Google

Instant City: Just Add Water

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Google, reports The New York Times, has

filed for a patent that describes a "water-based data center." The idea is that Google would create mobile data center platforms out at sea by stacking containers filled with servers, storage systems and networking gear on barges or other platforms.

This would let Google push computing centers closer to people in some regions where it's not feasible, cost-effective or as efficient to build a data center on land. In short, Google brings the data closer to you, and then the data arrives at a quicker clip.

Perhaps even more intriguing to some, Google has theorized about powering these ocean data centers with energy gained just from water splashing against the side of the barges.

Maybe it'll happen; maybe it won't. Either way, I enjoyed the reaction it provoked from Geoff Manaugh, waxing futuristic:

I have to assume, then, that we're moving ever closer to true deep-water city-states -- only they won't be libertarian ocean-going homesteads, after all, they'll be distributed networks of supercomputing villages afloat on, and drawing power from, the tides.

Two weeks ago, meanwhile, the NYTimes also looked at the privatization of civic infrastructure -- but perhaps Google's literally offshore experiment in information technology implies a coming world of privatized services at sea.

A fleet of tankers shows up in a nearby port one day… and suddenly your city has telephone services. It's Archigram's instant city all over again, but on the level of specific -- and highly billable -- urban amenities.

The services show up. The network takes over.

Your city will never be the same.

In other news-from-the-future, a company based in Dubai -- of course it would be based in Dubai -- has designed an arcology that Mysterytopia describes as "a giant glass pyramid that could house up to one million people." It's called the Ziggurat, and in the unlikely event (*) that anyone builds one, it

will be self sufficient and carbon neutral with power being supplied by wind turbines.

No cars will be allowed inside the 2.3 square kilometre building, with residents being whisked around by a monorail network which operates both horizontally and vertically.

Security in the city will be provided by biometrics with residents relying on facial recognition to enter their homes.

* How many of those bizarre Dubai buildings are ever actually built? Seems like I see lots of stories about peculiar plans and far fewer about equally peculiar completed construction projects. Future scholars might categorize early-21st-century UAE-based architectural blueprints as a regional subgenre of science fiction.