Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Futuristic" Thoughts on Design Platform Options

...What with all the new year's predictions, "futuristic" seemed appropriate enough for this post as well! Presently, design platforms face stiff competition. After all - by definition in primary equilibrium - one or a few platforms tend to become the standard, until they are ultimately displaced by others. Creative destruction? Certainly. But given the individuals who wish to contribute, creative destruction and the production gains it makes possible, is occurring in slow motion - for the most part. Whatever one thinks of NIMBYism, it has plenty of sunk costs.

One benefit of multiple alternative equilibrium, is that more space becomes available for platform design each time a new community is established. The greater the built in flexibility, the less NIMBYism is necessary. That allows more innovation to occur simultaneously, which in turn generates economic access which might not be possible elsewhere. While some knowledge use systems would adapt recently created platforms with a proven track record, multiple settings for diverse platforms remain possible.

This translates into new horizons for those who enjoy the challenges of infrastructure design. While recent broad based innovation has mostly focused on technology and communication, knowledge use systems would also open opportunities for design platforms. Options include - but would not be limited to - unique patterns and (strong, lightweight) materials for building components, locally shared investment structures, knowledge use digital networks, infrastructure grids, services formation structure, local production potential and local transportation patterns.

Fossil fuel use could last well into the future, once higher density options become available for work and living settings. Aggregate time coordination would mean that those who live in close proximity, would likely share economic activity in a given calendar year. This density advantage would also allow lower income levels (and others) to reserve a portion of the fossil fuels marketplace for choice destinations.

After all, most individuals who drive to work and then to random settings on the weekend, greatly prefer the autonomy of the latter. One benefit of fossil fuel consumption is its major contribution to experiential product. Choice in transportation allows life experiences which might not other wise be possible, particularly for those with limited income. Many new communities would likely design for motorized transportation access along their peripheries, so as to allow easy access from the center when local citizens seek out non routine activities.

Given the choice, many would prefer the automobile option for adventures and out of town visits, rather than work and normal daily routine. More municipality design which takes these preferences into account, could greatly boost labor force participation in the near future. Eventually, it will become easier to find living circumstance near diverse work environments.

Fossil fuels will finally be used more efficiently, once populations begin to organize for living and working conditions in closer proximity to one another. Existing institutions have already internalized efficiency gains for energy needs in recent decades. In the future, new community design will allow energy efficiency to accrue not just for production gains, but aggregate consumption gains as well.

20th century institutions often optimized productivity through what could be thought of as single purpose infrastructure settings. Individuals of all income and circumstance, tried to fit into the existing norms of an all purpose platform in both physical and knowledge based structures. For instance, the U.S. interstate system meant a sprawling, somewhat atomized primary equilibrium, for both production and consumption needs. Ongoing suburban vitality - at at least in the middle to upper income range - is one part of primary equilibrium which remains strong.

There was an all or nothing aspect to 20th century environments, and many of them began to look quite similar. One either drove and participated in the larger whole, or took the chance of falling away from the entire system. Personal decisions not to drive, generally meant exclusion on a number of levels. Yet for anyone with concerns regarding age, disability or income level, the decision to continue driving on a regular basis could mean undue risks.

Consider how these monotonic settings continue to affect knowledge use. One way to think about such limitations is a photosynthesis visual. In a sense, the empty corridors of too many Main Streets resemble trees with fallen leaves in a sort of "knowledge use winter". Knowledge of course remains ensconced in a vast information maze, yet is inexplicably locked - like sap - deep within the tree trunks and primary branches. Where is the "sun"? In knowledge based systems, group support for locally coordinated activities could be thought of as secondary "suns", whereby the photosynthesis process for knowledge use would finally resume.

Is knowledge even "real", if it isn't being fully utilized? Today I glanced over the degree offerings from one of those career institute cards which (still) come through the mail. One wonders what those degrees cost...Oddly, the biggest part of their offerings resembled what many local libraries and good bookstores once provided in their non fiction book sections. How much do graduates actually benefit from those degrees? Inquiring baby boomer minds in particular, would like to know.

The degree offerings were printed on a sheet which looked like those little green coupons my mother used to paste in coupon books for product rewards, when I was young. Some degrees were for everyday activities, many of which folk once expected to learn on their own. How "advanced" has this stuff become? One can only hope that jobs result from these institute degrees.

And yet, learning these things once required little more than the cost of widely available books, along with some focused time and attention! Somehow, the value in the doing, has been diverted to the value of the getting - all because of what the getting is supposed to be capable of...whether it actually is or not.

When a nation's horizons appear as though diminished by too many means, students absorb this reality at an early age. Timothy Taylor in a recent post, spoke once again of the U.S. lag in international education attainment levels.
One of the things that "everyone knows" is that the successful economies of the 21st century will be built on high-skill workers...Just spending marginally more money on the existing system isn't likely to be a successful answer. Some deeper thinking is required.
People want to learn. People also want to be able to utilize and adapt what they learn, in settings which are capable of taking the value of their time into consideration. Of all the design platforms I am most hopeful for, those which assign ownership rights and value to time use, would be at the top of the list. If students in the U.S. once again become convinced that personal investment matters, recent decades of "slacking off" will become a thing of the past.

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