You may think it can’t get any worse than the couple next door who passive-aggressively weed-whacks your front yard, without even asking, when it gets a sliver higher than an inch, or the recent GW grads who have all their salmon shorts-wearing bros over to their deck every single weekend to play beer pong and toss their red Solo cups into your backyard, but no, it can actually get a lot worse. People aren’t just moving to cities; entire industries are, too, and as they confront the problem of scarcer real estate, they’re embracing verticality. Which means your next neighbor could be, say, a thirty-story drone hive.
Amazon recently patented a design for a “multi-story fulfillment center for unmanned vehicles” that’s designed for “densely populated areas,” which is a fancy way of putting what I just said: a thirty-story drone hive right next door. It turns out that those massive million-square-foot Amazon warehouses you hear so much about can actually be compressed pretty easily into a medium-sized vertical structure. The Amazon design describes a beehive-like building with a central spire connected to the outside via thousands of spokes, through which drones are loaded with your earbuds or adult coloring books or ten pack of assorted popcorn toppings, and then launched into flight. The building is going to be tapered, like a pyramid, so that all drones can launch vertically, and there will be massive air currents blowing up from the base to soften the landing of any malfunctioning drones. If you were imagining the worst neighbor possible, it would be hard to beat “robot beehive surrounded by hurricane-force winds.” Although “windowless, all-black NSA spyscraper” is a strong contender.
In Lower Manhattan, of all places, is a 550-foot concrete tower with no windows, no external lights, and no identifying marks. If your job was to draw up a concept for an “evil tower” for a Hollywood movie, and you came up with this, the producer would be like, “come on, that’s way too obvious.” But here we are. It turns out, to the surprise of basically no one, that the tower is an NSA listening station, code named TITANPOINTE, that’s been vacuuming up phone calls, texts, and emails for several decades now. According to leaks, the building’s able to withstand a nuclear blast, and has enough food and gasoline to operate as an independent “walled city” for two weeks. If one of these springs up next door to you, and your kid accidentally kicks his ball over the fence, just leave it unless you feel like being waterboarded. And considering how quickly everything is migrating online, more of these towers will spring up, if they haven’t already, to store away all your ill-advised late night texts and whimsical Snapchats.
Worse yet, probably, is the thirteen-story hog farm, which sounds like a bad joke, but is already a thing in China. China has the world’s largest hog herd, and is pouring billions of yuan into modernizing its agricultural industries; hence the “hog hotel.” Commercial hog farms in America cover millions of square feet, but the Chinese hog hotel appears, from the outside, to be a small apartment building. Each one can produce almost a million piglets a year, at a fraction of the cost of a more sprawling facility. Of course, since each floor has to be separately ventilated to guard against disease, with all the air being shunted out a huge vent at the top of the building, you can probably smell the place from miles away. And what about the waste? America’s largest hog farm produces more raw sewage, per day, than all of Los Angeles. The Chinese solution is to treat the sewage and then spray it on a nearby forest. (Only in a country without an EPA could “spray it on a forest” be an acceptable manure disposal strategy.) Living within thirty miles of this place would bring your “quality of life” ceiling down to about a 2/10. You could win Powerball and get proposed to on the same day and still be miserable. I think we’ve found the worst possible neighbor. (Though the salmon shorts beer pong bros are a very close second.)