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  • Darwins +333/-1

I think TVP is interesting, and I have a copy of his book The Best That Money Can't Buy.  However, I think there's a lot of devils in the details standing in the way of TVP actually working.  Renewable energy sources are diffuse and intermittent and have much lower EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Invested) than the cheap oil and other fossil fuels we're used to using.  TVP seems to rely pretty heavily on giant mega-machines to build its buildings, and its cities assume a somewhat more jungly version of suburban sprawl (note the residential neighborhood he points out in the first video on the site).  All that sprawl requires lots of transport (cars, and all those pretty flying machines), along with stretched-out utility grids (water, sewer, electric, etc.), and all of that requires lots, and lots of energy.  In the case of the vehicles, it has to be concentrated, storable, portable energy.  Until somebody invents a Mr. Fusion, that means fossil fuels.  The mega-machines would also require high volumes of reliable, concentrated energy, the very stuff we're going to start having less and less of in the future.

I don't think TVP's "incentive" system would work as (vaguely) described.  There are lots of dangerous, high-stress, or otherwise unpleasant or difficult jobs that can't be automated with current technology, and wouldn't be done by people seeking an outlet for their creativity.  E.g., hotel housekeeper, server in a restaurant, farm labor, air traffic controller.  Even roles that people might be motivated to do without compensation out of personal passion for the value of the work (say, neurosurgeon) would face "intermittency" problems when the neurosurgeon feels more like spending a day at the beach, and there is no "servitude" ("job," "money") that commits them to a regular work schedule.  I think there are definitely ways that our current system could be improved (e.g. Economic Democracy and/or a "Basic Income Guarantee"), but I doubt it could be replaced entirely by TVP's "incentive system."  What if there are more people showing up at the "claim domes" requesting dental work than there are available appointment openings with the people who want to be dentists?

His system also seems to completely ignore the existence of people who would want to cheat in order to achieve power and status.  Like it or not, they exist, and they would either wreck a TVP system or act to prevent it from being created in the first place.  Which leads to the next issue: if TVP requires a unified, benevolent world in order to be implemented, it will never be implemented.  It would have to start small, maybe with a network of intentional communities, identify and solve the problems with its incentive system, work out the details of how to make things work within the limits of renewable energy sources and physical resource constraints, and environmental sustainability, etc.  It would also have to be able to exist in a competitive relationship with the current global money-economy-military system.  "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."  IOW, TVP may not want to compete with capitalism, but capitalism will want to compete with (or just plain eliminate) it.

I also think that any future sustainable society is going to have to look a lot more modest than those zeerust-inducing Cities and Machines of the Future.  Cities like Venice, old London, Toledo, Spain--really, just about any city built before automobiles--have proven to be sustainable over hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years without fossil fuels.  They're dense and walkable (because they had to be), and built to last.  Add electricity, good plumbing and sanitation, and a train system to link them, and you're done.  Real sustainable cities probably won't have that Tomorrowland look.  On the other hand, places like Venice, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, etc. are all incredibly beautiful compared to the average American suburban strip mall, so that people fly across oceans to see them.  A big improvement over what we have now.
Changed Change Reason Date
ParkingPlaces More good stuff well said February 11, 2013, 04:01:46 PM
wright good points about sustainable modern cities February 11, 2013, 03:20:30 PM