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Why an Eco Smart City?

We see all around us people and organisations attempting to do good work and failing to make a real difference.  We see people like Bill Gates spend many millions of dollars on good causes, we see charities spend billions on good works, yet the world and its core difficulties improve little. 

We have clearly now ‘engineered’ a catastrophic change to our environment; our air, water and many ecological processes are suffering and they will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future.   Our children can see that their inheritance is unlikely to be anything other than very difficult.  And yet, still, we cannot see the wood from the trees, and fail to see a way forward for the majority.  This seems to be our unique human predicament – the ability to change our environment but without the restraints that nature normally imposes on such changes.  This is derived from our individual and competitive way of thinking and socialising.  CST has considered this at length, see ‘The Human Contradiction’.

What can we learn from over 3.5 billion years of natural ecological structures?   Life itself is based upon a very few simple constructs that lead to many different complex life structures.  Just four digital bases (CTGA within DNA) lead to just 20 (or so) amino acids.  These produce the building blocks of ALL life systems.  From this simple digital base systems we can see that massive,  breathtaking complexity is achieved.

Life has achieved this by trial and error.  If it works then nature keeps it, if it does not then it dies out.  Simple, yet we can see all around us that this system is profoundly effective.  The full ecological system also learns to manage itself in a virtuous cycle of regeneration.   Excesses are curbed, waste is recycled, environmental conditions are tempered to provide just the right conditions for future generations.  Of course, life has not always managed to curb the massive changes from particular physical interventions such as large meteorites and volcanoes, but it has always managed to come back fighting and quickly increased diversity.   It will do exactly the same again, with or without our help and solve life’s continuing existence in good health, but probably without humans.

An Ecologically Based Infrastructure

Why not apply some of this thinking to help us solve our human predicament.  CST believes that most ‘good ideas’ and interventions fail because they do not take account of the detailed integration necessary in the wider ecological system that they are attempting to influence.

Humans are not particularly good at planning.  We are fairly good at one-off projects, like going to the moon, building massive companies and creating large structures.  But we seem to find creating joined up processes in many different environments simultaneously difficult.   Our base social systems and structures are not aligned to achieving this.  Even our basic governance and parliamentary systems do not work well for this type of joined up thinking.

Nature, seems to do this seamlessly, and without any thought processes.  CST is determined to show how humans can use the ‘thinking’ from natural ecological systems and apply them to the creation of a significantly better overall system for us to live within. 

Our Life Support  System - We are the Parasites

Consider our place within the structure of a city. First we have the basic infrastructure, then the business and social organisation layer, next a layer of communications and we reside at the top using, depleting and often corrupting these systems below.  Without us at the top these system would probably work much better, but of course what would be the point? (The robots may not agree).

Most of the base systems have simply grown up due to local and finite needs.  The idea of the ‘Smart City’ is to define a better integrated infrastructure using modern systems and communications.  This is certainly a good starting point for thinking about an overall ecologically based city-wide ‘life support system’.  CST goes much further with this thinking.  Next we are going to consider the relevance and potential learning points from life systems and ecological processes.

Complex life forms

Mammals and many other animals have evolved to provide resilience to environmental changes and from attacks by many sources.  We see that they provide this resilience by having multiple pathways and limiting failure points.  We have two communication systems (blood and nerve), two transport systems (blood and lymphatic), we have two kidneys, our liver can regenerate, our immune system learns, we have a blood brain barrier to prevent invasion and we have flight and flight instinctive responses to physical threats.  More importantly, all these separate systems co-ordinate and work together seamlessly.

Pretty good for a non thought-through system.  Ok, it took 3.8 Billion years, but hey, we can plan ahead too!  Surely we can create our city based life support system with at least some of these advantages.  Let’s try to map some of these underlying processes to our perfect city.

Core structure

Secondary structures

The above is just for fun.  But we can see that any such mapping provides ideas for how we could build a complex, interacting life support system, a new integrated city system

Planning our interacting eco city

Starting with a clean sheet, it is fairly easy to gain the basic idea for our new city.   Firstly we have all the elements of the standard Smart City – where all energy systems and basic infrastructure communicates, integrates and distributes power, heat, water, hydrogen, linked to multi-modal transport and distributed energy sources.  These all interact to give seamless opportunities for every individual based on their needs.

Secondly, the basic infrastructure is organise to maximise access and renewal.   Thirdly, the main distribution pipes/systems are laid out to enable comprehensive solutions for new and emerging processes such as fluidised waste systems.  This may be a potential technology to provide for all household and factory waste where the waste is finely minced on site, fluidised and piped to recycling centres.  This removes the need to use above ground transport systems to do this awkward, time-consuming, noisy job.

We must build to allow for technologies such as underground and air based transport.  Hyperloop is not tested, yet the basic technologies are well understood.  It is likely that some form of evacuated tube system using magnetic levitation and propulsion will become mainstream in future.

One city level and, or city area, is required for food production.  This is now a fully tested and working solution using high rise hydroponic automated processes.  Linked to the communication, transport, accounting city-wide processes this provides a good solution for much food production for the whole city community.

So we build our infrastructure in levels.  These future-proof our ideas and provide for advancing technologies.  How many levels? Lets say five, this provides additional unused levels for future use.

The automation and integration of individual travel, access to commodities, housing, jobs, etc is provided by the smart city integration and communication systems.  This includes a digital money system along with integrated secure data processing.

Work and Resources

In western societies, the future business, social institutions, clubs and societies will be more closely integrated.  This is likely to happen as automated and robotic processes replace many current workplace jobs. 

Our integrated city will be designed to help this directly.  This is probably the most important aspect of our new ecologically based system.  Currently, business is a necessary way for people to do something to earn money to purchase their ‘life support’.  In future this equation will break down - as not enough full time jobs will be available. 

This, in itself this is not a problem - Provided the life support systems can be maintained long-term, there is no necessity for people to work as they do now.  Think about this statement, why would we need jobs if they are not required for our life support? But people need to 'achieve', and many do this already outside their professions and daily work.

Our integrated, ecological city will provide business and social structures to create a seamless process for achieving the central life support for everyone.  Let’s consider some ideas from nature: The blood transport system could be equated to the cash-flow that businesses, clubs, charities, societies can all be plugged into - a 'money flow' system.  Such a system could use technologies such as central data with automated accounting processes, blockchain, internet based communication and open reporting. (see, http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/innovation.html).

These systems will be for everyone.  Automating the accounting and banking allows lock-down of the money in circulation.  Effectively providing a closed loop system.  Our new city could use its own digital money to enable this and allow an exchange to other money in a controlled way.  This would provide for the long-term stability of our city-wide life support. 

The key issue is full access for everyone.  If we have a closed loop system, or close to it, then the system itself can regulate itself – just as the body does – if the heat goes up, or external strains are placed on the city then more work is required to keep the system in equilibrium, then the value of ‘required jobs’ can be automatically increased to ensure that they get done.  In real terms this means that people will choose when to add their direct input depending on their needs and the payment offered.  Some may choose to do very little, some a lot more.   The load on say transport systems can be similarly achieved.  Even today we travel off peak to save costs, and this makes better use of available resources. 


Our city-wide solution is turning quickly into some sort of utopian society.  So, what we must also build-in is the ability for each individual to manage their lives as they wish and to make their own choices of what they do, what they earn and what they spend.  If we allow the autocrats to design this life support they will wish to prevent much of the excesses of human nature.  But, all we are concerned with is the long-term viability of the life support processes.  Nature achieves this very well in the main.  If individuals behave badly, the life support will make life less nice for them.  If they require a lot more access to say medical resources, then (unless they have a disability or known issue), they will end up spending more of their digital money on this.  Ultimately people have the choice of how to behave.

The innovation process for businesses allows for everyone to either help fund ventures or get involved in ventures, or start-up a venture themselves.  CST has already mapped out how this would work. (see http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/innovation.html).  But in essence it is a closed loop investing, accounting, funding, banking, open data driven process based on a new type of organisational structure.  It makes even more sense when aligned within our city-wide life support.

This whole new innovation infrastructure may be used for any type of organisation (educational, production, research, charity, society, club, sport club, music venue).   This means everyone has an equal choice and chance to get involved with any area that they are interested in, knowing that the open reporting and new structure allows for equal involvement and security.

Does it make sense?

To run our eco city, we need power, water, food, waste re-cycling, factory production of goods, replacement parts and for repair and replacement & ongoing building and maintenance processes.  A big part of all of these processes will be automated.  The design is clearly crucial, it must provide for ongoing change and easy maintenance.  This could be modelled to define the issues and potential flaws in any design.  Sub-systems could be built and tested in real environments (eg new automated fluidised waste systems). 

Power should be relatively straight-forward, we already have effective solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cell and battery storage technologies.  The city must be built with excess energy availability, with solar being probably the main energy provision, backed up by long-term hydrogen production and storage with local and transport battery storage acting as a shorter-term energy capacitance.  With solar built into every building, and transport structure above ground with external solar farms if required, the sustainable energy problem is likely to be solved.  Modelling this to prove the case should be easy.

With excess, cheap energy, the other energy intensive processes (food, transport, waste, production) will be both possible and cheap.  Provided we can build significant automation, tending towards full automation, then the overall ongoing costs are reduced to repair and maintenance.  And, if these processes can be mostly automated, then we have a very efficient integrated eco city that self renews.    Some of the processes have already been significantly automated.  Transport is heading that way, high rise food production is easy to automate, waste systems can be built with full automation in mind.   With the city built on a design that each sub system can be ‘unplugged’ and changed and the old sub-system repaired or re-cycled, ongoing maintenance and repair will be efficient.

The total external waste of the city will be zero.  Everything will be re-cycled.  Water will be mainly recycled but a water source is required from a local river or reservoir.  Building and production material will be required, but these will be limited once the city is built and re-cycling everything.

Where are the sticking points? 

Clearly massive up front design, testing and build costs.  The unknown human interaction and re-action to living in such an ‘organised’ place.   

Perhaps an internationally funded trial city could be built (google has plans to build a smart city), with the design and testing shared by the whole world.  The results would be fascinating.  Perhaps then several small cities could be built in different cultures to see if they work at the macro level.  Maybe each one will try different integration priorities at the individual level, these may provide an improved model for future eco cities.

Emerging Tech to help

We already mentioned many technologies, here are a few more that may help:



...CST Ideas for New Fairer Social and Business Structures, See:

Integrated Innovation
What’s the next big thing
Building new homes
A new type of organisation



Thank You,


Ecologically Based, Structured, Smart City

July 2019

Humans struggle, still. This is a little odd considering our advances especially during the last 50 years.

CST has ideas for a future Smart City to provide for the changing world of work and social integration along with a renewable, efficient life support for everyone. We borrow insight from the natural world to help create the ideas for our ecology based solution.

CST provides the global plan to make this happen....