The "Light-Year City" Questions — What would be the governmental implications of a city in the far, far distant future, with an area spanning one square light year (3.456 × 10^25 mi² area)?

This question has been broken up into sub-topics, the other questions related to this idea are listed here:

Technological Implications of a "Light Year City"

Gravitational Implications of a "Light Year City"

Premise: Imagine a city floating in space like a fabric, that is so vast and immense, it spans one square light year in size. For perspective, the Milky Way has a diameter of roughly 10^5 lightyears, so if we plug that into A = pi(d/2)^2, the Milk Way has an area of about 7.8 billion LY^2. So against a galaxy, the area of this city very small. The difference here is that in a galaxy, the matter is pretty spread out, but densely packed in small groups of solar systems. In a "Light-year City", the matter is much more densely focused in one square light year.

Question: How might a city of this proportion need to be governed? Could we envision a super-government to run the whole thing, or would there have to be distributed local governments that can only rule certain areas?

  • $\begingroup$ What is the speed of transportation and/or communication in this city? $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Nov 2 '16 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I think wormholing is valid form of transportation in this city, would need to be to travel across a lightyear in feasible time. So lets say that perhaps the city has the ability to create wormholes for transporting organic and inorganic material. $\endgroup$ – Ian Nov 2 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest looking up how [the Chinese did it][1] (also the Romans) back in the day. After all, they had very large empires, and extremely slow communication, only using horses to carry messages. [1]: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ – bobflux Sep 19 '17 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Why space city would be flat? Since it's space districts should point in different directions, effectively making it a misshapen ball growing and protruding in all directions. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Sep 20 '17 at 12:15

My first thought with this is thanks to the sheer size of it, you would need to section its government into individual areas defined by something, whether it be culture, language, or physical space. You're definitely going to run into issues with communication, as the city's sheer scale would require several types of communication technology just to function. This would also bring up a number of problems in actually governing this society, as the farther the distance is, the harder it is to communicate effectively.

Your Light Year City would need a fast way to transmit information, so let's go with a theoretical example based on the the experiment here. These scientists managed to produce fibers that can theoretically transfer 10 terabytes a second at 29,889,308,062.6 meters/second, based on the paper they wrote.

Thus, it'd take slightly over a year to transfer data through fiber-optic cables based on the speed of light. Thus, we'd probably be best served by using a combination of technologies. For short to medium distances of a few light-seconds [282 miles] to a several thousands or tens of thousands of light-seconds, the fiber optic cables would be . Anything much longer would have longer times You'd want something short-range for personal communication within a few miles, such as radio. Towers would need to be spaced every 400-800 meters, as stated on Wikipedia.

It would probably be best to divide the city into sections, and then into smaller and smaller subdivisions until you reach a minimum size unit, similar to the county system used in the US. These would need local mayors to govern a few counties, and each larger group of areas would need another governor.

They would most likely report to the ruler (or rulers) of the entire city. If you're using modern technology, this would by necessity be a very infrequent event, but if you aren't, then you might be able to use more advanced techniques like quantum entanglement to transmit data faster. One possible way to bypass some of the bureaucracy issues is to let automated systems handle some aspects of governing and law, like cameras that cite people for speeding in whatever vehicles they use or management computers that give orders to workers to direct them to systems needing maintainence.

The last issue I'll handle with this question is transportation. Hovercars and such would help, and magnetic levitation vehicles could move your citizens hundreds of miles reasonably quickly, but as the distances get longer, your transportation would need to go faster. The supersonic passenger jets like the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144 weren't as necessary here on Earth, but fast transport like these would would be invaluable in a city on the scale you propose. Rockets like the SABRE rocket engine would be one way to help get a bit farther, but the city's citizens would require much faster engines to get anywhere within the span of a human lifetime.

Sources: Wikipedia, Extreme Tech, convert-me.com, Quora, and NASA

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Energy consumption 8.1e+34W for that city could be easy achievable

That means population of humans can be easy as 8.1e+30 people.

Current management systems we have have about 6-7 nodes in chain of command, and it looks like it begins to fail, not so efficient as 2-3 nodes.

In you system central government will have at least 15-30 nodes in chain of command, so if you will continue to have central government you have drastically improve all elements who are in charge of power.

Distributed management system looks more viable, although fast transportation you have mention in comment may allow to have central government.

Also structure of the sity is not clear, as an example it we may potentially divide this city in chunks(sub cities) with million of people in each, and create identical environment for citizens(we can because it is artificial city) - we can reduce difficulty of maintenance problem - to maintain/rule only one subcity, and apply result automatically on all other subcities. Kinda GPU approach.

Problem with this - they will not get all potential they may have, they will just exist as 8.1e+24 copies of same thing with slight variations. It will have absolutely no sense to create that structure in first place and it have to be destroyed, and it will be destroyed by any other civilization.

So probably decentralized system is good thing to consider.

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Assuming communications are purely light speed you need both; a large overarching structure to make policy level legislative decisions and dole them out at set intervals, and local governance councils to enforce those edicts as best they can in their local area. The size of the local governance zones will be dictated by the rate of force projection, basically the time it takes from an alarm being sounded to the arrival of first responders if you have light speed communications and relativistic but slower than light transport you'd need to stage troops, either military or civilian emergency personnel, at relatively close intervals across the whole territory want under a single control umbrella and then response times are almost entirely dictated by round trip signal time and thus the speed of light. Depending on acceptable response times you can have control districts as big or as small as necessary but several light minutes across would be fairly reasonable.

If you have instantaneous communications and transport you can run the whole thing centrally but you'll still need to divide it into districts along logistical lines to do with handling incoming data streams and coordinating onsite assets.

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Of course a city with a surface area of one square light year doesn't have to be one light year square. One light year square is 5,878,000,000,000 miles by 5,878,000,000,000 miles. Thus a square light day would be about 16,093,086,000 miles by 16,093,086,000 miles, a square light hour would be about 670,545,200 miles by 670,545,200 miles, a square light minute would be about 11,175,700 miles by 11,175,700 miles, and a square light second would be about 186,200 miles by 186,000 miles.

If the city was built in 365 layers each a mile apart, it would be 365 miles tall and 16,093,086,000 miles by 16,093,086,000 miles.

If the city was built in 8,766 layers each a mile apart, it would be 8,766 miles tall and 670,545,200 miles by 670,545,200 miles.

If the city was built in 525,960 layers each a mile apart, it would be 525,960 miles tall and 11,175,700 miles by 11,175,700 miles.

If the city was built in 31,557,600 layers each a mile apart, it would be 31,557,600 miles tall and 186,200 miles by 186,200 miles.

Suppose that all the buildings in the city are the same, relatively low, height, the better to somehow support the different layers.

If the layers are each 1,000 feet apart, the city could have 525,960 layers and be 99,613.615 miles tall and 11,175,700 miles by 11,175,700 miles.

If the layers are each 100 feet apart, the city could have 525,960 layers and be 9,961.3142 miles tall and 11,175,700 miles by 11,175,700 miles.

If the layers are each 100 feet apart, the city could have 31,557,600 layers and be 597,678.85 miles tall and 186,200 miles by 186,200 miles.

If the layers are each 10 feet apart - a single story - the city could have 525,960 layers and be 996.13636 miles tall and 11,175,700 miles by 11,175,700 miles.

If the layers are each 10 feet apart - a single story - the city could have 31,557,600 layers and be 59,798.863 miles tall and 186,200 miles by 186,200 miles.

Clearly the problem of communicating within such an impossible to construct city will be lessened by building it in many layers.

Note that the United States of America does not have three levels of government. It has four levels of government: Federal, State, County, and Municipal.

In the early Roman Empire there were four levels: the lowest levels were Pagi (plural of Pagus) country administrative districts within civitates or self governing city states, Governors supervised the city states in their provinces and the Emperor supervised everyone. In the later Roman empire there were six levels of government: Pagi, civitates, provinces, (secular) dioceses under Vicars, four prefectures under praetorian prefects, and the Empire under the emperor or emperors.

If a city has a surface are of one square light year or about 3.4550884 X 10 to the 25th power square miles it will need many layers of government. For example, if the smallest government units cover one square mile each, and each higher layer rules ten smaller areas, then there will be 25 levels of government. If each government unit rules one hundred units on the next level below it there will be about 12 levels of government, and so on.

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  • $\begingroup$ What does levels of government have to do with it? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 11 '16 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz more levels, less efficient and flexible it is, and more likely it may fail. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Nov 11 '16 at 18:44

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