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.
You might also be willing to give up some of the options you enjoy in your current life if the tradeoff is gaining more and better options of a different sort. We'll consider those later.
I believe the next big change in society will involve simplifying our lives, getting rid of the waste and inconvenience that we drifted into, and finding meaning through more social involvement. Cheapatopia would be an engineered city both in terms of its physical structure and in how the citizens participate in it.
For example, in Cheapatopia, no one would ever again hire a babysitter or put their dog in the kennel while they are on vacation. That sort of thing would all be done by neighbors, and you would know those neighbors well.
When you design Cheapatopia, don't assume you would be living there yourself. It won't be for everyone. Don't hold that against Cheapatopia. It's a mental exercise.
Today's design question is this: Where would you locate Cheapatopia, in general terms?
In your answer consider physical beauty, energy, weather, water, proximity to a major airport, natural disasters, and anything else you can think of. And assume Cheapatopians work at home or within the city, so commuting is minimal.
Fair game is any sort of information that could be collected with some amount of time and effort, even if it isn't being collected at the moment. And it has to be legally obtained.
I'll take a stab at the question just to prime the pump. Suppose you formed a private online club of people who represented a random selection of investors in general. So you'd have some professional advisors and lots of regular folks who pick their own stocks. Every day at a set time the members of the club are asked to submit to the private online system their opinion of what stocks they find attractive to buy in the next 24 hours. Before the results are tabulated and distributed back to the members only, each member is given an opportunity to invest any amount of money in whatever the club ends up picking as the most popular stock. If they opt in, all of their trades would be executed at the same time, or perhaps randomly at nearly the same time, so no member gets an advantage. Only the single most popular stock would be purchased for all members, one per day.
If selected correctly, this random collection of investors would, on average, have the same opinions as the public in general, but they would execute their trades before the rest of the world, on average, and get in before the generally popular stocks run up. This concept banks on the notion that whatever ideas in the media or in life that are floating around influencing minds are influencing the member group in the same way as the public at large. Call it zeitgeist.
What's your take on the most valuable information in the world?
I wondered if the young man thought I was lying about not having jumper cables. My fake sincerity face looks like a mime with an intestinal infection. I felt I needed to sell my concern just a bit more, but without making us late for the movie. So I asked, "Do you have a cell phone?"
Now keep in mind that 110% of all young men his age group, at least around here, have cell phones. The figure is higher than 100% because some people carry two, in case one has a low battery. So there was no real risk of him asking to use my phone. And besides, who goes to the movies alone at that age? Surely his pack of friends was nearby, all with cell phones if not jumper cables.
But no. This was the one young man in the solar system who had no phone, no friends, and a dead battery. So I handed him my beloved BlackBerry and hoped he wouldn't start running in the other direction. He looked fast. But he was legit, and dialed his mom.
If you want to imagine how his end of the conversation went, recall George Costanza from Seinfeld talking to his mother. It went something like this:
Guy: "Can you tell Dad to come get me? My battery is dead."
Guy: "Why does it matter?? I was listening to the radio. Just tell Dad..."
Guy: "Just tell Dad..."
Guy: "Mom, can you just tell Dad to..."
Guy: "MOM!!!! CAN YOU PLEASE PUT DAD ON THE PHONE!!!!"
Meanwhile, I'm tapping my feet, looking around, trying to look impatient without crossing the line into full jerk mode. I don't want to get the worst seat in the iMax theater. That's not a good one.
Now the young man's conversation turns to describing where he will be standing when his father arrives.
Guy: "I don't know, maybe near Fudruckers."
Guy: "FUDRUCKERS! FUDRUCKERS!"
Guy: "Or maybe by Game Stop. Near Fudruckers. Or I could just walk over and stand by the Game Stop. It's by Fudruckers. Fudruckers. Fudruckers."
Surely this conversation was coming to an end, I assumed. I imagined only one seat left in the theater. My heart was pumping and my palms were sweaty. We already had our tickets. I sent my best ESP messages to him: Please hang up. Please hang up. But things only got worse.
Guy: "I think it's in the dryer."
Guy: "Yes, in the dryer. Because it was wet."
Guy: "I know you think it was on the couch but it's in the dryer."
Guy: "Yes, I'm sure it's in the dryer. JUST LOOK IN THE DRYER!!!"
At that point I reached my limit. I started giving the slice-my-own-neck signal to him to cut the call short. I mouthed "We're late for the movie." He got the hint.
Guy: "Mom, I have to go."
Guy: "Look in the dryer."
Guy: "Because I have a borrowed phone."
Guy: "Just look in the dryer. And tell Dad I'll be by the Game Stop."
Guy: "Not Fudruckers, but next to it. By the Game Stop."
Guy: "JUST LOOK IN THE DRYER!!! MOM! I GOTTA GO!"
Phone retrieved, we raced to the theater. There were exactly two seats left, on the far end, in the front. If you haven't been to an iMax theater, the screen is the size of a three story building. From my vantage point up close I could tell that motion was happening on the screen, but I couldn't discern what it was. I think the movie was about robots that fight, but I can't be sure.
I spent the next two and a half hours wishing I could meet the a-hole who decided to squeeze a few more seats into the iMax theater by putting them where no human being could enjoy the show. I'm peaceful by nature, but I'd make an exception for that guy.
Attempting to look at the screen was a losing strategy because it was just headache inducing. Luckily I can nap literally anywhere. I even fall asleep when I'm having my teeth cleaned (true). So I had a nice snooze through most of the movie, and I needed it. I guess it all worked out.