Suppose you wanted to build an entire country from the ground up. How would you start?

I'd start with the furniture.

When you design a home, you first figure out what furniture arrangements you like, and how the kitchen is laid out. That tells you what shape and size the rooms have to be. Next you imagine what tasks need to be accomplished in the house and you layer on the functionality. For example, you make sure there is storage in the garage, and that the laundry room is near the master bedroom. And you want the sun orientation to be a big part of the planning.

Once you have individual rooms designed, the next step is figuring out how they flow together. And from that you get a good idea what the outside of the house looks like. Once the house is done you can start doing some city planning. You'd want bike paths and dog parks and fun places for neighbors to gather. You might ban cars from the city entirely.

Now let's assume your planned city has free Internet and everyone is connected. And let's further imagine that a big player such as Apple or Google is behind the venture. Everything from your lights to your grocery shopping would be managed by smartphones. Every citizen over the age of 10 would have one.

The biggest potential of this planned city springs from universal Internet access. Once you have every citizen online, you can move all billing, voting, and government services online. And anyone could take any online class from home. There's a lot you can do when you have 100% Internet penetration.

Now that you have the perfect city design you can duplicate it until you form a nation. You might need to put this nation on barges on the ocean, or perhaps you buy some land from a country that has extra. Perhaps you pay taxes to the host country in return for military protection.

You could design your government from scratch. The Internet probably makes some new forms of government feasible, such as a direct democracy, as opposed to a republic, for issues that aren't especially complicated.

Pick any frustration from you current life and you can imagine how a planned country would make it better. Commute too long? Fixed. Cost of living too high? Fixed. Childcare too expensive and inconvenient? Fixed. Don't have time to exercise? Fixed. Too much crime in the neighborhood? Fixed. Drunk drivers? None. Healthcare? Universal and inexpensive because your doctor consultations are via Internet.

At tax time, every adult gets an email that says "This is what you earned and this is what you paid." Done. You never have to see an accountant.

It's hard to imagine a problem that couldn't be fixed or improved by a country that is planned from the furniture up and has universal Internet connectivity.

I could imagine an existing country authorizing these "start-up" cities within their own borders, as test beds. After twenty years, whatever is working in the test cities gets implemented countrywide.

Designing a country from the furniture up would have been impractical twenty years ago. To do this sort of thing right, you need high end CAD software and the ability to visualize everything from the furniture to the street layout in 3D. You need smartphones. And you need a fiber optic Internet connection to every home.

My larger point is that I think the future will include cities planned from the furniture up. And that era will see enormous economic activity. Living the old way, in legacy communities, will feel like camping compared to the cities of the future.

I would be surprised if planned cities are not being discussed somewhere within Google.

My new book is How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. It's my best work.

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+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
Not your best blogpost, imho.

"Once the house is done you can start doing some city planning. "

It's sentences like that, where you skip 99% of the process, where you lose me. This is not building a city around the furniture. This is building a house around your funiture, and then building the city around the house. The former has nothing to do with the latter.

But its ok, in the future i just wont comment anymore when i dont like something you wrote. Otherwise i will seem so grumpy.

If I were you, I would have taken a long break after finshing the book. But being a workaholic, that will pobably not work for you.

+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
The spaceship in the Pixar movie WALL*E did a pretty good job of visualizing the result.
Oct 30, 2013
I think I have finally figured out where all this is heading!!!! I think I may have broken the Adams code!!! OOOH!!! I'm so excited!

OK, gentle tweeters, let's consider Scott's philosophy in toto:

1. There is no God, therefore there is no soul.
2. Because of #1, there is no difference between a robot and a human.
3. Corollary to the above: we're all meat robots.
4. The only way to gain 'immortality' is to transfer our personalities into robots/computers.
5. Interconnected cities can be built using the Internet
6. These cities can be planned in such a way that everyone lives in peace, harmony and economic largess.

So here's Scott's end game, IMHO. First, we all transfer our personalities into robots. Then, we build cities where, not only are the services interconnected by the Internet, but all the robotic people are, too!

You'll notice that Scott's ideal city is missing some pesky little things, like, oh, say, food production capabilities. Now you know why: ROBOTS DON'T EAT!!!! Instead, you just need maintenance and repair facilities, and power to keep the little robot things running!

Of course, for this plan to work, you'd need to eliminate anything that interfered with this utopia, which are mainly meat robots who are unimpressed with the idea. Got to get rid of those annoying critters.

Then, if one of your robots exhibited antisocial behavior because of its transplanted human personality, it would just take some code tweaks, downloaded over the Internet, to correct those product deficiencies. Voila! Utopia is realized!

I commend Scott for his forward-thinkingness. I only wonder one thing: when will Scott volunteer to transfer his personality into a little Adams robot and then disassemble his old meat-robotic body? I await the day with anxious anticipation when I finally get to meet the Scott robot, knowing that the disassembled meat robotic old Scott is returning to the earth to help microbes and worms have sustenance. Oh, for that glorious day!!!

His next book will be: "How to Fail at Living and Still Live Forever: Sort of the Story of My Undead-ness." I predict it will be his biggest seller yet!

Too bad nobody will be left alive to read it.
Oct 30, 2013
If I had read this without knowing the author, I would have thought it was written by someone between 8 and 12 years old. Are you kidding?! For someone of your intelligence to spew out a childish fantasy like this demonstrates clearly that intelligence does not necessarily equate to wisdom, or even common sense in your case.

[When I read your comment all I could hear in my mind was "YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!" -- Scott]
Oct 30, 2013
Scott: We ought to build utopia

JakesDad: Yes, but we need to prevent / eliminate excess population

= Prelude/formula for just about every dystopian novel over the past 60 years
Oct 30, 2013
the first thing I'd do is figure out a viable system (yes, I just finished the book!) to maintain a sustainable equilibrium between the population & available finite resources! I'm a big believer that the majority of the world's big-ticket problems are emergent complexities brought about (or at least catalyzed) by exponential population growth (I'm talking about over millennia - today's instantaneous velocity is irrelevant on a macro scale). the world simply doesn't have the required raw materials to support 7 billion people at a US middle-class standard of living!

fundamentally this is a math problem (big-arse differential equation) but getting people to accept the math requires significant psychological skills...
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
Smells like Dogbert.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
For someone with a degree in Economics, you sure do have a poor understanding of Economics.

(You have an even poorer understanding of the capabilities, tendencies and history of governments, and of sociology, but I have no reason to expect that you would understand any of those).


[To be fair, you and I can only be sure that at least one of us is an idiot. Studies show that idiots don't know who they are. -- Scott]
Oct 30, 2013
I'd love the option of either living in a govt-run city or a Google-run city, or Apple-run or Amazon-run. The only thing holding them back is paying taxes that eats into their ability to provide us voluntary-funded services. Instead, they have to finance a $15T coercively-funded monopoly we call the federal government.

If I were a coercively-funded monopoly, I'd of course force my competition to pay as high "taxes" as possible so they'd never be able to offer the same services I offer.
Oct 30, 2013
[Pick any frustration from you current life and you can imagine how a planned country would make it better.]

If theres anything we should have learned from Communism its that going to far too fast with this idea is bad. You have the right idea with trying things on a city first before you go notional with them, but be prepared to give up on some ideas, go forward with some other ideas that you might not like and keep tinkering with things, including the government, for a while before declaring yourself ready to go national.
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
Must be nice to be Scott Adams. When I design a home (who am I kidding?!) I start by figuring out my budget, what my minimum requirements are, how much budget is left for anything else, what I can wait to add in later, and then try to maximize space. If I was being too subtle: Cost is a central consideration for a more-normal person.

If I were going to build a country from the ground up, I'm sure that resource constraints would be central to a successful plan -- rather than daydreaming about a costs-be-damned ideal.

[Does the developers of a housing community ask your budget before they build their 3,000 homes? And if they could build them better and cheaper, would that be a good thing or should they wait for you to tell them your budget first? -- Scott]
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
You're declaring a lot of things "fixed!" that aren't really addressed by central planning. Commutes are only solved by moving closer to your place of employment. Sure, you could plan your nation so that some people are close, but that would last a generation at most. The cost of living is always too high because most people always try to live beyond their means. Childcare is always inconvenient unless you have a live-in nanny, and it's always too expensive because everybody always wishes things cost less.

The internet isn't exactly a panacea either. We have plenty of internet penetration now, and the majority of the citizenry are as uninformed as ever on issues that don't concern pro athletes, pop music stars, or Hollywood actors.

[If you eliminate the in-city traffic, most commutes become bearable. And I think this sort of city would attract mostly tech businesses that could be integrated in the city. -- Scott]
Oct 30, 2013
An interesting experiment might be 2 identical ocean barge cities, one with a diverse population and the other populated with identical clones. Then see which one thrives.

Oct 30, 2013
"Cost of living too high? Fixed"

How does that happen? Is this new city a great place to live? If so, I imagine the real estate prices would soon approach San Francisco / London levels. What about other resources? Have you somehow eliminated scarcity via improved connectivity and optimized sidewalks?
Oct 30, 2013
Hi Scott, I bought your book this week instead of later, per your request. Will there be an opportunity to get it signed?

[I don't have an signings planned. Those don't work as well as they once did because people are shopping online anyway. Thanks for buying it! -- Scott]
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 30, 2013
You left out most of the key elements for nation building, and tried to out source one of the most important ones.

Cities are inconvenient and messy when trying to feed a population. You need to feed your people, Scott. The actual food has to come from somewhere.

People are unpredictable, and will find ways to ensure their freedom. Especially from the tyranny of big brother and the ever present internet. Freedom is the natural state of man, you can't mess with that.

You neglect to state what the primary purpose of the government is. Is it to protect its citizens? To negotiate fair and equitable trade practices with other nations? To smash the infidels in Elbonia who have no right to exist? All of these and many other considerations need to be addressed.

Your post misses a lot of other high-end items as well. Perhaps you should try using Google to research these things before you post about them.
Oct 30, 2013
Running the U.S. government like the Roman Senate is insanely antiquated.

Modern technology enables a much better option and brings the people's representatives closer to the people they represent rather than isolating them in physical meetings in Washington.

What the average lawmaker goes through on a day to day basis is absurdly wasteful of time. There is a much better way to run a country - and technology points the way. Or, as you say, the furniture.
Oct 30, 2013
F. A. Hayek. 'Nuff said.
Oct 30, 2013
Scott, given your preoccupation with nation creation, I have a book recommendation for you. it is "Why Nations Fail" by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.
In their terms I think what you are describing for your Utopias is a civilization with perfectly inclusive institutions.

The biggest stumbling block in making a working planned society is that people bring their own institutional background with them, and unless you are planning on introducing an extreme cult mentality to your society that's a hard thing to stamp out.

The best example of a failed planned mini-nation is the Fordlandia experiment. Ford did his very best to solve all the perceived problems with society with new technology. There are plenty of reasons for the failure, but what it came down to was the people. You can't simply eliminate viciousness from people by denying them vices, and you can't turn a desert into a paradise without a whole lot of commitment.
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