Why do people refuse to learn from history???
Some feller name of Dave Hall has a bucket of cash and a dream: to build planned utopian town-like properties based on some “vision” that Mormon church founder Joseph Smith imagined nearly 200 years ago. These would be square “plats,” with a square “ring wall” made up of buildings with farm-like area in the middle, and surrounded by a narrow bit of “nature.”
Hal wants to build a thousand of these sites in Vermont, moving 20 million people into a state with a current population well under one million. Oddly enough, the people in the area where he’s buying up property have a problem with this.
Some of the “features” of this planned community:
each person will be allotted just 200 square feet of living space
A plat, says Hall, will be subject to state and regional laws, but will also be overseen by a board and hierarchies of leaders with, it appears, strong Mormon family values. “Each [multi-family] house has house captains, which are a team of one man and one woman,”
Families and individuals who wish to join must invest their net worth and be employed either outside the communities or by a NewVistas company, or Vista Biz. Those who start Vista Bizzes will be given startup funds by the community but must surrender their IP rights. They also must agree to put nearly all their profits back into the community in exchange for what Hall calls “dividends”—payouts from overall wealth earned by the plat businesses.
AW HELL NO.
To make all this work, some as-yet unavailable or generally unused technologies are needed. Robots that rearrange your furniture. Storage containers that rise us out of the floor. Small elevators. Toilets with built-in medical tricorders. But over all of this is the fact that since the basic plan of this “plat” was produced by Joseph Smith, it thus has the taint of prophesy and divine inspiration. And we’ve all seen how successful communities built on religious ideas can be.
The goofiest notion of all is that he’s buying up properties that are already happily occupied. Why not set up shop where people *aren’t*? I’m sure Detroit has some room for something like this. The Midwest has *single* farms bigger than his whole planned community. So why build right where you know you’re going to annoy the locals by changing *their* environment?
All that said… there’s something about this idea that makes me nervous in a very real sense. Not about the “plats” themselves… if they are roaring successes or the first generation born there tears the place apart during Festival, I don’t really care as such. But what does this sort of thing say about space colonies?
Initial small colonies – say, a few dozen people on Mars – will be run like military establishments. They’ll pretty much have to be. But what about town-sized orbital habitats? Here, the territory is strictly limited. An inhabitants options will necessarily be somewhat limited… a good terrorist could shut off the sun or evacuate all the air. So will such settlements need to be run in the soul-crushing collectivist manner suggested for the “plats?” A horrifying thought.