Man, Mansion, and Motion (II) A Forward History of Homesteading and Horsepowering
The last argument concluded by leaving an open door to the second facet of our topic: the duality of transport/mobility & house/stability. We set up the context of our discussion based on the relationship between action and movement, which has applicability in the analysed duality. We argued how the action axiom is the spine of the above dualism and we performed afterwards a short review of the history of transport from its roots to its forthcoming developments. Having taken care of transport, we will discuss in this article how humans acted with regard to the concept of homesteading.
Home and castle
Before moving further, we should offer up a definition of homesteading to pre-empt appeal to one of the many others in circulation. We will treat homesteading according to its definition from the Oxford Dictionary – Life as a settler on a homestead – and we will consider a homestead to be a household and, in current vernacular, a house.
As bygone times reveal, in the beginning man used caves and other natural structures in order to take shelter. Too much to be called shelters, yet enough to be called home. While the first means of transport were represented by self-locomotion, the first homes were personified by what one could carry or display around oneself. But when prehistoric people got out from caves and started to use sledges in order to transport goods, they also established the first so called hand-built settlements: an example would be tents made from mammoth skin with bones used as props. On the other hand, the true settlements at their most rudimentary lives came with agriculture and the accompanying settling down, which eventually led to building houses from bricks or other forms of processed materials, which lead to longer lasting constructions. As this is not a historical narration, further details are left to the reader to investigate. Stability (represented here by homesteading and homes in general) is exactly another form of action. Man acts first by determining the need of having a roof above his head. He does not need to move physically or to act properly yet, but to be conscious of his need, which will trigger the acquisitive process. In accordance with the human action axiom, a man staying inside his home is a man in action, performing the conscious act of staying.
The homestead got to evolve. The first towns were made of houses with few amenities or features, including windows or sealed barriers, sometimes with the roof serving as the access. Then, step by step people started to build improved homes, from cabins or huts made of wood, to houses made of bricks and stone. They became larger, in accordance with social status, some buildings serving as homes for obvious and self-conscious elites. Higher mobility and the scarcity of valuable real estate led to transactions for the transfer of property, and eventually a real estate industry sprang into existence to mediate and profit from this need. In contrast to today, the homes were often closely tied to the livelihood of the owner, coming attached with land, service infrastructure, special rights or commercial space. Financialization in modern and recent times has made real estate into one of the most profitable areas to invest in, but also one of the most volatile ones. This drives significant profits for investors, landlords and for the public sector, through property taxes. This flourishing business sector acted in a self-reinforcing pattern, becoming an integral part of the economy.
Trends and development
Man developed knowledge on how to build better, and the limits of architecture got pushed. Mathematics combined with an eye towards aesthetics and growing insight into functionality in order to upgrade and update. Skyscrapers were the apotheosis of the 20th century thrill for height, size and industry, though they conformed to the age old need to show off.
Urbanization led to a homestead which involved the practical day to day living of the family within a closed space with few outside enclosures and a growing need of social distance and virtual privacy to compensate for the lack of actual distance and privacy. Thin walls are a problem today, as is the psychological effect of crowded living. Technological revolutions, productivity and concentration of infrastructure make more and more people choose this lifestyle and the structure of the economy requires less muscle power and more sedentary work involving knowledge. Office buildings became an extension of the homestead with colleagues and friends that came into being as so called professional families, starting with guilds and ending with today’s corporate pretences of “esprit de corps”. While transportation advanced from land to sea and air, and incremental innovation followed epochal changes, the homes advanced in fits and starts, subject less to technological upheavals (thought these also took place) and more to revolutions in lifestyles. Visionary and cutting-edge design were implemented in offices but also public buildings, with private homes lagging.
The ultimate trend in homes is represented by the solar design houses. In order to better use and conserve energy, man developed 2 types of solar homes: the one based on active heating systems, which uses a collector to absorb sunlight, and the one based on a passive solar design that initially collects, then stores, so that in the end distributes the energy as heat, or just simply reject the sunlight to maintain a cool environment. The last one has the potential and advantage of not including in its functioning process any device (mechanic or electric).
In homesteading, after fruitless diversions in seasteading, the most prestigious and transcendent plan belongs to Elon Musk and his plan for human civilization spreading to Mars. The Mars colony plan is a next step in the evolution of stability, this time mediate by interplanetary mobility. This is the next level we may say, though it will be awhile until our outposts will turn into large human communities.