It’s a small world after all. Having populated all the dry land, people are now looking to move out to the oceans. The world’s first floating city is set to appear in the Pacific Ocean off the island of Tahiti in 2020. Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit organization hopes to “liberate humanity from politicians” and is building a few hotels, homes, offices and restaurants in the Pacific ocean in the next few years.
These plans are being funded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel and we might see an independent nation following its own laws floating in the international waters soon. The president of the Seasteading Institute wants other people to follow the example and wants to see thousands of floating cities “offering different ways of governance”.
“Governments just don’t get better,” Mr. Quirk told the New York Times. “They’re stuck in previous centuries. That’s because land incentives a violent monopoly to control it.” The first island is being funded by a coin offering, which is a new concept gaining popularity in the Silicon Valley and involves creating and selling virtual money. The hope is to raise $60 million by 2020.
The construction will use local bamboo, coconut fiber, wood and recycled metal and plastic. The structure will have their roofs covered with vegetation. These plans were first revealed in January and have been approved by the French Polynesian government.
The tiny nation, a collection of 118 islands in the southern Pacific with a population just over 200,000, has granted the Seasteading Institute 100 acres of beachfront to operate from. The area is at risk from rising sea levels and has gained the interest of French Polynesia.
The plan is nothing but ambitious. However, the group believes that semi-independent cities will be perfect to try new methods of agriculture and new modes of government. Mr. Quirk started a new company, Blue Frontiers, with his team and this will be responsible for building floating islands in French Polynesia.
He got the idea of a floating city when he went to attend the US Burning Man festival in 2011. The event attracts 70,000 people every year and can provide a model for a society where “rules don’t observe their usual parameters”. Mr. Quirk said “If you could have a floating city, it would essentially be a start-up country. We can create a huge diversity of governments for a huge diversity of people.”
There are two conditions that must be met before getting the go-ahead by the French Polynesia; it must be environment-friendly and should benefit the local economy. After that, it will still need permission from the local government as well as France which holds the territory in question.
Randolph Hencken, executive director of the institute, said in January: “What we’re interested in is societal choice and having a location where we can try things that haven’t been tried before. I don’t think it will be that dramatically radical in the first renditions. We were looking for sheltered waters, we don’t want to be out in the open ocean – it’s technologically possible but economically outrageous to afford. If we can be behind a reef break, then we can design floating platforms that are sufficient for those waters at an affordable cost. We don’t have to start from scratch as this is a pilot project. They also have very stable institutions so we’re able to work with a government that wants us there, that we have respect for and they have respect for us.”
It will take a year for draft legislation to be drawn up and construction is expected to start in 2019. The islands will feature aquaculture farms, healthcare, medical research facilities, and sustainable energy powerhouses. The first city would be built on a network of 11 rectangular and five-sided platforms so it could be rearranged according to its inhabitants’ needs like a floating jigsaw according to Mr. Quirk.
The first floating city will be home to 250-300 people and will be made from reinforced concrete that will support the buildings for 100 years. These concrete platforms would be 50 meters in length and will have 50-meter tall sides. The city will fall under a host nation but will have political independence.
The Institute says: “Our in-house team is now actively engaged in diplomacy with host nations, making the case that hosting an autonomous seastead city in their territorial waters would produce significant economic, social and environmental benefits for their citizens.”
The Institute claims it will “give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get”. If inhabitants disagree with the city’s government, they could paddle their colony to another city, forcing governments to work to attract citizens. It is estimated that the first floating city will cost around $167 million.
Speaking in 2008, Mr. Thiel said: “Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world. We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.”
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