Sunday, March 22, 2009

Personal Infrastructure

Futurism ramblings...

Our infrastructure is deeply tied to our rate of adoption. It's hard to progress - in medical, power, environmental, whatever - without an infrastructure to back it.

Now, our rate of technological and scientific advancement is increasing. But the rate of infrastructure construction isn't. If anything, it's actually getting worse. Which means that it's starting to get hilariously out of date and seriously compromising our ability to move forward (or even keep from sliding backwards).

The future seems to lie with going around the government rather than being helped much by it. It's a nice change of pace to see the government go from actively malicious back to simply incompetent, but neither mode is going to improve our standards of living any.

Technology is advancing far enough that pieces of infrastructure that had to be formally centralized in the past are becoming steadily decentralized as time goes on. An easy example is power: alternative sources such as solar are becoming more and more common. These sources are often personal, especially solar, and they are getting cheaper every year.

It's gotten to the point where people are actually backing "guerrilla solar", installing solar panels without going through the union or government paperwork. In many cases, the cost of the red tape is easily equal to the cost of the actual system, so going around the dinosaurs is often very appetizing.

Of course, this has some drawbacks. Like all forms of infrastructure, it's more complicated than it seems. Already there have been some fires due to faulty installation of guerrilla solar panels. It's clear that people shouldn't just tackle these things half-assed: the red tape exists so you don't do it wrong and burn your house down. This is especially true if we move to other kinds of local infrastructure, such as local plumbing, local manufacture, local foods... each of these has their own complexities and potentials to cause severe problems for both the owner and everyone nearby.

Still, as bad as the potential results are, we can expect to see a rise in the amount of personal/local infrastructure, and a lot of it is going to be guerrilla. Taking that into consideration, it would be better to try to help the guerrillas to do it right than to have them doing it wrong. And, of course, non-guerrillas would benefit from knowing more about what's going on: some installers are close to incompetent even with the red tape.

What I'd really like to see is a wiki for installing local infrastructure. Any kind of infrastructure, from data to food to plumbing. A kind of wikipedia for do-it-yourselfing infrastructure.

Does one exist? Who else thinks this would be a good idea?


shaktool said...

I think this is a terrific idea. I agree that this is an important direction to advance in.

I, personally, am totally unqualified to contribute. But I'm sure there are lots of people in intentional communities who would love to help.

Craig Perko said...

Hmmm, but I don't know any of them. There's a certain minimum level of interest required to start something like this, don't you think?