Raikoth: Cities, Land

(continuing to talk about my conculture)

Like all interesting people, Raikolin live in yurts.

The logistics are not too complicated. Land is sold or rented in the form of “campsites”, with spaces for yurts and hookups for plumbing and electricity. Poorer families might choose to live on the outskirts of cities instead, where the land is free but they have to improvise their own utilities (some live off the land in the summer, when the midnight sun provides plentiful solar power, then retreat to cities in the winter).

The yurts are easy to move with a couple of days’ notice, supporting a semi-nomadic lifestyle among country-dwellers who go to pastures and fishing grounds in the summer, then return to the cities in the winter. And their mobility allows changing family configurations – if Grandma is too old to support herself, the family can just move her yurt next to everyone else’s; or if a growing child wants more independence, she can pitch a yurt a short distance away from her parents’. Larger or wealthier families create larger dwellings suitable for their needs with modular yurts (see this site, which happily proclaims “No longer do you need to buy the biggest yurt you can!”)

Home sweet home

Most important, yurts are cheap. In our world, even a very large yurt suitable for an entire family with lots of furniture costs $10,000 – $20,000; in Raikoth, with economies of scale, they cost barely half that. There are no housing bubbles, no mortgage loans, no subprime crises, and no foreclosures. And with the cheapest, simplest options costing barely $2500 to buy (and less to rent) there’s very little homelessness either, and the mobility and deconstructability of houses makes it easier to donate them to the needy when you’re done with them.

A few Raikolin abandon the traditional yurts to live in permanent stone or wood housing in city centers. These people are not trusted. “House-dweller” has the same connotations that “arugula-eater” has in 21st century America.

But there are more permanent stone buildings in city centers. A typical Raikothin city is a complex of temples, libraries, office buildings, factories, etc surrounded by fields of yurt campsites surrounded by city walls (previously functional, now there mostly to stop sprawl and because they’re pretty). Interspersed are a uniquely Raikothin art form, the dead garden – a botanical garden of plants made entirely of glass and jewels at latitudes much too cold for the genuine article.

The Raikothin city of Tielion Zaedi on Micras’ Minecraft server

Travelers to these cities tend to describe them as “eerie” and “ghostlike” for a few reasons.

First, no cars are permitted within the city walls. They’re loud, dirty, dangerous, and prevent social interaction in the streets and public spaces. All the streets of a city are walkways, usually tiled. In compensation, there are excellent mass transit systems. Some cities use subways; others use personal rapid transit systems or string rails. All are effectively silent and invisible at ground level, leading to a sense of openness and safety completely absent from most other cities.

Second, the cities are spotless. Raikoth subscribes to an over-the-top exaggerated version of the broken window theory – that unpleasant and befouled environments increase antisocial behavior. They also believe that attention restoration therapy is not entirely about nature but about clean and organized places versus dirty and haphazard ones. Threats to the urban aesthetic are considered a tragedy of the commons in which the common resource is citizens’ health, intelligence, and emotional development – and the Shining Garden system exists to aggressively coordinate commons situations.

Chewing gum is illegal in Raikoth for much the same reason as in Singapore, and littering is punishable by indefinite exile to the nearest monastery. Foreigners have protested this latter policy, but the Raikolin stand firm, claiming that although theft can sometimes be legitimately due to poverty, and murder can sometimes be legitimately due to blind rage, littering is pretty much a deliberate and inexcusable “fuck you” to the entire rest of the community and the sort of people who find it acceptable should be separated as far from decent society as possible lest whatever is wrong with them spread. Graffiti is so far beyond the pale that no one even knows what the punishment would be, but it probably involves volcanoes in some way.

(the use of Third Eyes makes all of this extremely enforceable – if you see someone littering, you politely ask them to pick it up, and if they don’t, you go to the Rhavakl and release your records to them)

On the same principle – a reduction of visual clutter – outdoor advertising is banned and streetlights are rare and directional. Between the streetlight thing and the no cars thing, there is almost no light pollution.

Third, draconian noise restrictions. The Angels didn’t go through the trouble of banning cars to prevent noise pollution so that you could play your stereo at a hundred decibels. All the eugenics to get an average IQ 130 populace left a whole bunch of people with sensory processing disorders, and yurts aren’t exactly super-soundproof. There are well-specified public nuisance restrictions with actual numbers-of-decibels attached to them, and if someone is violating them, you ask them to stop, and if they don’t, you go to the Rhavakl with recordings from the Third Eye. Consider the level of courtesy the Japanese developed in order to live in tiny sardine-like apartments, then multiply it by about thirty.


Not everyone likes these restrictions. A surprising number of people do, because they’re easier when you’ve been raised with them, and they make a lot of sense in a country with high prevalence of sensory processing disorders. But there are some people who just want to live as free as possible without anyone telling them what to do.

Luckily, ninety percent of the country is frozen wasteland.

As suggested in the map from the first post, pretty much all the large cities and towns of Raikoth are on a tiny strip along the eastern coast, the fertile and hospitable area between the mountains and the sea (you may recognize this as also pretty Japanese). The rest of the country – not to mention the deadly freezing north, is pretty much all wilderness.

And so while most people stick to the civilized regions on the east coast, a strange collection of hunters, trappers, monks, hermits, anarcho-primitivists, extremely determined geocachers, and people who just want to get away from it all live in the west and sometimes even construct weird experimental communities there. The Raikolin are extremely proud of their option to leave civilization at any moment and romanticize those who choose a life in the wilds, even to the point of forbidding any development west of the mountains to avoid interfering with their lifestyle.

Some of these communities are monasteries, self-sufficient communities built on high mountains or in remote valleys and inhabited by a strange combination of logician-monks, exiles, and just plain people who want to get away from it all. Days consist of a combination of work and study. A few specialize in the rehabilitation of exiled criminals; these latter are welcomed into the monastic community as full and equal members – but like all full and equal members, if they don’t work they don’t eat. A surprising number stay after their sentences are finished, which suits everyone just fine. The largest such community is Katanta, “the City of Hermits”, which stubbornly refuses to tell anyone its exact location and which tends to move whenever it is discovered.

Beyond these oases of civilization lie even wilder places. Named for their inhospitability and deadliness, regions like Never-Go-Here and You-Will-Die are the ultimate escape from everything, usually including the mortal coil. There are no roads, no good maps, nowhere to get help, and rumors persist that the central government jams all wireless communications there for uncertain reasons. Nevertheless, it is considered totally sacrosanct that anyone who wants to pack up and go live as a mountain man out there should be allowed to do so, and every so often one of them even survives or comes back home.

The people who live here think where you live is bleak and hostile to life

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37 Responses to Raikoth: Cities, Land

  1. Nate Gabriel says:

    What types of yurts are considered the best? I would expect that wealthier people would buy larger yurts to show off their wealth, and then those would get gradually less movable until they’re basically living in houses. Since this doesn’t happen, what status and signaling effects are they optimizing for?

    • Michael Vassar says:

      I would expect that in a civilization thousands of years old and peaceful for most of that time, not to mention with these other features, wealth would have saturated the limits of ambient tech ages ago, making it futile to try to show it off (except possibly in the form of prediction market scores). Basically, as far as I can understand it, nothing in Rakioth other than the angels should be considered an optimizer, and the angels are a homeostatic optimizer.

    • People might buy more decorated yurts rather than larger or more solid yurts. Also, showing off might be a rather subtle thing Raikoth.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Large and well-decorated ones, yes, and campsites in desirable locations. But when the base cost is $5-20K and there’s no institution of “mortgage” you can have quite a bit of perfectly good status competition without breaking the bank.

      I’ve also tried to redirect the status competition urge, which I’ll talk about in a later post.

      • I believe you can spend as much as you please on high quality tea ceremony paraphernalia, and trying to decorate a whole yurt that way could break the bank.

        I look forward to what you’ll be saying about redirecting the status competition urge.

  2. Watercressed says:

    What happens when someone goes to throw something away, but they fumble it and the wind blows it out of sight?

    • Berry says:

      It’s an unfortunate accident?

    • PDH says:

      If I were in charge they would be thrown into volcanoes on a windy day. Perhaps then their execution would be likewise fumbled and the wind would blow them out of sight, as well.

      Of course, they would be given a short time to locate the litter and see that it found its way into a recycling centre first. I’m not a monster.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Raikoth must also not have the equivalent of bags of M&Ms that sometimes burst when opened.

      • Max says:

        I imagine packaging like that would be a marketing disaster akin to a brand of cup noodles which regularly shoots roiling water into the faces of diners.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Nothing much.

  3. Joe says:

    “No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity.”
    “As often as I have been among men,” said one writer, “I have returned less a man.”
    From Thomas A’Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ” on the love of solitude and silence.

  4. Avantika says:

    These posts are tempting me to write fiction set on Raikoth…

    What is Raikolin literature like? Can you give examples?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My notes list the following:

      Apsid Saragil (Book of Cold Rain) c. 200 ASC
      Traditionally ascribed to Kadmi Rachumion. The first book ever written in the Raikothin language; authored by the prophet who invented writing. A combination Bible/encylopedia. Contains a mixture of legend, superstition, history, philosophy, and five-thousand-years-out-of-date science. Still the most important historical source for early Raikoth but not taken quite as seriously as a civilizational guide anymore.

      Amesdion Kadmi (The Life of Kadmi) c. 230 ASC
      Traditionally ascribed to Idri Latelion. Describes the life of Kadmi Rachumion, a history of the Raikothin Civil War and the Sidlelin War, and a record of the development of the Elder government immediately after Kadmi’s death.

      Apsid Galakirl (Book of Two Stars) c. 390 ASC
      By an unknown author. A classic play describing how Daki Kirenion, a star, descends to Micras to fight in the armies of Kadmi Rachumion, and of various disruptions on Micras and in the Sky caused by his decision.

      Apsid Kaje (Book of Loss) c. 860 ASC
      By Iauli Aulegdion. Describes the destruction of most of Raikothin civilization by the sudden eruption of Ianakve and the flight of most emigrants to refugee colonies in Lirikoth and northern Apollonia as well as the histories of these various colonies. Stops at the death of Samechi Kvivirion, just before most refugees returned to Raikoth.

      AkaYyilo AkAnari (Out of Winter from the West) 1670 ASC
      By Ragmi Volakion. Probably the most famous collection of poems by the most famous Raikothin poet.

      KaiSilkion Raikoth 115 (115th Holy Logic of Raikoth), 4315 ASC (“The Risurion-silk”)
      By Egi Risurion. The definitive edition of the finalized logical system of the Raikothin government, as compiled by Elder Egi Risurion in the waning days of the Eldership. This edition is considered to correspond perfectly to human thought, and all alternative logics are considered “heretical”. All law is based upon this book.

      Inliskavi Galinomai: Elinitomi (Archipelago-Land of Galinomai: A True Dream), 4500 ASC
      By Nithi Kirenion. The “science-fiction” story of how Omi Oitherion caused an apocalypse, and how the survivors of Raikoth formed the new nation of Galinomai afterwards. Written by Elder Nithi Kirenion supposedly based on a true vision of an alternate reality he received from the transhuman Maria Morimoto. Corresponds to the out-of-game events of Archipelago.

  5. Itinerant Firedrake says:

    I own a house. The cost of rebuilding it would be substantially less than the amount of money I paid for it. Even if plots are considered as bare sites rather than ready-to-use dwellings, location will still push up prices of desirable ones.

  6. Michael Vassar says:

    Generally, it seems to me that the age of Raikoth seems to suggest no long-term economic growth despite the seemingly excellent institutions. OTOH, I haven’t seen anyone credibly propose a hypothesis as to what it would even mean for GDP to grow from sustenance at even 1% rates for even 1000 years. With honest accounting, that would seem to suggest that one day of work could provide roughly an unaltered lifetime worth of survival needs for an adult and one continuous under-8 child or two and that one person could produce the economic output of an entire low-tech civilization with a labor force of 20,000 or so, such as Florence in Shakespeare’s time.

    • im says:

      They’ve had stagnant tech for millenia, and I think no population growth and no colonization, so I don’t see why they should have economic growth.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This problem is mostly magicked away by telluric fields, which prevent economic growth due to technological advance. There’s no population growth, so that’s not going to grow the economy either. As for really really good infrastructure, yeah, that exists, but some restrictions like the one on cars mentioned above make it less amazing than it might be.

      A lot of this is honestly that the game-world has been going on for five thousand years, but I can’t conceive of what a five thousand year old technological civilization would be like and I’m not going to try.

  7. Gilbert says:

    So do the Raikolin have very cheap energy or do they just like it cold?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Little of both. Evolutionary adaptations from 15K years in the Arctic, plus cheap geothermal power (their island is based on Iceland; volcanoes everywhere).

      Yurts are small, well-insulated, and easy to heat, and cities contain systems of tunnels and corridors sort of like the Minneapolis Skyway System (you can see some of these on the city map of Tala if you stare hard enough)

  8. Benquo says:

    If there are no streets for cars, how do goods get transported in bulk without something like trucks?

    • Deiseach says:

      By yak and cart? But even then, you do need some kind of roads to enable everyone to pack up their yurt and their goods and move into their winter house; I don’t think you could just roll it all up and either carry it in on your family’s backs or on the bus/tram. (See opening credits Holmes television adaptation).

      It’s good to see the level of detail whereby the Raikoth are functionally city dwellers (they may all move out to the yurt in summer, but I bet everyone has a ‘favourite’ camping spot they return to, not to mention being hooked up to plumbing and electricity and sewerage, and that not a huge amount of them are heading off to hunt walrus for the dinner) and naturally they romanticise the ‘pioneer spirit’ types – if they mistrust ‘city dwellers’ who remain permanently in the built-up areas, but are more or less ‘settled travellers’ themselves, the foundation myth of the nation requires that they idealise and venerate the idea of the ‘real’ Raikoth living in the ‘real’ traditional manner.

      And that picture of the mountain cliffs reminds me of the Skelligs 🙂

    • I was thinking the same thing for the factories in the cities. Perhaps they have something like freight subways.

      • Benquo says:

        Freight trains could take care of transportation between hubs, but not last-mile delivery, e.g. to retail such as grocery stores.

        Maybe businesses dealing in physical goods pay a premium to be located near a hub or have a private freight hookup to a freight station? This would be worksble but make “mixed use” more difficult, and trade/manufacture of bulky goods a natural monopoly.

        I think someone from Raikoth needs to weigh in on this one.

        • naath says:

          People have been moving large quantities of bulky/heavy goods around for thousands of years. Carts pulled by oxen or horses are common; for smaller quantities carts pulled by humans are possible. Ships are a very good way to move goods between coastal cities.

          Cambridge (UK) has a cycle-courier company that offers last-mile logistics to businesses with their cargo trike – that thing can tow a LOT of stuff.

        • Benquo says:

          I don’t see a way to reply to naath’s comment so I’m replying to my own.

          The OP clearly states: All the streets of a city are walkways.

          That would seem to exclude any kind of large cart. I’m not worried about the engine – sure, use oxen, humans, internal combustion engines, cable cars, I don’t care – but you can’t do that with walkways alone.

    • nemryn says:

      The subways, probably. I’m imagining that for intercity freight, the subway goes out to a depot outside the city walls, where trucks are allowed.

  9. Kaj Sotala says:

    So no multistory residental buildings? That’s going to make the population density terribly low, which isn’t very suitable for mass transit, and will make it very difficult to live within a reasonable distance (in terms of travel time) of all your friends.

  10. nemryn says:

    Do Raikolin use bicycles (or an equivalent) within city limits?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good question. I would have said no just because I don’t like bikes and it seems to take away from the character, but Kaj’s post above may have changed my mind.

      • nemryn says:

        Mostly, I was thinking that the reasons for disallowing cars either don’t apply to bikes (noise, pollution), or apply with less force (danger, loss of interaction), and being able to carry more or move more efficiently than walking has obvious utility. Maybe some kind of semi-stigma, where bikes are fine if you’re obviously carrying a full load but people will look at you funny otherwise.

      • ari says:


  11. Benquo says:

    More likely, Raikoth does have trucks and roads for them, but no one notices because they are out of sight like a servants’ entrance.

  12. Steve says:

    You’ve done a lot of Raikoth-describing, so I was surprised when I noticed there was finally something about it that I didn’t consider awesome. I guess I’ll just have to shell out the extra dough for a special, sound-proofed yurt.

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