The problem with civilization is that our stuff is so often in the wrong place.

For example, it bugs me that I pay to heat my house . . . and then I put my refrigerator inside the heated house. That just feels wrong. I want my fridge to have an insulated conduit to the outdoors that senses temperatures and opens when the outdoors is sufficiently cold to help out. And let's give that conduit a bug screen and an odor filter. This idea won't happen soon because it requires the homebuilder and the refrigerator-maker to coordinate. I'll put this idea on hold until I build my well-planned city of the future.

I recently blogged about the idea of consumers hosting computers in their homes and selling CPU time back to the grid. I got that idea about half right. A reader pointed me to a company that has a smarter take, so much so that I laughed out loud when I checked their website.

The company is Nerdalize, and their insight is that computers are also accidental heaters. With their business model you can heat your home for free in return for allowing a computer/heater in your home that is connected to the grid. This way data centers don't need to spend vast amounts of money discarding excess heat that other people would happily pay for. It's brilliant if it works. I'm going to add this idea to my city of the future too.

I also want a "travel room" in my city of the future. It's a room that has TV screens on all four walls, coordinated with a 360-degree camera on a drone located anywhere in the world. If I want to take a flying tour of the alps, for example, I just rent time on the drone. My travel room will feel as if I am flying, and I can navigate the drone to whatever tourist site I want. Just to keep things safe, let's say the drone is programmed to avoid dangerous situations, such as kamikaze attacks on the locals.

My next post will be about a plan to keep the economy humming along after robots take over all of the manual labor and put two-thirds of humans out of work.


Scott Adams

Creator of Dilbert

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com (Scheduling made simple)

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Mar 24, 2014
Over half of the population is already out of work, so getting to 2/3 shouldn't be that difficult. Think about it 40% not of working age, 30% working part time, then there's the unable to work through disability, actual unemployed, not counting the fact that every "worker" takes 10% of their time off for sickness, statutory holidays etc.

1/3 working is probably an ambitious target for a jobscheme. Making robots, perhaps.
Mar 21, 2014
"IN other words it's going to take FOREVER to warm my croissante!" (4-11-92)
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Mar 21, 2014
Yes yes yes on the fridge.

I grew up in Florida, then moved to Connecticut for a few years. When I got there I realized winters could be cold, and I instantly had the same idea about the fridge. Seems like a no-brainer but yet I would have had to construct my own system.

I also like the idea about ground-source heat pumps since once you go down a few feet the temperature is always the same, and can be used for heating or cooling.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
The refrigerator thing bothers me, too. But even more so in the summer when I'm feeding the fridge electricity to remove heat -- which it deposits into the room -- and then asking my A/C to reabsorb all of that heat and move it outside. Placing the fridge's heat exchanger outside would really increase overall efficiency. Even in the winter, the condenser wouldn't have to run as long because the refrigerant would be entering already cold (and more dense). I'm not sure if this winter fringe efficiency would offset the loss of heat to the outdoors, but it may; using a condenser and motor for heat is pretty inefficient.
Mar 20, 2014

Having been in a recent presentation on solarizing homes in Dallas, it's really all about cost and inconvenience. Solar: $18,000 for 66% of your needs. Lifespan is about 30 years. Doesn't include batteries, and you can't use the power if the grid goes down, as the system is tied to the grid. And there's liability. And that's with group discounts for participating in a local "solarize" project.

ROI: laughable.
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Mar 20, 2014

>>If the money is distributed equally then we could have a Star Trek like future where everyone could just live their dream.

If only knowledge and experience was distributed equally then we could have a Star Trek like future where everyone could just live their dream.

I'm cranky this morning. Excuse me while I book a plane ticket.

Mar 20, 2014
I'm spending time reading blogs when I clearly should be working.

It is not just our stuff that is in the wrong place.
Mar 20, 2014
Well, the refrigerator gives off heat, so having the refrigerator in the house does help heat the house.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
Everything Is In the Wrong Place - The problem with civilization is that our stuff is so often in the wrong place.

I thought this was going to go in the direction of, we have to much heat in the south, and too much cold in the north, too much water in the far east, and drought in the west.
Excess food here, starvation there. Many trees here, concrete there, oil there, needing it here.... Excess capacity in a commercial kitchen, raw materials there, factories here, excess labor there, consumers somewhere else.
Things like that.

Then you go off into travel drones.

It bugs me that the Bunny Ranch is 1000 miles away. A far more serious problem than your refrigerator's heat sink.

+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
" ... we could use all the smartphones attached to the internet. Imagine a "Virtual Travel Club". Say there's a request to see a live approach of the Leaning Tower of Pisa ..."

Its already there and its called youtube. Why does it have to be live?

Anyway, nothing beats the real experience. That kind of thing is good to get a taste of things at best.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
The website of Nerdalize is down. Is that a real company at all? What do you do with your heat-generating computer in the summer? Or do you just rent it in the winter? That seems inefficient.

Our kitchen has a door to the balcony. When its cold, we often put food outside (pots with left-overs e.g.). It works, its cheap and we have a huge fridge all of a sudden.
Mar 20, 2014
As for the economy, there's an unfortunate model in what has already happened. American worker productivity has climbed dramatically over the past decades. But instead of increased paychecks and/or increased leisure across the board, workforces were reduced and wages stagnated -- aided, in large part, by increased unemployment weakening employees' bargaining power. Some of the huge net gains were passed on to consumers, but more and more it's raked off in its entirety by the executive suite.

Thus far, to even comment on this is to be accused of class warfare, anti-capitalist tendencies, spiritual deficiencies, etc. There's a naive or disingenuous insistence on keeping the government out of it, even when there's no indication whatsoever that the guys profiting from the slow destruction of capitalism will do anything other than act to increase their takings.
Mar 20, 2014
I suspect before you get your true Travel Room, you'll have to settle for canned environments: Virtual recreations or souped-up Google views that are not actually live (but may simulate real time with virtual weather, foot traffic, etc.). Thus you could stand directly in front of the Mona Lisa all day without your drone or camerabearer having to deal with crowds and guards.

Another angle might be replacing drones and camerabearers with fixed cameras onsite -- in urban settings anyway. Security cameras are everywhere; it should be technically and economically viable to hook up a network at average eye level for virtual walkers. This would allow a revenue stream for the locations themselves who'd own the cameras and sell the feed. It would also be less annoying for non-virtual tourists.

Since the big driver behind giant home TVs seems to be sports, I see the earliest version of a travel room taking the form of sports broadcasts utilizing screens on three or four sides. You probably wouldn't have the ability to walk around the field at will, but helmet cams and such could give you an immersive player's-eye or ref's-eye view. Then would come the interactive Super Bowl ads, and finally the full-fledged product.

As a walker I see an extra-large treadmill on the floor, so more than one person stroll the Riviera or run with the bulls. Variations might include a stationary bike, hang glider, skis or surfboard. Of course the treadmill would be wired so the screens would respond to your speed and direction.

Variants: Takeout restaurants might include access to a virtual dining area. You eat your pizza in an Italian villa with opera singers; your BBQ ribs include a dude ranch with live country music and Texas skies. Even kiddie-targeting fast food chains might toss in a mildly interactive McDonaldsland. Netflix and PPV services could provide a virtual theater or arena, maybe with a virtual VIP box where you could see and interact with friends viewing the same show. And, of course, really immersive games.

Footnote: Hong Kong Disneyland has a ride that climaxes in something like a Travel Room (starts around the four minute mark): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqGwhee9GbY

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Mar 19, 2014
That damned stupid filter!

!$%*!$%* = co_ck-ups
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2014
Freezers operate at a constant -18 deg. Celsius or thereabouts (around -2 deg. F). They need to do this to prevent spoilage. Any system involving the outdoor placement of freezers needs to allow for this temperature requirement; some winter days are much colder than others. It's also pretty inconvenient to have to go outside to visit the fridge or the freezer, especially when a gale is blowing, or when you have to trudge across a snowy yard. Or maybe the freezer door is blocked by snow.

As for the travel room/drone-augmented tourism idea: this sounds fine in principle as far as SEEING the destinations is concerned (until you want to look INSIDE the buildings you encounter), but it seems to me that this way of visiting a place misses so much of the point of going there in person.

Where are the strange smells, the sounds of the local language being spoken around you, the blister on your heel, the taste of unfamiliar dishes, the encounters and conversations with people from a different culture, the experience of sitting at your guest-house proprietor's dinner table and meeting her family, the haggling in the market, the unexpected embarrassments and amusing !$%*!$%*! the rocking sensation underfoot as you visit that offshore island with the salt spray blowing in your face, the flash and fizz of the churning seafoam below the rail, the sense of achievement mixed with well-earned weariness as you sink onto your hotel bed after a full day of seeing and doing all kinds of novel things, and all the other contributors to making travel an ADVENTURE?
Mar 19, 2014
I felt that way visiting Las Vegas in a heat wave, in the MGM which is air conditioned, looking at their lions - in a desert like condition thru glass. Then I started noticing... ovens, cars giving off heat outside to run air conditioning and leaving those little heat waves you can see rising. Touché.

It's like a joke I heard about bad design where a car has a wheel that rubs the rim... the solution? give the engine more power to compensate... it wasn't a great joke, but the observation carries. Of course in this instance you'd also need to cool the tire and replace it more often, too. All very good for the economy, coolant, fuel and tire sales are up. Okay I'm being cynical now, I'll shut up.

But thank you for saying it. I was thinking it. <--- Stolen from the movie white chicks.
Mar 19, 2014
I have a second fridge full of beer and frozen stuff out in the garage and it bugs the crap out of me when I go out there in the winter when it's 30 degrees and that thing's sitting there running. We had a cold week or two of hard freeze and I was sort tempted to unplug it and leave both doors wide open.
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Mar 19, 2014
Virtual tourism would bring no advantage to the visited countries.
My (easy) prediction is that your drones, even assuming that they could gain access to foreign countries,
will be shot down by the inhabitants as soon as they are spotted.
Funny prospect, in a way.

Oh, about the seasonal fridge... try keeping food out of the kitchen window in winter: it works.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 19, 2014
Geothermal heating and cooling is far more efficient. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified geothermal heat pumps as a technology that significantly reduces greenhouse gas and other air emissions associated with heating, cooling and water heating residential buildings, while saving consumers money, compared to conventional technologies. For every 100,000 units of typically sized residential geothermal heat pumps installed, more than 37.5 trillion Btu's of energy used for space conditioning and water heating can be saved, corresponding to an emissions reduction of about 2.18 million metric tons of carbon equivalents, and cost savings to consumers of about $750 million over the 20-year-life of the equipment.

Oh, and while you're at it you should invent the "root cellar" too.
Mar 19, 2014
So many of your ideas are similar to ones I've had myself but never told people. It's like we both see clear obvious examples of waste, and we know waste and inefficiency will some day be rooted out (that's the natural trend in civilization), so we point them out. In this post, it's the fact that the continuous nature of heat/cool allows for a large time period during which cooling food could be done at no cost by isolating it from the inside we want to heat. The ideal is to simply not even require any money spent on a freezer during 3 months of winter. I see ads in old magazines from 1910s/20s where the fridge has a box accessible from outside where the ice man delivers the ice, without needing to come inside. In 3 months out of the year, nature provides the ice. Perhaps the savings is just not significant enough (cheap electricity) to justify infrastructural revision (house alteration).

As soon as I saw concepts for telepresence robots years ago, I thought they'd be useful for virtual tourism or remote shopping of things we otherwise need to see in person such as produce (with tactile sensors (then automated vehicles bring them to you). Another idea is paying an actual person to mount a robotic camera on top of their head to allow you full control to look around. Perhaps with 4K and googlebit internet speeds, these things become realistic enough to compete with reality.

I'm convinced that large companies could work together - such as Amazon, Google, Tesla, Ikea and others to produce a very modern city-state, independent of existing governments, where customers live and have access to things before others. People would want to live in such a place. Think Disney's Epcot City plan, or a theme park with more permanence and practicality without the rides and attention grabbing fluff.
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