We have moved on today. We look different than before. Our mugshots are going nowhere. I read Christian Siefkes while the train rocks me.

Meshes and Routes

Re/production used to be a burden which kept countless people busy for most of their lives. No longer. It has become a relatively easy and mostly pleasant affair, not least because of our reliance on mesh networks. Decentralized mesh networks allow everyone to participate. They are organized in ways that avoid asymmetric dependencies and ensure that nobody can acquire a specifically privileged position.

The Internet, precursor of our Intermesh, was the first global network which implemented the mesh principle to a high degree. It was a network of many networks, without a privileged center. Whenever a particular route was turned off, the affected messaged simply took a different way around it. However, it still had some centralized components which were eliminated later – most significantly, the Domain Name System (DNS) which was used to bind the names used in communications to specific computers.

Our energy network is a mesh too. Most garden farms run wind turbines and almost all houses have solar panels or solar-thermal collectors on their roofs (the latter produce electricity and heat in parallel). If the electricity isn’t locally needed, it’s fed into the Powermesh. If, on the other hand, you need more energy than locally available, you draw the difference from the Powermesh.

Further building blocks for our decentralized energy supply are the high-performance batteries and supercapacitors placed in most homes. Whenever a house or other place produces more energy than locally needed, there are two options: feed it into the mesh or store it in the local battery. The local control software decides which option to prefer at any given moment, considering the hints it gets from the mesh about energy production elsewhere. If there is a general surplus, the energy should be stored for later; if energy is needed elsewhere, it should be feed into the mesh. Similar decisions are made by the software whenever you need more energy than locally produced: it will be taken either from the mesh or from the local battery, depending on hints about the state of the mesh.

Other energy sources such as geothermal energy and the remaining stocks of natural gas are also used, but sun and wind are the most abundant sources. They tend to complement each other well. Higher wind intensities often go along with clouds and less sunshine, and vice versa. And the sun has the advantage of giving most energy around noon, when demand for energy is highest. Thanks to the distributed mesh control software it’s usually possible to use power near to where it is produced rather than having to transport it over long distances (and losing parts of it in the process). Solar cells can be printed (printed electronics); most other equipment necessary for energy generation and distribution is made in Fab hubs on 3D printers and CNC mills.

Water distribution follows similar principles. Most garden farms have wells for drawing groundwater and most houses have systems for rainwater collection. The water is filtered and processed locally. The various sources are connected through a mesh of pipelines, allowing access to water from nearly sources whenever necessary. The mesh control software ensures that this happens smoothly and that the water is not transported over longer distances than necessary. It also maintains a sufficiently high pressure in all pipes. Wastewater usually flows to the nearest garden farm, as most have small sewage plants. The resulting sludge is often used as fertilizer, with remainders being burned as power source when this can be done safely.

Route projects take care of the transportation infrastructure – power cables, pipes for fresh water and sewage, streets and traffic lines. Usually they are run by self-selected volunteers, like all projects. In some communities, however, their members are selected by lot, due to the essential role these projects have for the local infrastructure. In any case, it is clear that all users of infrastructure are involved in the decision making process and that all decisions require the rough consensus of everybody concerned. That’s important because other projects can be forked if necessary: if an agreement cannot be reached or if some people are unhappy with the course of the project, they can leave it and start their own alternative. But for route projects, this is hardly a viable option. The existing routes have to be used, maintained, and where necessary expanded, to avoid wasting time and resources.
For road traffic, electric bicycles and light electric vehicles with three or four wheels are popular. The e-vehicles can drive autonomously on elevated roads marked with colored guide paths. In this way they also transport goods without requiring human intervention. On smaller, ground-level roads, they need a driver who can take control when necessary. All cities have public transportation systems, often gondola lifts (cable cars) which initially because popular in South America (“Metrocable”). The cables holding the gondolas are often mounted below the elevated roads. Long-distance travel most often takes place in maglev trains or other kinds of autonomous high-speed trains. You can leave your e-bike or e-vehicle at the station and pick up another one after reaching your destination.

Sea travel doesn’t require physical routes. There are lots of projects that run ships between seaside cities. For long distances, hovercrafts are popular. They are fast, though not quite as fast as the airplanes that existed in the oil-rich past. Today a journey from Lisbon to New York takes about two days, while the Concorde, the fastest airplane of all times, covered that distance in four hours. (Though it was only used for a few decades.) But we have much more leisure than the people of that epoch, and it’s fun to dash over the water.

Originally published in German in the collection “Etwas fehlt” – Utopie, Kritik und
Glücksversprechen edited by the jour fixe initiative berlin (edition assemblage, Münster, 2013, pages 255–272).

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