`webtitle[aara] `top[ `title[A Synopsis] `massive fancy center div[of] `title[Two Cities] ] `page div[ `line[] `header[`big[1)] Gardens] There's a stream that's been diverted into little waterfalls, bordered on each side by flowers and trees. Rivulets trickle into a garden lush with grapefruits, pumpkins, melons. In a clearing, an ornate stone table sits with plates of food. There are almost always chefs preparing something in the community kitchen nearby, and they leave the abundance on the table for people walking in the gardens. There are workshops scattered among the trees, built of wood in imitation of natural elegance, the stained glass windows reflecting the colors of the leaves in Fall. After walking hand in hand with a dear friend you part ways and turn home. As you walk, you pass by a shepard tending their heifers, a number of grottos built into the earth itself. As you pass a cellar you haven't been in before, you feel yourself invited, the fabric of your clothing cascading on your skin in gentle waves towards the door. You accept the invitation. It's a small yet extravagant chamber with an ancient aesthetic, the wall mountings like mythical relics. It's lit by a fireplace and rays of light from above. Three beautiful people are sitting, conversing. They invite you to have a drink with them. One gets up and walks you to the counter. She explains as she pours a metal goblet: 'It's a citrus cocktail with a floral extract. Your mind might feel a bit softer, but the general effect is exhilarating. My friend's been breeding these flowers for decades. I assume it's good for you or else you wouldn't be here.' She says it with a smile. The mesh on your wrists continues to roll in calm waves, assuring you it's good. You spend some hours there before continuing home. There's a small city in the distance. You see its lights glowing in the dusk, and near that you recognize the gothic college where you learned to weave the computational fabrics that dance on your arms like guiding winds. Your home is in a small vale. Your neighbor lives a couple acres over; she has a workshop where she makes clothing of the fabrics you weave. You're safe. There's wealth all around you. Those who want to live forever elect to get a few surgeries when they reach adulthood; those who don't usually marry and make babies. There's harmony. There are children playing outside your home, and there's land on Earth for each of them. `br[40] `line[] `header[`big[2)] Skyscrapers] Light reflects from glass, solar panels, metal. Roads are enmeshed between buildings in layer upon layer, with channels for air traffic and public transport systems between them. Apartments, corporate offices, stores, microfarms, garages, schools, are intermixed block to block, level to level. Getting to work is a matter of riding to the station in a self-driving taxi (pay more for one without ads), getting into public transport pods where you see a stream of ads on the video screen. You're offered discounts and bonuses for buying things, which you can do right there. Buy it now, it says. It'll be waiting for you at home. The indoor pavilion's crowded with foot traffic. People tend to walk quickly because you're charged by the nanosecond to be there. You can tell who's rich because they walk slowly. As you enter your office building, the roar of drones and traffic is suddenly dampened. You get to work. It's analysis, meetings, emails, presentations. You're managing mining teams on Mars. The teams around you are managing space travel. It's frustrating, because the team you're working with is using version 24-a0.45, and you're on version 23-b1.44. The city spills into the bay, underwater domes connected by tunnels, a giant lattice-work, a single connected building. You have a meeting 20,000 feet underwater with scientists developing new high-pressure mining techniques. It takes 35 minutes to get there, your company hyper-shuttle lets you work on the way. It stops at a Starbucks for a 7-minute coffee break. It's a lounge with plush leather chairs and ambient lighting that cycles through colors. The hostess greets your company. 'Welcome to Starbucks, let me know if there's anything I can do to make your stay perfect. Just a reminder that sugary drinks like our Mocha Carmel Blacktea Frappuccino can increase the risk of diabetic conditions. We offer complementary Sweetease to offset this risk by as much as 78%. Just remember that it's best to consult your doctor before taking any supplement.' It's all said with a smile. A couple coworkers' eyes glaze over as they read up on Sweetease on the Internet. As she's handing everyone their pre-ordered drinks, you feel a sudden buzz in your wrist informing you that you just paid. You get a notification that you just earned points towards your next drink. You're nervous talking to the scientists because you remember seeing an accident on the news, a tube broke and people were crushed under electrically acidified salt-water. It's rare, but it's happened more than once at this depth. A lot of teams are working to analyze why accidents like that happen, how to engineer safer structures. You're one in 29 billion people and counting. They'll pay your closest relatives your expected salary over the next 5 years. On the ride home, you think about what you can change about your life. There's always the option of moving to a lower-income neighborhood, but that means taking a lower-income job, and you never want to end up being one of those people begging for money to "transition", trapped in a high-risk area without enough money to move. You could look for a higher paying job, but usually your managers notice and you'll get penalized at work, and there are people you can pay to try to enhance your image, but you usually end up where you were except with a little less in savings. There are a lot of stories you want to write, and some people do get rich as artists, but once they stop trending they usually end up outside. You die pretty quickly after that. The air's not good to breathe. It's complicated. You don't really know what you're working towards, except maybe a higher paying job and a lower-risk home, but you're afraid to say that. If you say that you'll be fired. They want passionate, motivated individuals, not directionless narcissists who are just doing it for the money. You get home. The new thing you ordered is there. It's okay. `gray header[Reflections] `line[] `size[20|These are both potential futures for the year 2200.] It's odd, that although so many would prefer the gardens, and although these natural settings would require far less work and fewer resources to bring about, the skyscrapers feel like a more "realistic" description of the future. The gardens feel like fantasy. Why? There's demand for the gardens, but it can't be heard above the noise of the market. We're raised in urban settings, and by the time we're educated, we're in tens of thousands of dollars of debt; we need jobs. Almost all of the jobs that can pay off debt are in urban settings, so we live in urban settings, and in turn, buy that which supports city life. The market hears demand for city life, so it optimizes the production of city life. Today, there are farms where we're surrounded by nature, and there are cities where everything we need is nearby, but it's almost impossible to find communities where there's a happy medium--where homes and workshops are placed just right--so that buildings are surrounded by open spaces, yet no matter where we are, there are places to work and ways to meet all our needs within walking distance. The gardens represent the height of economic efficiency, where even the work environment is healthy and beautiful. It means journeys instead of commutes, feasting as a community instead of worrying about how to split the bill, environments where we can flow instead of manage, where even the waste isn't wasteful. The tragedy of our modern way of life is that it's a closed loop, a self-affirming cycle. In order to live in the modern world, we have to go into noisy stores, sit in traffic, buy products in wasteful packaging--even if that isn't what we truly want, even if what we truly desire is a quiet open space, lasting community, never having to tear open cardboard packaging or plastic wrapping. We end up buying things to cope with modernity, with stress, with debt, and in turn, the market keeps demanding we produce more and more of what we don't truly want. Our economic system's supposed to work through supply and demand, but the monetary market never hears our true demand. No one has enough money to buy what they really want, so the market never adjusts to supply what people truly need. We buy cheaper trash because we're trying to save money. The market hears demand for cheap trash, and it makes the economic processes around the production of cheap trash as efficient as possible. There's a logic driving the expansion of concrete cities, that the most cost-efficient way to monetize a space is to build shops or living spaces as densely together as possible, in tight grids, row after row. But this isn't truly the most efficient use of land. So much of the space is filled with aesthetic noise. To achieve the gardens, we need to start planning cities around `i[people]. We need to imagine a city from the eyes of a single person, and to design spaces so that every moment in the process of meeting their needs is beautiful. It's a model of efficiency grounded in actual experience rather than numerical calculation. We can understand this kind of efficiency in thinking about the cost of natural beauty. If time is money, then how much money do we spend just to breathe pristine air? or to sit by a river in the moonlight? to be surrounded in tranquility? In the modern world, we can go months without these things. They cost us a fortune. In terms of the work that would be involved, we are closer to the gardens but we are accelerating in the direction of the skyscrapers. Realistically, the gardens would take less labor and suffering to create, but it's harder to numerically justify working on them given the abstract standards of the modern system. We quickly need to slow down. We can either embrace simplicity, pursue the natural bliss of the gardens, or we can continue to build grander and grander mazes defined by deadlines. Achieving the gardens is a matter of having an economic system in which our actual desires can be expressed and acted upon, where our lives are governed by `i[need] instead of bureaucratically registered measurements of growth and profit. The internet, as the first system that allows us to automate publishing, can help bring us towards that kind of economy. It's never before been possible for everyone to freely and directly state their needs, to simply `i[know] the market instead of analysing it indirectly through profits. A truly elegant society is one that rewards us for any work that meets a real need, not just those that are bureaucratically recorded. When we can easily account for ourselves and coordinate action directly around expressed needs, we will find freedom to pursue our highest good. Let's look towards the day when we can earn our food, our home, and our luxury doing work in the gardens. `br[40] `line[#ccc] `note[if you'd also like a home in the gardens, email `b[me at aara.us]--I'm a writer, painter, and programmer looking for friends and partners] ] `fonts[Lustria,Raleway,Quicksand,Stalemate,EB Garamond] `css[ body,html{margin:0;padding:0;font:13px Lustria; line-height:20px;} a{color:#ff2934; text-decoration:none;transition:color 1s;} a:hover{color:#b44;} .top{width:300px;margin:50px auto;} .title{font:44px EB Garamond; text-align:center;} .header{font-family: EB Garamond; font-size:26px;} .cross{text-decoration:line-through;} .span{display:inline;} .big{font-size:1.6em;position:relative;top:4px;} .massive{font-size:3.4em;} .fancy{font-family:Stalemate;} .center{text-align:center;} .gray{color:#666;} .line{border:1px solid #666;} .abstract{text-decoration:italics;margin-top: 20px; font-size:15px; font-family: EB Garamond;} .note{font-size:11px;} .page{width: 450px; margin:0 auto;} .footer{width: 500px; margin:30px auto; padding: 20px;} .error{color:#900;font-weight:bold; padding: 20px; font-size:1.3em;} ]