I've been revisiting my nano-slick thought-experiment. The latest version, with certain limitations, grows to three-quarters of the surface area of the Moon or Africa, continent-sized, although it's spread out enough so that it doesn't kill off the ecosystem of the ocean it floats on...
My power numbers were a little off, by an order of magnitude, but the 'patch' still produces five-sixths of current energy use. Getting it where we need it and in the form in which we currently use it is problematic, as is all the change we are necessarily bringing about, which is what I can write about, of course!
But I am a damn silly fat man and like my comfort, part of which is that I dislike the thought of others in want. I would like for them to have the same standard of living I take for granted, or the equivalent. I think that, in general, people should leave other people the hell alone. I don't expect for people not to be people; I know the damned human race much too well to expect saints. But the sinners can go about their business as they like, provided that they leave each other in peace. 'An none be harmed, do as thou will.'
To begin with, this is about Humanity. With all due respect to environmentalists, Earth is the Mother of Man and Woman, and while it can do perfectly well without us, and is being harmed by us, short of total nuclear war, we can't really destroy the planet (and even then...). We can destroy human technological civilization, crash the population and reduce it to subsistence, a hand to mouth existence based on muscle-power and scavenged tech. I am concerned with the quality of human life, and therefore, like Abraham Lincoln, I guess I'm a humanitarian. To paraphrase him, I would do anything to guarantee the survival of my species, which I both love, hate, fear and yet still, I hope for. If I could guarantee a handful would survive to start over elsewhere, I would. If I felt the necessity to destroy my own people, and to allow a xenophobic collectivist culture to take the lead for the next little while, I would do it.
The 0th rabbit out of my hat is the nano-slick, which I did a lot of hand waving about. It would be the culmination of years of work by thousands and cost billions of dollars. But all of the necessary capabilities are within the realm of the possible- carbon-fibers, structural diamond, carbon-based PV cells (failing that, thermo-electrostatic Stirling Engines!), carbon dioxide electrolysis, even harvesting methane clathrates as fuel and feedstock (build your own private robot navy on a nearby seabed)! The 1st rabbit is more hand-wavium, the food-maker. Here I assume that carbohydrates, vitamins, fats and fillers could be made and processed into serviceable food-stuffs. I imagine it would give Iron Chef a whole new lease on life and reality TV... The 2nd rabbit, the hydrogen airship, half a billion vehicles with a ton of cargo capacity, is more of the same.
What does a human being need to live and be comfortable, day to day? Forget about work, something useful worth the doing, and excitement versus ennui... I think we really won't have to worry about boredom. Plenty upsets everything and we still would be living in interesting times, only more weird and wonderful yet!
We need water, gallons of clean, potable H20 for drinking, cleaning, etc. Food of course, and a comfortable climate, clean air that is warmed or cooled from ambient temperatures, about 30 KW-hr of electricity per day, transport, bandwidth and infotainment...
Let's say we need 100 gallons of water, per person, per day, about 400 liters. We can gather it from the aquifer, if there is one, desalinate or sterilize sea or waste-water, collect the precipitation which falls on our homes (call that a 200 m^2 times 760 mm per year (per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_rainfall_climatology, general), 152 tonnes, ~2900 kg a week, or 414 liters per day), or produce hydrogen elsewhere, ship it in and burn it with oxygen. For 400 liters/kg of water, we need ~44 kg of hydrogen, in a H2 airship tanker, perhaps with water ballast- 40 kg of H2 and 40 kg or H20! Since 2 kg of H2 provide 26.8 kg of lift, this should be very easy to achieve.
Food is satisfied with the food-maker, a handy little number that manufactures a couple kg of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, vitamins, fillers and other things into tasty, delectable eats (or I'll turn the food science dude and a platoon of iron chefs lose on the problem! 8-). Input raw feed stock or try not to think about the probably source of the organics, add more energy whilst breaking the molecules down into more basic chemicals and heat-sterilizing, and then reassemble into the aforementioned sugars, fats, carbs, proteins vitamins and fillers.
Climate control assumes there is a space, a volume and area within which each person is living. A dome, an A-frame, or a boring salt-box with a hipped roof and gutters, all with a 100 m^2 footprint (this works out to ~1,000 SF, a 'starter' house. A four-person family home of 4K). The simplest design is a 10 meter square, >5 m ceilings, a 30 degree, hipped roof with a 7.5 m peak. Or a 12.5 by 8 meter rectangle, 5 meters plus a hipped roof and 3.125 m peak. Or an L-shaped (or any other arrangement of four 5 m square elements), 15 by 10 meter job, with a 6.25 m peak.
The structural members are articulated, so that it can self-assemble on site, move mass around within, and open or close doors or windows. Want a moon-roof, or a sliding wall partition? Got it. There are 'triple-pane' walls of the same nano-slick, reformatted as a wall, a door or whatever, 3 cm thick, 1.11 g/cm^2, 11.1 kg/m^2. A 500 m^3 box with no roof (or an apartment in a cityscape) masses 4,440 kg, less internal compartments, 6,660 kg with four 5 m square elements.