and better performant system would be provided by our primary urban system, the large investment in these systems indicates that they would still be used. Our system would negate the need for investments in the future, in new such systems, and ease the retirement of the existing systems. We do not anticipate a need for othe rail based people movers such as commuter trains and inter-city rail.
    • cargo movers would involve moving large cargo, and containers, across long distances. This is because even with the efficiency of the above systems, rail would still be the most efficient mechanism for moving such cargo. But railway stations and marshalling yards within cities could be gone, replaced by far fewer well outside urban areas.

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Energy

Our energy infrastructure, like those related to information and goods, has five primary elements: extraction (or harvesting or farming), consumption for various end user applications, and various stages of processing, storage and distribution in between. In our energy subsite we review the current state of all 5 of those elements and their many relationships, within that infrastructure and to other infrastructures and the primary systems. We then project how we believe things are likely to change in these areas. The biggest among those is a significant reduction in the overall demand for energy, and a much more rapid transition to the elimination of fossil fuel sources than most projections we have seen. We argue that it is quite feasible to have that occur within a decade while enhancing the quality of life of everyone.

We should emphasize that there are major differences in the characteristics of the many forms of energy and how those interact with the five elements above. For example:

  1. A transportation system based on vehicles that carry their own energy stores, will want that in a form that has a high energy density (based on the range desired between refreshing those stores) with a rapid recharge capability. This is why liquid carbon based fuels have historically dominated this application. They satisfy both those criteria, and no alternatives have yet been developed that do both as well, and at a cost approaching that of forms like gasoline and deisel fuel. But our transportation systems mostly draw their energy from the vehicle guideways (as with many electric trains including subway vehicles). They would also be efficient enough to allow much of their energy demand to be generated by local, renewable sources, rather than grid generated electricity, within the decade timeframe used here.
  2. Much of our energy today is "consumed" in the form of electricity.

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Information

The improvements in our information infrastructure over the past 50 years have been far more significant, by any metric, than the changes in any of the other systems we discuss here.
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Buildings

We believe that our building infrastructure system uses far to many resources for the functions it suports. Those resources are used in the usual phases of building, operation and maintenance. Our view is that all non-residential buildings are overhead that should be reduced as much as possible, as long as it does not impact any of the primary needs of our populous. We see four primary ways to reduce resource requirements for our building infrastructure, while maintaining and improving the performance of that infrastructure for the primary need of shelter for our people:
  1. Greater efficiency in keys areas like during building (e.g construction techniques), amd energy in operations HVAC, water heating, and lighting. These are primarily technical issues that are being addressed by current research and development in the relevant areas. We describe the current state in these areas, and the many R&D efforts, in our building sub-site. Our analysis here is primary based on the breakdown by function (i.e. HVAC, lighting, ...) of residential and non-residential use provided by entities like the US EIA and Canada's NRC.
  2. Sharing of major sub-sytems between neighbors. Some of this is already is being done, but much more could be, and it is primarily an issue of educating people about the potential, establishing well defined protocols, and for the individual groups of neighbors to implement the options available.
  3. We show that the most significant potential for saving resources for our building infrastructure will be a large reduction in the non-residential spaces. The first item above mostly affects operational costs, while potentially increasing building and maintenance costs. Reducing non-residential building footprints is a win in all areas. Some of this reduction has started with the significant advances in information infrastructure (e.g. the internet) that support online shopping over retail shops and allow more work from home. We expect these trends to accelerate in the near future. We believe that our transportation system specification also would promote such changes. Our analysis here uses the US EIA breakdown on buildings by application area to establish our claim.
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Manufacturing

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Finance

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Disclaimer We have tried to be as accurate as we can in our presentations on this site. We have attemped to back up all claims with data from a credible source (e.g. the US DoE, World Bank, UNEP, FAO, WHO). But we have surely made mistakes. We hope that our readers will, at worst, contribute to an effort to coorect those errors rather than dismissing our work, due to the errors.

Review and/or suggestions by: Jody Palmer, Larry Fitzpatrick, Doug Cohen.