thoughts on our urban future

Teleportation impacts on urbanism

Most people who know me would probably say that I am generally fairly practical and logical when it comes to design decisions.  I work well with ‘outside the box thinkers’ in that I can take their fantastical ideas and ground them in reality- which is a useful partnership.  So it’s not very often that I indulge in my own fantastical thinking, but I confess, it does happen from time to time.

My most recent out there thinking indulgence has been spawned by news released late last year from Wikileaks – that China is investing heavily in advanced scientific projects including advancements in quantum teleportation and some ‘evidence’ that seems to indicate they have already succeeded in single-particle quantum teleportation and are now trying to conduct dual-particle quantum teleportation.

Indulge me if you will, in considering how the way we live would and could change if teleportation was an actuality.  For starters, what would all the streets be for?  You could have any good delivered directly to your home from wherever it was produced.  Would you teleport from your home to your office?  From your home to school?  No more airplanes.  No more freight.  Perhaps we would still need the occasional road, but it could all be reduced to single lane, 2-way systems as vehicular transport would be so rare.  You might still need it for fire, and certainly to move around the teleportation modules, but this would be minimal.  Think of what the streets could become!

Can you imagine a city where instead of streets there was an interlocked system of parkland?  Waterways?  Allotments?  Would people even use the streets?  If we didn’t need cars, and people were rarely on the street, what use would the street then serve?  Would you teleport in to your home or would you go to your local teleportation stand?  Would teleportation be something in every home or would their be a hub in every neighborhood?  Would we want to keep to conventions where you still knock on a front door so you get delivered to the neighborhood hub and walk?  Would we only have small units for home goods and larger units would be shared or centralized?

I know this seems perhaps a bit out there, but I have been somewhat involved in various future planning projects and it’s something that is often on my mind.  When we look forward to 2050 lets say, we think to ourselves, “Oh, how different life was 40 years ago in ways we could not imagine, so just think how much different it will be 40 years from now!”.  Except that it’s significant to note that the rate of change has been increasing, so in all honesty when you want to look forward 40 years, you should really be looking back 80 years for a more realistic comparison to the rate of change.  What was life like 80 years ago?  How different it was!  Can you stop to even try to get your mind around how different it might be?  And the reality is, the changes to come will absolutely have impacts on the way that we live and the places that we live in, in ways that are almost impossible to imagine.

Sometimes it’s fun just to think about it.

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  1. I’d hang out on the streets more and host big block parties. We still need our communal spaces and kids even if they had the ability to teleport would never give up the chance to run as fast as they could down a street. Something about the open road is still very appealing. And without traffic kids and people would take over the streets for fairs and play.

    Here’s a play street that was organized in my neighborhood:

  2. I think streets would still be used, but they could be transformed into something else where what we think of as typical street use would be gone with something new in it’s place. I lean towards integrated parkway myself- so perfect for block parties! The video you show could be an ‘all the time’ condition, not just a temporary one. Imagine if everyone had a park on their doorstep!

    Or there could be new city forms like a return to the streetless ways of Ur.

    Ultimately I think that we would keep the convention of knocking on doors for a long time. And that teleportation for small goods would be more normal ‘in the house’ but for larger items, there might be a local ‘hub’. Not only would this be more efficient, it would also take up less space in a house (and I also believe houses should stay somewhat small).

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