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The infinite possibilities of Metropolis 3000 and the importance of harvesting ‘sunfall’

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Ian Martin converts smartphones into a trope scanners

MONDAY. Spending a few days with my old mate Beansy the nanofuturologist. He’s invited me to the twinkling thought-laboratory he calls his ‘lair’ – essentially a housing association flat in Wandsworth with cables everywhere. 

It’s good to be friends again. We had a falling-out over the marketing of ‘hard air’, the technique we invented using ‘lumpening hydrates’ etc. to convert ordinary air into a flexible yet robust construction material.

In retrospect it was a mistake to sell the manufacturing licence to a major materials consortium. They acquired the rights simply to stop anyone else developing hard air.

Of course. They know it will revolutionise the design and construction industries and they’re perfectly happy making a fortune the old, conservative way.

Still, only another two years and all hard air rights revert to us. ‘We’ll be laughing, man. Laughing like pissed hyenas…’ He takes a massive toke of helium and does his pissed hyena impression. It’s pretty good.

Yeah, I caution, we’ll be fine unless the squares and breadheads have hacked the lumpening hydrates code and cloned our hard air formula. Beansy looks extravagantly sceptical. ‘The global construction industry is regulated by strict ethical codes. Intellectual copyright is inviolable. Don’t you READ the magazines? Everyone’s cool these days. Moral imperative. Responsible design. Chill…’ We both take a hit of helium and laugh, highly. 

TUESDAY. In the morning, Beansy psycho-engineers a ‘beta batch’ of smart opiates. After lunch, in the interests
of science, we ingest half a batch each and wait.

In the evening we design Metropolis 3000, a post-Material Age city in which buildings, telecommunications, biological reproduction, coffee shops and transport have been superseded by an omni-neural network, personal ionised overmantles and much faster wi-fi.

It looks AMAZING. A bit sketchy, but that’s how the future’s supposed to look. The vivid colours of our sky are based on a combination of guessed atmospheric changes over a millennium and the liberating effect of a full-spectrum colourwheel.

The built environment of Metropolis 3000 has a similarly casual theme: enigmatic architectural squigglings in crayon.  They suggest volume without form, and mass without shape. God, is that the time?

WEDNESDAY. Ha ha! Beansy sent Metropolis 3000 off to a certain high-profile client looking for a ‘contemporary pavilion of the arts’ and they bloody LOVE it.

THURSDAY. We have invented a social auditing algorithm app for today’s on-trend designer of epic urban space.

Algopops™ converts any smartphone into a trope scanner, harvesting cultural data about who wants what, where, and at what level of conspicuous private ownership. We take the beta model out to test it in the ‘field’, or ‘pub’. A cursory social audit yields the following trope data:

• People in the pub like being there but wouldn’t mind
if the TV was switched over from Sky News occasionally.

• Sense of community greatly valued, as long as it’s not clustered around the bar.

• Wandsworth OK but could do with being
10 times bigger so people could afford to live
there and/or find somewhere to park.

• Tenfold Wandsworth should be contextualised within a Tenfold London; retain rest of country
as organic farm with pop-up reservoirs.

• People uncomfortable with ads covering every surface but fine with the occasional Nando’s flyer.

We text the results to a thinktank and let Radio 4’s Today know that we’re up for an interview.

FRIDAY. Beansy’s decided the best way to make his mark in a world full of ambitious nanofuturologists is to be a contrarian.

With that in mind he aims to provoke a major schism in the worldwide hot weather communion. While everyone else clamours for increased ‘albedo’ or solar reflectivity to combat the heat island effect, Beansy will now campaign for the opposite, ‘nigredo’.

Beansy’s argument runs as follows: ‘The wind blows, apples and kindling fall. Do we let windfall go to waste? No. Likewise with sunfall. Instead of reflecting stuff back into space we should harvest it and turn it into whatever, heat and radiation. Maybe big storage heaters and improve my mobile signal for a start…’

In a way, he’s at his most incisive when he’s vague and tiddly.

SATURDAY. Can’t get Johnny Cash singing The Streets of Albedo out of my head.

SUNDAY. Retire to the recliner, where I achieve volume without form, and mass without shape.

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