Sweet! My D&D game is gonna kick ass now.
Or you could use slime molds.
That is really cool. I don’t want to be an inhabitant of the city where the nano-bot swarm is unleashed to build a new rail network though given the initial “fine mesh network phase”…
Makes me think that some sort of simulation would be useful. Define the terrain, the natural resources, in which directions the most useful traderoutes are (and when they appear). Random disasters–plague; raids, revolts, famine, earthquakes, fire. Run it for a couple hundred iterations-- poof. Instant cruft!
You can think of cities and urban planning as similar to making a computer program. It’s a lot easier to plan a city/software if you don’t have an existing city to worry about.
DC was a completely new city, with nothing but swamp on the existing site. Easy to plan.
Paris had a charismatic, popular leader who could order massive parts of the city razed to build anew. Again, easy to plan.
Christopher Wren, looking at the burned-out husk of London after the Great Fire in 1666 said “great, I can remake the city in a sensible organized way… except I have to respect existing property boundaries, shit”. Not so easy to plan. He did the best he could, given the limitations he had to work with.
You can see the difference between “easy to plan” and “already there, not easy to plan” by looking at Manhattan today. Manhattan is famous for its regular grid of numbered streets and avenues, and also for the tangled mess of named streets in lower Manhattan. When city planning came to Manhattan, lower Manhattan had been settled in several villages (East Village, Greenwich Village, etc) for close to 200 years, while most of the island was still empty or farmland. The settled parts had streets which evolved from when they were founded, with names. The unsettled parts got a grid with numbered streets and avenues.
Another issue relating to how cities street plan evolves is that it is not uncommon for metropolitan areas to consist of more than one town or city that grew into each other. Boston and London is a perfect example of this. Driving from one end of “Boston” or London to the other can easily take you across several constituent town/cities. Sometimes the only indication that you have of being in a different city is when your GPS unit tells you “Continue Straight onto [new street name]” (and in Boston, it’s likely that the street isn’t labeled anyway). Sometimes, like in Charlotte, NC, the bigger city legally absorbs the smaller town it’s growing into, without changing the street names (Charlotte supposedly has more than one intersection of Queens Street and Queens Street, for example).
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