Some Tech Bros Are Trying To Build Autonomous City-States Out At Sea

Burning Man brings a lot out of humanity. There’s a strong vibe of embracing your inner-aurora and finding some truth there. It’s a place for awakenings. Well, that and a lot of fashion shows hiding in the dust, these days anyway. Joe Quirk was at Burning Man when he had one such awakening. His vision of what the future should be and his own role in it was a city floating out at sea — a city not bound by any established government, fully sustainable, and environmentally sound.

Quirk cut his teeth as a science writer and novelist before he ventured into floating free city-states. After his Burning Man vision, he co-wrote the book Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore The Environment, Enrich The Poor, Cure The Sick, and Liberate Humanity from Politicians proving, if nothing else, he’s not a man in love with brevity.

Quirk gathered scientists, engineers, mariners, architects, dietitians, Silicon Valley idealists (and investors), and environmentalist to craft a vision of an autonomous city-state that would be sustainable and utopian. This all sounds very Waterworld without the inexplicable packs of cigarettes and the endless supply of jet ski fuel.

The idea is to build chains of floating boxes with buildings, parks, trees, beaches, lawns, and infrastructure topside. The whole thing is meant to be protected by a huge breakwater. The idea is for the floating city to stay in the South Pacific outside the range of tropical storms and be towed whenever the city needs to find a new spot. They plan to feed themselves through top deck agriculture and below deck aquaculture fish farms. Cows will not be allowed.

Admittedly, this isn’t that fantastical. There are already plenty of floating communities out there from Nigeria to Vietnam. Peter Thiel (the man behind Gawker’s end) isn’t so sure though. Initially, he’d invested over $1 million in the project but pulled out this year declaring in The New York Times that the floating cities are “not quite feasible from an engineering perspective.”

Thiel’s dismissal aside, Quirk and his Seasteading Institue are moving forward. They’ve already struck an autonomy deal with the French Polynesian government to start construction on phase one in early 2018 with completion expected by 2020. That first floating city will accommodate 300 people. How quickly it turns into the Silicon Valley version of Lord of the Flies will remain to be seen.

(Via The New York Times)