What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

Setting a recurring alarm at 9:30pm and taking melatonin right away. Got me in the habit of getting tired and going to bed more consistently.

Movable Housing for Scalable Cities

Good points, and I think we mostly agree. If I understand correctly, the idea would rely on building a city from the ground up elsewhere rather than modifying existing cities.

In principle, pods anywhere between shipping container size and coffin size could be warehoused somewhat like cargo, although obviously more safety considerations apply, and you'd need things like supply and air conditioning lines. I wouldn't want to put up with a small pod unless the VR experience was very good, and it was easy to get out of.

The moving company analogy is interesting because in principle, you could automate the moving process to the point where you only need to rent a space when you're actually there. That is, a robot system picks up all your stuff, packs it and moves it to storage, etc while you're off of work, vacation, or wherever -- at which point the apartment is immediately sterilized and prepped for the next resident -- and you move back in (with all your stuff in analogous places to where you left it) when you come home. Not a particularly simple task, but doesn't need big infrastructure like moving a whole house.

With regards to RV parks, I'm thinking a metropolitan center could easily use parking garage style buildings to house the RVs indoors in tall buildings. I wouldn't be at all surprised if these exist already in some cities. It does probably imply lower population density on a volumetric basis than an equivalent apartment complex though, as there's going to be distance between the vehicles, thick enough floors to drive on, high ceilings for clearance, etc. On the plus side, in an RV park you can easily step out of your vehicle and say hi to the neighbors, so it's a bit different from being palletized in an automated storage/retrieval warehouse.

Movable Housing for Scalable Cities

I really like this kind of speculation (clearly marked as low probability, but not without effort to develop something that works in principle). I do think it's a near-miss in terms of being an optimal path for cities though, as there are several alternatives with higher likelihood that honestly seem like they would create more value per amount of infrastructure/cost than easily-moved suburban-style homes.

First, apartments can be made better than they usually are. It's just that usually when you move to get a job in the city, being cash constrained, you settle for the lowest budget option you can make work. The rent extracted is not lowered in accordance to the living conditions, because of the rent being extracted on the proximity to an employer.

So while it's easy to say some people will insist on Rivendell for psychological reasons, that probably isn't as essential as it seems. A bigger factor is that a big, high quality apartment is going to cost a very large amount. That isn't because the physics demands a high cost for a big apartment in a high rise, but because scarcity pressures force the price upward.

Secondly, moveability correlates to smallness. So theoretically you could have e.g. a metropolis of parking garages and RVs, but a consequence of sticking to roadways as transit everyone would live in fairly small homes. At the more extreme end of small, japanese style sleeping pods, basically coffins.

As a transhumanist, I'm willing to make some trades for a better outcome. Modify my genetics to live longer, bones to be less breakable, zero gee tolerant, etc. But apart from intelligence enhancement and similar, I'd really prefer my brain and preferences not be altered much, and especially not via near term tech invented by humans. So I'd rather not self-modify to be content with coffin housing / deep crowding, and I expect this is common. And the process of getting used to it over time seems like a lot of suffering.

With good VR, it could be another story. However, an immersive VR environment in something like basically a bed in a box carries the risk of physical illness from inactivity. So you would need a gym routine or similar. It might be less safe to telework from such a thing if you're spending the rest of your day inside of it as well. For long term use, this would probably also need to come with some kind of medical package -- blood pressure check, temperature, and ways to get clean and dispose of bodily waste like with a bedridden patient. So such a device overlaps medical needs substantially.

Thus in the class of near term "what if someone Elon-like really gets a bee in their bonnet about it" questions, it seems possible that you get to a point where pods with built in equipment and easy access to amenities are better than a (much more expensive) suburban residence.

The reason pods are fascinating in spite of the technical hurdles is because they allow much higher volumetric density with (in principle!) none of the discomfort of being actually crammed into a slum. And a further benefit of VR with small box-shaped pods is that you can replace mass transit (and private cars) by shipping people in their own homes directly to the location. When they step out, assuming it's scheduled ahead and robotically delivered at low gees, it's sort of like being teleported.

So that's one competing scenario with some risks, but high payoff, and it stops well short of the requirements for brains in jars or ems.

Perhaps not as likely as simply building taller apartments until the shortage goes away. However, even then, there's the issue of coordinating and getting around building regulations. So the idea of moving somewhere empty and making a city from scratch has some appeal.

In 2011, a company called Broad Sustainable Building from China demonstrated that they could build 30 floor buildings (330 apartment capacity) in 2 weeks. The time lapse video is quite impressive. The cost was $1000/sqm or 3.3M. They've actually done several different buildings on similar timelines.

I'm not so sure the reason we haven't done it here is all regulatory. Part of what they did to make it so cheap was set up a factory dedicated to the prefabricated componencts. Repeating that here in the US might push the start cost quite a bit higher. Still, it's probably mainly regulations that prevent it, or render it a slightly more than trivial inconvenience, or whatever the blocker really is.

There was an interesting suggestion by u/jkaufman as to how one might hypothetically create location value a few years back. (For the record, I don't agree with the critique of LVT, but I consider the article a great example of an educated near-miss that interestingly conveys foundational concepts): Land Value Taxes Are Distortionary.

Some great suggestions there IMO:

  • Buy cheap land in rural New Mexico.
  • Put down the subway tunnels before doing any construction.
  • Put in fiber internet, obviously.
  • Get big companies to sign on (ideally, before spending any money on it).

However, the real advantage really might be the lack of competing pre-existing interests in the location, rather than the pre-laid infrastructure. Here are some more examples of things centralized control/planning lets you do that a pre-existing city can't easily do:

  • Define a wide radius where only buildings taller than a certain height are permitted. So no buildings need demolished to make room.
  • Rental agreements structured to mimic land value taxes.
  • Using prefab structural components like the BSB buildings?
  • Robot cars only. No streets for people to get killed trying to cross, not necessary to favor line of sight between buildings (put the roads in tunnels under and/or through the buildings).
  • Hexagonal buildings that lock side to side in a honeycomb mesh. Adds structural stability, making it (I think) possible to go higher per unit cost. More useful when you don't need roads / roads are all in tunnels.
  • Mandate a set of identical building plans be used. Can be a somewhat large set to choose from, but the growth can be managed much easier if you are tiling similar things than if you have to re-plan for each tiny change on every vanity project.

So if you don't focus on the narrow scenario, I think the OP has a heck of a lot of value. And as a general rationality point, I think it's usually best to consider such proposals as intuition pumps for the concepts that motivate them, and figure out how to conceivably correct their deficits.

A question about the rules

If you still want to ban politics, whatever, your actions are law, but be transparent and say what you are doing.

Is there a reason to do that? Nobody said that a rule was violated, and the explanation given makes sense to me as it stands. What is the problem with just deleting the (not necessarily rule violating) post and explaining that we usually avoid stuff like articles with Trump in the title?

Open thread, Jul. 11 - Jul. 17, 2016

Found this great youtube channel by a guy named Isaac Arthur, covering a variety of space topics. Has videos on Dyson Spheres, colonizing the Moon, and even concepts for very long term survival of civilizations and people past the heat death of the universe. Very rational and comprehensive.

Revitalising Less Wrong is not a lost purpose

My long hiatus started a couple years ago, so my perspective might be different from yours.

I think the main issue for me it was more that it wasn't very fun any more. The people who made it fun (EY, Yvain, etc) were mostly posting elsewhere. The majority of posts were starting to be boring things like meetup announcements. Some of the new posts were interesting, but had more technical content and less humor.

Part of it could be that the commenters became more politically (in the sense of national politics) motivated, but that's not something I noticed at the time... I think that's perhaps a more recent thing, assuming that is indeed happening.

Another thing that might have been a factor is that I started using a smartphone more. So apps like twitter and facebook that can be easily checked there had more appeal. (This website still sucks for mobile.)

Crazy Ideas Thread

It depends on the scale you are working at. A large body with no internal heat source can be kept cold over time at a lower cost because only the outside needs to be insulated. If cryonics were at the scale of a large cryogenic warehouse, it might be much less expensive.

Crazy Ideas Thread

Orbiting landing tracks.

Payloads would be launched from earth with just enough fuel to loft them above the atmosphere and keep them hovering for a few minutes. Then they would electromagnetically couple to a long horizontal structure in low orbit, picking up velocity (or "losing" it, depending on the frame of reference) until they are orbiting at the same rate.

Electrically driven thrusters (e.g. vertical electrodynamic tethers which push against the earth's magnetic field) would be used to replenish the lost momentum. At any given time, the payload would be a fraction of the total track mass, but since it could be new track material this would permit (fairly rapid) bootstrapping.

Meme: Valuable Vulnerability

One possible reason is that it facilitates trust-building. Say you are stuck in a cell with another prisoner, and every day you have the chance to cooperate or defect on a small task (for example, sharing food equally vs trying to steal an unequal share). Later, you are asked to testify against each other and get a slightly reduced sentence in exchange for the other person having a drastically increased sentence. A history of the other person cooperating gives some evidence that they will cooperate in this new situation as well.

Another analogy to this would be the process of building credit. If you take out lots of loans and pay them back scrupulously, you build a history of credit worthiness. The banks are more willing to be vulnerable based on past behavior of not defaulting.

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