Hyper-Optimizing Housing Markets

I had a weird science fiction idea today about the future of work and how people might possibly engage with the economy in the future. The common trope in sci-fi is that you have a future where the economy essentially is automated away into nothing and the world requires some form of UBI.

We can instead make a contrarian prediction which might make for a better story to tell. Instead of people undergoing a transitionary phase where capital needs fewer workers, what if after the transition there was the requirement for even more workers due to some hyper-optimization process. This has probably already been done before by some obscure science fiction writer that I’ve never read. I would love to hear about any fictional pieces with this premise.

If we set a stage where some quirk in the future causes capital to begin requiring the use of more workers than ever before we can engage in some alluring world-building. In particular, we can imagine a society that is structured to minimize all downtime within the housing market of that society much like factories are structured today but with everything.

Imagine a county where the need for workers is so great that it causes the worker density within a given area to be optimized in order to meet the demand. We can have all this countries housing market structured in a modular scheduling cycle of sleeping/working in relation to various types of spaces.

At many US companies now there are generally three shifts, first, second, and third shift. This is structured so that they have a full working cycle and allows for an always-on style of organizing an industrial process.

What happens when they attempt to optimize various things outside of this narrow realm of industrial processes? Currently, there is a huge underuse of various resources in our society more often than not. Private property essentially means that any given property can have as many underutilized cycles as the owner desires.

Put less abstractly, churches often sit empty over 70% of the week, summer houses sit empty 80% of the year, the street outside of my house is so underused at night I could take a nap in it.

These resources are underutilized and in a fictional society involving an ultra-planned economic governance device, this kind of under-optimization might be considered criminal.

It is harder to conceive of this with objects like guitars or other smaller property that would have a much more complex scheduling process. For space in general within a hypothetical country with high density and low spatial resources, we can see this kind of housing scheduling experiment implemented.

The normalization of this happens via pods or other things people commonly joke about online but instead it would evolve further past that to encompass all space within a given region.

The maximization of space allocation at any given moment is done by an elaborate scheduling system. One way this could be designed would be having houses that operate like intra-day timeshares.

People would rent houses for only a specific subsection of a day for affordability. They would work on a different rotational schedule than their flatmates and thus would only be in there while the others were out a separate shift.

The world outside sits empty every single night, and the world inside houses sits empty for most of the working day. After the houses were partitioned in this way, soon everything in the society would become partitioned like public roads and sidewalks.

The fractional nature of sharing within public and private resources would obviously have horrible implications for things like privacy. All this would be done in the name of conserving resources in a sharing economy.

Within this sharing economy, we can imagine them taking this even further instead of discrete rentals they could have ephemeral housing fog. Property stops being a concept entirely except for the upper class.

We can think of this as a process scheduler. They have a scheduler for every single house or space that can be allocated within the spatial confines of a given area. Roughly speaking the user pays a monthly fee cheaper than rent and are given a set of allocations.

These space allocations spin up and schedule you a slot either on a specific schedule or on the fly for an extra fee. You could even pay for housing by the hour if you slept more or less.

Everyone ceases to live somewhere but instead lives everywhere. It would have a constantly shifting zone through which people live and through which they engage in the economy as a series of fast shifting reallocations. Each of these will be spun or down by the hour as though they were VPS slices.

Every night is an eternally changing round-robin optimization process for the various slots. Airbnb but for everything all the time, constantly staying in a new place, never sleeping or being in the same housing situation twice.

One day everyone is paying more and the next the users might pay less depending on taste or allocation rates for housing as they manifest through the market. The housing/leisure cloud could self-allocate based on different market rates and bids going through the system.

Nobody would ever be anywhere ever again in this kind of sci-fi world. They would be seen as units of closured individuality that are separate from their living area.

The gig economy but for spatial relations building out from the future of clustered Being.

The way we treat the idea of buying or owning a house now in this world would be something that is really only done by the upper class or those who were grandfathered into properties.

Renting as a whole is treated as we currently treat buying a property now. Renting a place on a consecutive night ‘lease’ slowly becomes something that is really not obtainable in the same way.

People only exist through this kind of allocative process, hoping to obtain the upper-class notion of stable housing. In this sci-fi world, people won’t even consider that it has ever been different than this. It will be taken as a given that this is just how it is going to be from now on.

The lower class in this kind of world will be those who are too poor to afford comparatively expensive spatial allocations each night. They buy and rent allocations of public space in large squares on the ground.

The underclass have to pay for the privilege to be homeless on their square each night. These squares are then rented out by the hour based on various shifts, amenities for each square cost extra. Being on the street without paying is illegal, as it is theft of another person’s square.

“You can sleep close to work” the advertisements for nightly squares read.