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Futuristic "Self-Sustaining" City - Technology




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Kinkajou Tells It True: Dark Cities

Kinkajou Kinkajou: Dark cities is a concept whereby each human habitat attempts to be as close to locally self-sufficient as possible. If humanity is to ever colonise space, such an environment would be called a spaceship. Many of our economic activities are possible across the grand expanse of a planet, but in a spaceship all systems must balance. The atmosphere must be maintained. The temperature must be maintained. Resources must be recycled. Wastes must be recycled. Industrial production must occur using recycled materials and human fabricated resources.

There is no room for error.

I think the closest image to this concept in science fiction is that of the “bactry” worlds – glass enclosed guides of bacteria where every single molecule can be used or recycled by other organisms. Miniature worlds – infinitely sustainable existing within a single glass flask. In such a limited world, a single biochemical produced which cannot be recycled would build up over time the result in the failure of the ecosystem within the glass flask.

Spaceships will for humanity be just such worlds.

But even at the planetary level, the burgeoning human population must be made as locally self-sufficient as possible to minimise the need for transportation and to reduce costs. Unfortunately, this falls within the scope of the “catastrophic civilisation failure” theory. Dark cities are simply another step in the optimisation curve of output required to sustain a burgeoning humanity. A single failure in a single critical subsystem can result in the cataclysmic failure of the entire system, as interdependent systems sequentially fail – triggered by the collapse of the supporting systems.

There is of course an obvious exit from catastrophic civilisation failure. This obviously occurs when human production capacity (at maximum) greatly exceeds the demands of the population base. If a system can produce twice as much food as the people need, then starvation is very unlikely. It is only when industrial or agricultural production (at maximum) is just meeting the needs of the population, that a collapse could be triggered.

Humanity needs to make sensible choices for itself – including decisions on what is a safely sustainable population base on this planet and to what extent such a decision can be imposed upon the inhabitants of this planet. It is the social engineering aspects of these decisions which are likely difficult than the development of the technologies required.


Kinkajou Tells It True Kinkajou Tells You What Really Happened. The Truth Is Out There!

Brisbane In Flight Brisbane In Flight


Kinkajou Kinkajou:Take the tour of Brisbane's City Hall. Perhaps meet the “City Fathers”: Speech interface required to operate communicators. Attend one of the displays or concerts. The City Hall is for the people and it is there for all.

City Fathers Computers SigmaPsiCity Fathers


KinkajouKinkajou : Clever New Applications: Dark Cities

The cities of our world are environmental phenomena. They create light, heat, grey water, black water, storm wastewater, food waste, metal waste and other organic waste. They require food, water, road links for transport and communication, communication infrastructure, pollution and waste removal, and accommodation for people in business and living/leisure.

The concept of dark cities is about minimising these inputs and outputs. Food and energy produced on-site. Water recycled on-site. Most infrastructure close to where it is needed. People working close to home. The concept of dark cities is about minimising the footprint of cities on the environment.

It is a complex issue. In science fiction probably the best example would be the Thranx cities such as on Hivehom. The insects live underground. But living underground demands efficient integrated planning to maximise recycling of resources. Of interest in one of the books by Alan Dean Foster were some of the characters stumbling around in a jungle. Little did they realise that they were in actually traversing countryside more densely populated than the centre of the city such as Tokyo or New York. I think this is really what the dark cities concept is all about. The life was underground in a “Thranx” city.

Thranx SigmaPsiThranx


Other sci-fi examples include the Eleutherians in the book Brain Coral. These microbes build their cities within the Cisterna Magna and ventricles of the human brain. To protect their host they must maintain a minimal impact on their world or risk destroying it.

In James Blish’s book Earth Man Come Home (Cities In Flight series); it is the computer intelligences called the City Fathers who are responsible for much of the day to day running of the city. When your city is actually an isolated microcosm in space, there is no room for mistakes in recycling. Survival of the city depends on the ability to use and reuse everything. Survival of the city depends on everything being close to where it is needed. A single chokepoint in the pyramid of activity could well lead to catastrophic collapse of the city’s functions.

This same point has been made by another author Vernor Vinge. His view is that civilisation is based on increased pyramid of optimisations to support ever greater numbers of people. At some point, failure of a single critical subsystem leads to a chain of catastrophic collapses causing the downfall of the entire civilisation. A serious thought. The concept of dark cities falls within this span of optimisations underlying our civilisation.
PhamTrinliGovernorCanberra SigmaPsiPham Trinli City Fathers Computers SigmaPsiCity Fathers


Will the space cities of the future require defences: rail guns in the future. Will the space cities of the future require defences: rail guns in the future.

Parts of Brisbane where the concept of Dark Cities seems relevant include:

  • The Petrie Terrace/Rome Street parklands District. Here the proximity of bus and train infrastructure with Park lands and a shopping precinct highlights the interplay of people/commercial/industrial. The Park lands are pleasant to visit. I particularly remember the coffee shop/cafe at the upper end of the Park lands early one holiday morning.

  • And it’s a short walk to the City Hall where own City Fathers are based. The City Hall often features concerts (often free) and activities for the populous. Unfortunately, the city has long outgrown the City Hall. The administration offices are based elsewhere. This leaves the actual building of the City Hall available for the people themselves. You never know. One day the Council may well install “city fathers” to talk to visitors.

  • The council does provide guides for tours of the structure and to tell you about the history of the city. Brisbane is a new city. It does not have the length of history of many cities in the world. It does have its own famous people who have written their legacy in this region of Australia. In fact they often leave their names to the places they have been, a quiet legacy to the Explorers and founders of our history.
    City Fathers Computers SigmaPsiCity Fathers

KinkajouKinkajou : What does this technology remind me of in Brisbane?

  • Travel to the top of Mount Cootha or any lookout within the city. The city spreads before you sparkling with light and movement. You can see the momentous impact city has on its environment and how a city is in fact a regional phenomenon, having an equal impact to weather and climate as might a mountain range or ocean.
  • Visit the Boondall Wetlands were some of the wetlands on the Bay Islands. Look at each habitat is a microcosm of the world, having specific inputs and in equilibrium with the adjacent environment.

Other Examples of books referring to this technology: (Dark Cities):

  • Robert Adams: Horse Clans Series. The boomtowners have their legacy from pre-apocalyptic survivors who hunkered down for centuries in underground caverns, emerging eventually to make their mark in the New World. To survive in a small environmental space as such the cabin for hundreds of years, with minimal inputs would require a deep understanding of recycling and the need for dark cities.

  • Robert Aspirin: The Bug Wars. Having seen their home destroyed by the enemy, the soldiers make their home in space based colony units. They wait in stasis to be called up to serve the Empire. Again surviving in space with few resource inputs requires a deep understanding of recycling and the need for dark cities.
    Rahn Tzen Warrior Rahm

  • Mona Clee: Overshoot. This author highlights that although the earth is a large habitat, it is just as possible to get it wrong on the face of the earth as within any of the underground caverns or space based colony units of the above authors (Aspirin/Adams). Big species make big mistakes with big consequences.

  • Frank Herbert: late series Dune novels: Heretics of Dune and Chapter House Dune. Enemies of the Honoured Matres must hide deep within space, and habitats that leak little energy, essentially hiding from the universe. Survival depends upon it. While this technology is not the focus of the book, it does highlight the concept of dark cities at a micro level: the survival pod. There is a need to maintain a level of camouflage sufficient to isolate a survivor almost from the remainder of the universe.
    Duncan Dune Warrior SigmaPsiDuncan Idaho

  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote In God’s Eye. This book highlights the social aspect of dark cities and its importance. Technology is reliable and will do what it is capable of doing. Machines require maintenance but will operate as planned. It is people who create a variable.

    In this book they highlight the concept of “Crazy Eddie”. When every hand is required to keep the food, water and energy flowing and to remove and recycle the wastes; when disaster is just barely being averted by the concerted efforts of the people; “Crazy Eddie” leads the people out on strike for higher wages – tempting disaster.


The social aspect of building technology is as important as the technology itself in creating achievement.



Clever New Applications:

  • Isolated environment pods for human survival testing.
  • Spaceships travelling in low earth orbit

  • Spaceships and colony ships within our solar system: currently Mars being the most talked about objective.
  • Survival beyond the apocalypse