• modern technology (read early XXIst century), modern humans.

  • new virgin planet which needs infrastructure.

  • millions of survivors, but still little by standards of global economy.

Aim: rebuilding the standard of living so that it is almost comparable to the first world countries of the early XXIst century (the point is not discuss feasibility... tried that and faced too few hard facts and too many of contradicting opinions). The point is how to cut corners, how to achieve almost the same standard, but in many areas to just try desperately to slash cost through mass production, even if it would mean producing "one size fits all" products. I need a flavour that would show that even though some parts of civilization are rebuilt and vibrant, when one looks carefully there are clear signs, that this is not XXIst century earth, this is a planet built after the apocalypse and a high price had to be paid to make it work.

So ideas:

  1. Cluster computers instead of supercomputers - there is a need for personal computers, but not enough market for big ones - thus only small ones are produced and just in case bundled together.

  2. Desperate use of the same type of containers - all pills are being put in the same kind of box (just different labels), there are a few standardized jars and all kind of food products from different producers go in the standard box.

  3. Using narrow rail gauge - its cheaper and less population means that there would be no demand for anything bigger.

  4. If there is already produced piston engine for cars, just use the same engine (maybe with turbo charger) for aircrafts. For practical purposes it means slower aircrafts.

  5. Battery cells with surprisingly similar shape to rifle ammo. Yes, the same production line was used...

  6. Incubator made out of car parts (actually this was created in real life)

  7. A few types of vehicle chassis, engine (or the same type, of engine just scaled up) used for absolutely different types of cars.

Any other ideas?

EDIT: I assume that general knowledge about technology is preserved (still lives a generation which remembered the past world, there are still abundant working examples of prior technology, just here and there there is no knowledge about detailed technological process and problems to use economics of scale.

  • $\begingroup$ How much of our current knowledge is maintained among the surviving population and how is it recorded for prosperity? Not having to rediscover what is possible will streamline the development greatly. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2016 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ This is what bothers me: "almost the same standard". Where do you draw the line? How do we know that an idea is not good enough? $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    Sep 2, 2016 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ Are there fossil fuels in this new virgin planet? $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    Sep 2, 2016 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ What costs are we trying to cut?? Minimize the number of workers need to establish a standard of living, or something else? $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2016 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ btw all of the super commuters today are actually networked clusters of commodity hardware $\endgroup$ Sep 2, 2016 at 22:47

6 Answers 6


The "Cheap Planet Project"


  • Use standard solutions if possible
  • Remove costs with marginal loss of quality
  • Make reusable products
  • Durable solutions, environment friendly if possible


  • If we need any mineral, it can be mined with availability similar to that of Earth
  • There is enough time to set up traditional production lines
  • No knowledge lost
  • Any known machine can be built - or we just pretend we took it from Earth
  • Land needs to be distributed to the population
  • Economy is a continuation of that of Earth, the concepts of money and value remains. A new currency is created.

List of proposals:

  1. The urbanization efforts shouldn’t provide standard full houses, don’t provide high density housing either. Both are expensive and there is limited demand for highly packed housing. Instead give "half houses". That is, houses with the bare minimum components, but with a solid frame to expand.

    Ideas for building materials:

    • Adobe
    • Cargo intermodal containers
    • Back to stone and concrete

    Addendum: use ceramic pipes.

  2. Create an organized grid for buildings, with standard signaling. And make those signs machine-readable (RF?). There is no GPS - there are no satellites -, so automatic navigation will have to come from local networking (vehicle to vehicle connections) and sign reading. Make all vehicles self-driving, driving is banned from the get-go.

  3. Interlace building blocks with green areas (parks) and alternative car ways with pedestrian/bicycle ways. So each other block is a park, and each other street is a pedestrian way. Note: park maintenance should serve a employment source.

  4. Architecture for non-residential buildings must be efficient first, practical second, beautiful last. Go away from the idea of large glass panels in the outside. Favor natural ventilation, large hallways, and internal open - maybe green - areas. Use tick external walls to resist the weather and absorb temperature changes.

  5. Incentivize people to use the green space of their houses to plant fruit trees or some other form of produce. Assist people to build green houses or hydroponics if needed. Also enact mandatory composting - which they can use for fertilizer or sell. This gives people a virtually free source of food (their backyard) and income (if they have surplus). This is needed since there is no large food infrastructure, let alone nonperishable food.

  6. Do not mass produce things that people may build by demand. Instead provide workshop spaces, training and free blueprints for furniture, common tools, etc... this means that time, material and space won't be wasted on stock that nobody buys - people would still pay for the materials. Blueprints should be created to minimize materials, and have comprehensive build instructions. For inspiration: the 50-cents microscope.

  7. Promote neighbor markets. Provide the space and infrastructure for a local market run by the local people (no big brands). These should serve as a platform to exchange, buy or sell home-made products.

  8. Use nuclear power for energy supply. There are already technologies in development handle what we currently consider nuclear waste. Aside from such waste, nuclear power is safe and clean.

  9. You may add reliability to the electricity network by using communal molten salt batteries - done well, it should allow for a wider use of green energy sources that don't produce constant energy output (solar, wind, etc...). Even if you use nuclear power - which I think you should - the batteries add resilience to the infrastructure.

  10. Enact mandatory trash classification. That would go hand-in-hand with mandatory composting. And have the government provide recycling infrastructure.

  11. Create a regulated forestry industry, one that ensures the health of the soil and that the amount of chopped trees is lesser than the amount of trees grown. It would take years to be commercially viable, but it will be worthwhile.

  12. Add new regulation for industry creation that requires the company to demonstrate that their products are recyclable. Any product that goes to market must include instructions for trash classification.

  13. Cooking can be done with electricity. Sure the electric network may not be reliable, but there may not be fossil fuel available in this new virgin planet.

  14. Yes, lots of cheap small computers instead of big powerful ones. Drop precision in hardware sensors - which can be corrected by noise filters in software - to get cheaper hardware. Also lose precision in hardware output (low-res audio and video) for economy.

  15. Similarly, long distance networking can be done cheaper if more transmission erros are allowed, which then translates to slower accurate transmission by using error correction in software.

  16. Make all computing modular, including portable and mobile builds. If a part breaks it should be easily replaceable instead of replacing the whole device.

  17. Electric cars. Because again, are there fossil fuels? And also because Need For Speed was not released on the new virgin planet. I mean, efficiency of the engine is more important than speed.

  18. Air transport: drones for package delivery in city, electric planes for personal travel, dirigibles for mass transport. Otherwise, go by land, land is cheaper.

  19. Assume void all prior copyrights and intellectual property. All commercial and industrial knowledge is public domain.


  1. If not metal, glass and ceramics can do great for durable dishes and utensils. That would not require fosil fuels (plastic), large crops (bioplastic), and will not be possible host of bacteria (wood). Bioplastic are great, but the virgin planet does not have the infrastructure for it. You may also be interested in fungi based packing materials.
  2. Wood based integrated circuit encapsulates. Note: also avoid wired networks. Go full wireless, less materials.
  3. There is a problem of fibres. We need to build mattresses hammocks (less materials) to sleep. We need clothes. And birth control is important (condoms). I have a solution: Spider Silk.

I guess we can save some material on clothing, too. With hammocks and revealed skin, my picture of this world has changed. Pulp sci-fi with bikini girls might have been onto something after all.


An important factor would be to allow for the biggest constant:


You want to create things in a way that allows disassembling them, and modifying them.
This should be true for buildings, roads and all kinds of installation infrastructure, but also for all kinds of machinery.

For buildings that means that all buildings should be set up on a standardized grid and made from standardized components. While this may sound dull, this is not necessarily the case: the only thing that has to be standardized are the connection points. So, a wall has defined dimensions and defined connection points, but everything in between those boundaries is free to be designed any which way.
Obviously that allows for cheap production of elements, and for simple and cost efficient building as well as modifying.

The same platform concept should be applied to vehicles, and where possible to electrical and electronic equipment.

A lot of the diversity we have in modern day life is not necessary: just assume there were two kinds of smartphone on the market: a strong one and a cheap one. Apart from the desire tho have something special (be the envy of your neighbours and whatnot), the loss would be negligible. The only people really suffering would be big companies. And those are not present.

And then, of course, you may want some drastic changes in your economy: decentralize and use additive manufacturing, use renewable materials and energy sources.
Since you are starting from scratch, no existing infrastructure needs to be modified, noones personal interest is harmed when you build something new, so you can just do it.

Again: plan for change, this will make updates and correction of ideas that are not so great in hindsight much easier.


I will assume that there exists a centralized semi-autocratic government which can enforce all these ideas, at the cost few civil liberties, and has sufficient basic resources. The best possible situation is when you see humans as resources to optimize and invest in.

Cities and Buildings

City designs and building designs would be completely different, most building would consist of both residential, retail, entertainment, school/university and work. Most people will work, reside and be capable of living in the same building drastically reducing travel time. All buildings would conserve space, resources and be utilitarian, rather than a status symbol. Even things inside the houses would be utilitarian all costly decorative things would be discouraged. Some devices or objects would communal for maximum efficiency and usage.


Cars/Vehicles would be fully automated, the reason it is hard to make a self driving car is that AI has to compensate for human errors. By enforcing mandatory automated vehicles, you can bypass the problem increasing efficiency and speed. Air Travel would be very limited, a rare luxury, same for Cruises, and any form of recreational vacations. Most transport vehicles/ships used for inter-city trade would be limited to essential raw materials. Any objects which adds to transport would a luxury, this includes but not limited to artisan products, crops/plants/animals which do not get cultivated locally, ornamental objects.


We currently have technology to make 100% safe nuclear reactors with no radiation leakage, which automatically shuts down to avert possible catastrophe, without the stigma associated most of energy will come from nuclear with some renewable. Centralized energy efficiency would lead to automated factories shutting down at evening to accommodate the increase in usage due to people returning homes. Energy intensive systems would work nights and afternoons. Unused public lights, house lights would automatically and if necessary remotely shut down. Refrigerators, ACs, heater would be forced to run at limited near optimal range of temperatures.


Computers will always be connected to decentralized system which will be used to spy, delegate excess computational capabilities, information from people will be used help them psychological and used to assign optimal jobs. Blockchain and other better technology will be used to optimize all possible resources. Centralized education to enforce ideas and culture of conservation.


Standardized components, limited choice, mass producible objects, a system similar to decentralized communism. Having a hobby would become a luxury. Outdoor entertainment would be replaced by online games. Guns, weapons and military would be limited to bare essentials. Religion would be non existent, or be forced to spread the values of optimization and cooperativeness. Spying would allow easy detection crime and fraud. Even forcing only genetically better hand picked in-vitro babies. Democracy and free media would be banned/restricted as it starts propaganda warfare, all jobs/positions would be merit based. There would be a lot cultural changes forced upon people.


Automatic opening doors... but it is actually a person watching on a camera hitting the button. There could be a lot of automation faked by hiring people.

Low res graphics to save power, easier to make screens.

Cash economy again because credit card bookkeeping is maybe actually hard to get going (so I've heard, but can't say for sure).

Electric grid is unreliable so gas lamps are discretely placed everywhere, just in case.


Huge amounts of automation that its somewhat hidden, there may be lots of buildings, cars and factories but none have humans working in them, buildings are 3D printed, cars are self driving and in factories robots do everything.

This happened as in the beginning there wasn't enough people to do those jobs, people itself have mostly one of either two occupations, owners of those robots and automation AI or live on "basic income", which its an income given by the government as now they can't give enough employment to everyone.

Also people have a huge paranoia of ruining the world so there are very strict rules about what can and cannot be done to the ambient.

Due to that a lot of personal liberties have been cut down, not everyone can own a car, communal housing has become commonplace, even the number of childs that a couple can have its severely enforced with huge penalties if you have more or less than what the government says you have to have.

Poverty became a weird status, its not reflected in material things but in the amount of liberty you can get.

Energy have gone to a mix of renewable energies and nuclear fusion (hey its always 20 years ahead due to funding but I bet that if the world were to collapse funding and oil companies getting in the way wouldn't be that much of an issue).

People surveillance become an orwellian fan dream, its way more advanced and deep than where currently is, profiling your browsing habits, social networks, gps and other factors the government can predict with a big certainty what you like, what you want, what you think and if you would commit a crime, they also give you a score, that score its a determining factor to get education and jobs, the higher, the most access you'll get.

If your score falls there are three levels:

1.- At the beginning you will be sent to an AI psychologist to treat you, but medication its still optional.

2.- You will be forced to be medicated.

3.- You will be detained and sent to a reeducation camp

  • No coins, just credits. All people use chips which can store only a limited amount of credits, but can be recharged in the bank.

The bank receives credits generated by the evaluation of work of individuals, to distribute back to the individuals. All products have universal price dependant on the evaluation of work that the individuals invested.

This makes prices stable and prevents inflation. The credits used to purchase products get to the company that made them. if individuals make products independently they receive credits for selling the products, not for making them.

This system is not hard to keep operational. (This system could also start some side currency that people will exchange for services, so the bank should have some "help tokens" that people can give to other people for services and get a credit reward)

  • Make electronics visuals simple, unless the point of the electronics is to display something in detail. Making simple displays on devices like mobiles reduces the cost and the technological requirements.

  • Don't jump for hydroponics, use the land that you know will turn to building parcels for agriculture, it can reveal many issues with the place before you start building on it.

  • Don't mess with swamps and shallow river beds, they are a source of fertile soil and will come in handy when the population expands. They are also hard to dry and stabilize, so don't try.

  • Use trains for most transportation, they are easier to run and maintain. Use cars only for short distances. Make most cars non private, make them company property, discourages people from doing dumb things and encourages them to work, so they have access to them.

  • make electromobiles for civilians and try to stay away from fossil fuels as much as possible.

  • Make fossil fuels accessible as soon as possible, todays society depends on them, your will too, there is no way around that.

  • Make bio-fuels

  • Plan cities ahead of time, make the cities so they can be modularly expanded.

Surround the industrial areas with living areas and place the industrial areas on the end of the city. red and lime

Place the offices between the living areas. light blue

Place the commerce and entertainment in the centre dark green and violet

Make all the zones dotted with police stations and fire stations hospitals and other administration buildings. dark blue

place the control, labs, colleges and town hall in the centre. orange

the edges of industrial zones will have (brown) train stations and infrstructure that unloads resources and either stores them in the (pink) storage areas or delivers them to the industrial areas directly. the inside (pink) areas can be used for anything really, but having a secondary storage for the sommerce and entertainment zone, along with some more living areas would be the best option.

the black lines are the highways and city traintracks. And don't forget that living areas should have shops with everyday things and small police stations and clinics. city plan


I forgot to add power plant zones, these could be placed in the middle of the industrial zones closest to a dark blue zones, so fire stations are near.

Or in case of nuclear power plants in a location away from the city with a smaller settlement to take care of everyday operations or a city with just a few triangles forming it.

Colonists should try to get nuclear power plants ASAP. They're the best source of energy we now have and can provide power to several cities at once. You can also use them to power large naval vessels.

Provided that all safety procedures are followed and no wars can break out (so no extreme tests with drunk engineer in the lead, like in Chernobyl, can happen) nuclear power is one of the best sources we have.

Most natural sources are not reliable and have many problems. So do not depend on them. Wind turbines are loud and scare animals and their power production depends on the weather. Solar panels work only certain hours or not at all if the weather doesn't like you. And on large scale can prevent the area from staying moist, because the surrounding vegetation must be removed for maximum effectiveness.

Only reliable source is a water dam power plant, but dams can harm the ecosystem of waterlife and make it problematic for boats, but also prevent floods and would provide water to cool the nuclear plants. But are useless during droughts. But are unlike other sources can produce alternating current directly and it's power output can be regulated.

There is also new experimental sea wave power generator which should in theory be stable, you could look into that.

So unless you want to build large batteries for each city which would be terribly expensive (mind you we are talking in human labour not money based on a whim of speculants on a exchange market), don't use solars and wind power on large scale. Each building could have solar panels on roofs and batteries to preserve the generated power, but that would be either a later stage or used in places where the powerlines are yet to be built.

Producing more energy for the rest to use would of course be rewarded.

  • $\begingroup$ So call money credits (makes everything sound more SF) and implement price controls hoping that this time it is different and would not cause usual shortages or overproduction for miss priced items? /// Actually trains are nice, but in RL have huge fixed costs thus require quite high demand on some route. Taking in to account energy efficiency and cost of infrastructure river barges would have their comeback. $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Jun 7, 2018 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ Whole economy in control of one institution with no ability to generate more credits by other means than work. Retailing doesn't work only production generates credits. So if misspricing occurs it can be fixed immediately because there is only one system. Naval and river travel would be the best option, but it is not always available (for example minerals and metals mined in mountainous regions) and unlike boats trains don't have to run on fossil fuels saving a lot on transportation. $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2018 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Noulen You assume that misspricing is a bug and not a feature when prices are no longer determined by market but by political decision. A real life case from my country (Poland) from good, old communist times - price of consumer goods was clearly too low in relation to amount of money in circulation. On the other hand correcting that would cause outrage and mass riots. As the Party figured out adjustment of price of meat (yes, meat was one of more contentious consumer product) towards market equilibrium equivalent required sending army to shoot protesting workers... $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Jun 7, 2018 at 21:00

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