I didn't read all the suggestions for location, but it seems clear that there could be more than one great place to put Cheapatopia. For example, some people might enjoy desert living, where the inexpensive land and plentiful solar power are a good combination. Others might prefer to live in a place with four seasons, preferably above a geothermal power source. I can imagine the roads, driveways, and sidewalks in Winter Cheapatopia being heated to 33 degrees after a snowfall, so snow removal is never an issue.

Let's assume there can be more than one Cheapatopia, and that economists and engineers can identify the best locations. Our next question is energy costs.

I'm going to back into energy costs by discussing a barter system first. Imagine that Cheapatopia uses money just like the rest of the world, but for convenience, cash is banned. All payments are made by a credit/debit card (the same card).

Beyond regular money, the citizens of Cheapatopia would have a barter system whereby they earn what I will call Karma Points for services performed. For example, if you babysit for a neighbor, or walk someone's dog, you get some Karma Points that you can later spend to pay a neighbor to mow your lawn. You can still buy all of those services with regular money too, so this is just an option.

And perhaps seniors get double Karma Points for any services they perform, and kids get half points. That way the seniors can easily get help without feeling it is charity.

The key to making Karma Points work is a robust Internet-based service that sets prices for various services and keeps track of who has how many points. The real purpose of this system is not just the convenience of getting stuff done, but the social interaction it causes. Most people make their friends from their organized activities, past or present. They find their spouses and lovers the same way. Cheapatopia increases your social involvement and therefore your social life.

Bringing this back to energy costs, I wonder if there is some modern equivalent of pyramid building, without the alleged slavery, that can be applied to modern times. Could a community build an energy source through its volunteer labor that would be otherwise uneconomical?

For example, if you build an enormously tall tower, and put a wind turbine inside it, the natural air flow from the chimney effect creates energy. It's called a solar updraft tower.


Could citizens be enlisted, voluntarily, to contribute labor to building such a massive energy structure in return for Karma Points, or even reduced energy bills? I don't see it being practical either, but maybe you do, using some sort of pyramid design instead of a tower. Assume real estate and labor are both cheap, and the project can last 20 years. The immediate benefit is in the social interaction it causes, and the collective goal.

Or suppose the city of Cheapatopia creates its own factory for building the type of equipment used in huge solar power plant generation. The most economical types are the plants that concentrate sunlight on tubes filled with water, thus generating steam to power turbines. Cheapatopia could be its own first customer. The beauty of this system is that it is modular. The more units you set up in the desert, the more power.

If Cheapatopia is located where there is more wind than sun, then the enterprise could busy itself making windmills. The point is that the city could be organized around the production of its own energy, both for social reasons and for economics. Once Cheapatopia met all of its own energy needs it could become a provider to others, using the profits for city improvements.

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Jul 14, 2009
In Cheapatopia, the bikes and other machines in the health club could be connected to power generating equipment which could either return power to the grid or power the hydrogen electrolysis plant. I have always thought it was immoral on some level to use electricity to power a machine that could actually be utilized to create it. I'm guilty because I use a treadmill almost every day. Oh, you could also earn karma points based on how much energy you generate. You could also design the sewer and wastewater system to capture and utilize methane gas. These seem like more efficient projects than a thermal tower.
Jul 14, 2009
We're already living in cheapatopia you dunderheads. The fantastic luxeries and pasttimes we enjoy would have been extrordinarily expensive 200 years ago (and no, I don't mean the available technology, just what the technology makes available.) Money and capitalism is the way to go for the forseeable future; it's more efficient and effective than any other method that's been used or proposed. It appears to me that most '-atopia' proposals discount human nature and greed, or think they have a way to surmount it. Money and law already takes care of that. Sure there are problems with it, but not any more than would crop up with any other system. I know the dreamers think they can come up with something better, and they can, but it will be gradual and likely not in the way people would expect or predict. And we don't need a credit system other than money- "a rose by any other name" etc. Or perhaps that's what Scott is getting at.
Jul 14, 2009
You've exposed a basic conflict in society, which was briefly covered in Lewis Hyde's wonderful book, "The Gift." He describes human social activities as being governed by one of two Greek gods: Eros, the god of connections, and Hermes, the god of the marketplace. Eros rules where the activity brings people closer together: barn raisings, a fund raiser for a family in distress, etc. Hermes rules transactions that are fluid and impersonal: buying and selling commodities, shopping at the supermarket rather than a store where someone knows your name -- in short, almost all of our everyday lives. These gods have been in conflict from before the time the Greeks named them (the Phoenician traders probably didn't make a lot of personal connections with the locals at each port, other than at the brothels).

If Hyde is right, and I think he is, neither god can win this battle, and so both Eros and Hermes will have to be honored in Cheapotopia, and worshipped in their own way. Thus, you're gonna need money, or something equally impersonal and fluid, which is food for Hermes.

Jul 14, 2009
See the concept <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whuffie">whuffie</a> from Cory Doctorow's fiction. But I agree that it's a solution in search of a problem.
Jul 14, 2009
Harvesting a combination of wind and solar energy would be best, IMO. Electric solar panels are very scalable, you can power a nightlight or you can power a factory. Small windmills could be directly used to compress air to power small vehicles.

Currency could be in the form of scuba-tank bottles. You could have 2 colors, blue and red. Blue bottles would be compressed air (from sources such as wind, solar, hydro or even human). Red bottles would be compressed hydrogen (from sources such as electrolysis or biotech).

I see your point about building a big community project like a tower or a dam that would promote social interaction while creating an energy source. However, it would help deter griefers if this energy source was not fragile. How about an extra-beefy version of a pebble-bed fission reactor?
Jul 14, 2009
I think you are describing Socialism, Scott. Personally, I'd like to see it given a real shot.
Jul 14, 2009
There's already a Karma system like you're describing. It's called the Timebank system. http://www.timebanks.org/
I personally don't see how it can work very well since an hour of legal help is counted the same as an hour of yardwork, but it's an interesting idea and very cleverly gets around the fact that the Fed hates competition.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
Once the solar tower is done, we'll make a kool-aid factory!

Are you trying to recreate Jonestown or is this purely coincidental?
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
I think Cheapatopia needs to be designed to use as little external energy as possible, modestly sized high R value passive solar houses, bio reactors to capture the methane from the sewers and agricultural waste, could supply all heat and a portion of electricity. In order to really be CHEAPatopia consumption needs to be consume much less than what we now accept as normal. Consuming less means working less to pay for it increasing our leasure, creative activies. We might actually have to ban TV and vid games or consumption of power would be higher than if everyone worked 40 hours a day.

Jul 14, 2009
It's all fine and dandy until you end up with a karmic black market. $5 a Karma point, what a deal!
Jul 14, 2009
Add "The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted" by Harry Harrison to your reading list. Most of the story takes place on a planet utopia. They use a system of money/credit. It's called the wirr, and you can only get it by working. 1 hour=1 wirr, or something like that. It can not be given away, you can't earn interest on it, etc. It's rather incidental to the story, but I have always thought he dreamed up (or borrowed from some source I don't know) a really interesting concept.

The wirr actually gets more valuable as time goes by, because products become cheaper, so you don't have to work as much. That would be my ideal...to work 2 or 3 days a week, or 1 week a month, or every other week. Work can be rewarding mentally, but it would be a lot more fun without that income thing to worry about.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
If you are able to locate wherever you want... why locate next to a water source that can be dammed for hydro electric?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
the problem with any sort of convection driven energy source is that they have to be huge.

In a lot of ways, the city would almost have to be contained inside a power generating structure. The pyramid idea is good, and if you planted on the outside, similar to Mongolian sidehill rice farming or pretty much any contour farming culture on earth, you would have an effective horticultural base for the food supply.

I forget what casino in Las Vegas is a huge pyramid with hotel rooms lining the walls up toward the ceiling, but that setup might work. It could also be a series of these structures, which would make more sense. A possibility that, much like water recycling, has a yuck factor associated, would be the treatment of wastewater inside the void area inside this conical building. The heat would aid power generation and you may be able to incorporate some sort of waste burning operation as well.

As far as Karma points, it seems like you would have to reward them in more ways than errands performed. Maybe at the city wide parties honor the top Karma earners or something.
Jul 14, 2009
Cheapatopia is starting to sound like an updated Amish community. Not using "non-natural" energy sources and looking to the community to pitch in and help out... Just without all the crazy beards and clothes. Could Dilbertism be the next Pastafarianism?
Jul 14, 2009
Here is a plan; convert the whole world to Cheaptopia by means of Karma points. Get Bill Gates and Google to award micro-payments who do pro-social actions pro-bono. The mechanism would be a variant of the way google charges for ad clicks. Post some useful suggestion on line, get a penny. If people link to that you get another penny.

Post reactionary hateful comments, get nada. Elitists and conservatives never have "new" ideas, almost by definition. Their ideal is a world where they have all the privileges, that is, this one. Their sum total of improving the world is to arrange to pay less taxes.

To fund the Karma scheme, i propose we tax internet trolls. Hey, this is utopia, yes?
Jul 14, 2009
There IS a difference between money and karma points, but it's a psychological difference. Money is crass; we don't offer money to the kids for doing the dishes, to the neighbour who shovelled our walk without being asked, and we don't tip the person who held the door for us at the grocery store. It strikes me that the point of Karma Points is to use them for almost all such uses, making them ubiquitous, and kind of fun, in a way that money can't be (or isn't currently, anyhow).

Psychological studies reveal that money reduces the inherent joy in doing things. I love photography, but if I became a professional photographer, I wouldn't do it for free any more. (I know lots of psychologists who get irritated when people try to draw them into personal discussions. Presumably, they were once sufficiently compassionate to tolerate such things, before they got paid to do it). This is why it's not a good idea to reward your children with money or a small gift every time they tidy their room or do the dishes; you want them to do these things because they are the right thing to do, not because they get paid to do them.

Would Karma points eliminate the internal motivation to do good? And, if we paid for absolutely everything, without worrying about intrinsic motivation, would it matter? It seems wrong (in our money-based system) to pay the kids to do the dishes. But would it matter if Karma points fly back and forth as quickly as breathing in and out, at work, at home, and all day long?
Jul 14, 2009
I may have been off the main point. Some countries are already thinking of eliminating cash. It's expensive and is only good for crime, really. Honest people don't need it. As cell phones approach your universal appliance, Mr. Adams, cash money becomes redundant.

As fot Karma points, artistic grants, MacArthur Awards, may other awards exist already. By moving those down-scale to a micro-grant level, awarded daily, Karma points become an obvious social reinforcement mechanism. Makes more sense to me than food stamps and similar programs that reward incompetence, and punitive measures like jails that reward antisocial behavior with free food and shelter.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
Gaining Karma Points for work? Let's see, I'll work all day at my normal job, then come home and work more? Aren't people that are motivated enough to work 10-12hr days going to be working for their own money, and not on some crazy pyramid? Sure, they'd save money if the pyramid lowers everyone's energy costs, but let's get real, you can make more money working for yourself than you'll ever save in energy costs. You'd have to be a complete dumba$$ to live in this community. Dumba$$ville is really taking shape.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 14, 2009
Your karma points are the same thing as money.

In Cheepatopia, you need an online database of equipment (lawnmowers, washing machines, ect.) that your nabors have, witch u can borrow. You rarely see a whole neighborhood all using lawnmowers at once, even though they all have them.

Also, we need more bikes, with bike racks all over the place. Biking is fast, easy, safe (Have your heard of a fatal bike accident? Neither have I), and energy efficient.
Jul 14, 2009
If you desire to build a new city, an arcology around a power source, it would seem to need vast capital investment. One person could fund this, there are precedents, but i think tailoring it to the concepts of one person, one mind is too limiting.

Perhaps a mutual investment fund, or something along the lines of a commune might work. I can hear the rightist howl, but some religious communes worked quite well for a long time, so quite right wing. I cite the Kibbutzim, the Mormons in the early days, the Moravians in Salem NC, many more.

I would personally prefer recycling an older city as being orders of magnitude cheaper. A hot springs might be a good base for construction, Iceland or someplace similar. There is an earthquake danger, however.

One important design feature is the provision for informal meeting places, bars, coffeehouses, brunch bistros. This is where a lot of the world's planning gets done, The private club with restricted membership can produce incredibly fallible world views, as one can see in the country club Republicans, and similar membership organizations.

When one is planning unprecedented projects, varied inputs are a great help. Even when wrong, they will produce useful insights.
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