Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Solar CITIES "Sustainable Development Simulator"

What is the Sustainable Development Simulator (TM)?

Most 3D games could be described as "fight or flight" simulators. They operate at the limbic level, galvanizing our reptilian brains into action. It is fun, yes, but... primitive. And certainly not all that useful at a time when the world is becoming more and more like the dystopian scenarios depicted in such games.
But what if we could use the traditional "Flight Simulator" technology base, which is successfully used to train pilots and astronauts, operators of dangerous heavy machinery and even operators of nuclear power plants and brain and heart surgeons, and mux it up with "the traditional arts of hands-on vocational instruction meets environmental technologies for third world development"?

Enter the Solar CITIES "Sustainable Development Simulator".

This application of computer modelling and game physics engines, now in development, will allow practitioners and stakeholders, development experts, urban planners, architects, plumbers, carpenters, garbage pickers, masons and bricklayers, mothers and children - in short just about anybody - to safely play around with hammers and screwdrivers and drills and saws, copper , steel and polypropylene pipes and pipe cutters, welding machines and welding rods, HDPE water tanks, sheets of glass, rivets and nuts and bolts, kitchen sinks and Insinkerator food waste grinders, sump pumps and macerating toilet pumps, slow sand filters and even the sand and water that flows within them -- to mock up everything they need to know and do in the real world so they can solve their greatest challenges in sustainable, low cost, water, waste, food and energy provsion.

The Solar CITIES Sustainable Development Simulator will allow the user to not just learn how to build their own appropriate technology for development, but will allow players to quickly mock up their very own house and community, georeferenced in the world and subject to the real environmental parameters they face on a daily and seasonal level so they can place and test out their home and community scale development devices in accelerated real-time. Stakeholders playing the game can change the time of day and time of year to see how sun and wind and weather are likely to affect their area and the infrastructure they may want to build in the real world. They can use the "Havoc Physics" simulation capability of the game engine to climb up on their neighbor's roofs and throw stones at their own solar panels to see if the placement is safe, or if they have provided sufficient protection for the units. They can build another story on their neighbors roof to see if the other families plans to expand their building vertically will affect their own solar access. They can fill the biogas system with food and "leave for the week" and see how much gas is likely to accumulate and whether it would pose a problem. They can build a windmill generator out of rewound old washing machine motors and blades made of cut sewer pipes, the way our Palestinian Colleagues at Brothers Engineering do, and then test them on their virtual roofs to see if they are worth investing in out in the outside world.

In short, the Solar CITIES Sustainable Development Simulator is evolving to be a data-driven flight simulator for the dreams of the developing world to take flight. In concept it is intended to be a way for everybody to get meaningful vocational training in a safe and easy way -- through a game -- that can bring women and children as well as non-professionals closer and closer, with every completed level, to being real-life capable of the kind of craftsmanship necessary for self-sufficiency. For seasoned professionals who work with tools all the time, the simulator will enable them to apply their skills directly to appropriate technology construction. And for gamers the platform will encourage a whole new kind of alternate reality game -- players who have mastered the skills in the game can go out into the real world and start helping others, for real!

The game will, of course, be fun. That is the sin qua non of mammalian learning. We learn through play. And players of this kind of "development flight simulator" will be able to engage their "fight or flight" simulation skills too (for the whole brain is not just the neocortex and paleocortex, but the limbic system too -- all must be honored in a good game) -- players will be able to use prefabbed levels or create their own scenarios, pitting themselves against all sorts of realistic obstacles and AI and NPC interventions. For example, in our Solar CITIES ARG "Getting Into Hot Water", in the Cairo, Egypt level, members of the Zabaleen Garbage Recycling Community in the game confront the same problems they are facing in real life with state security forces inciting violence and destroying buildings and infrastructure as the battle for who controls the city's valuable waste stream goes on (The Mubarak regime was trying to bring multi-national garbage companies in to mine the wealth and shut the small entrepreunerial Zabaleen groups out of the equation. Sectarian violence, pitting Christians against Muslims, has been used by the regime to oppress the decentralized informal trash recyclers; these nuances will be built into that module of the game, for example).

The Solar CITIES Sustainable Development Simulator can be seen as a sort of post-modern hybrid of EA Games' "SimCity Socieites" and "The Sims 3" blended with elements of Bethesda Softworks' Oblivion and Fallout 3 and Valve's "Portal and Half-Life 2" so it will have a familiar feel to it. And it responds to the clarion call of Jane McGonigal and Will Wright for socially and environmentally responsible and instructive games. It will be open-source and available to the modding community, and is being created in Blender and Unity 3D. We envision it being ported to hand-held devices as a facebook app and other device-based applications, so that players can engage with the real world as they play -- working in slums and villages and updating the data base with real information about local infrastructure and environmental challenges as they play. In this way the game will also be an interactive tool for researchers and activists to get information from the field to institutions and individuals who can best intervene to help with needed poverty reduction plans.

But most of all, the Sustainable Development Simulator will make it possible for collective intelligence to operate through crowd sourced solution sets. The more that players and modders and practioners and citizens converge on ideas that work in-game, the more they can be tested in the outside world until real tangible transformative action has been achieved.

It is a hands-on game in a virtual world that will affect the real world for real...

What we need now is your hands and hearts and minds.
To develop this ARG we need lots of people to pitch in -- programmers, coders, designers, modellors, animators, musicians, graphic artists, plumbers, builders, artchitects, students, housewives, the homeless ... yeah, everybody.
Get involved -- let's start simulating sustainable development today...
and make it reality tomorrow!


rancho cordova pipe clean out said...

So this simulator is not yet built. Its about to be built depending if anyone answered the call to assists in its development. Since this is going to be built by volunteers, it can be accessed by the public, right?

T.H. Culhane said...

You are correct on both counts, Rancho Cordova! The idea is to have an open source simulator that ultimately works as easily (and is as fun and extant) as World of Warcraft, except it would be World of Development Craft, teaching and allowing handicrafts and craftsmen and craftswomen created technologies.
Chip in some assets if you can!

solar energy melbourne said...

How to evaluate a city whether it's sustainable or not? I hope that I can try to use this simulator for my hometown in China.

Pablo said...

up - is there any recent development on this? I've come to this page because I have the same idea and I was looking for related information.