Since five years, Silicon Valley based and non-profit The Seasteading Institute is working on plans to create the first floating city in the world. Cities like these can be a solution if seal levels keep rising.
The idea of ocean colonization is no longer the domain of science fiction writers, utopian dreamers, and scheming freewheelers. The cruise ship and offshore drilling industries 1 demonstrate that temporary living on the sea can be profitable, peaceful, and even luxurious.
Last January, the French Polynesian government officially signed an agreement with the Seasteading Institute to cooperate on creating legal framework to allow for the development of The Floating Island Project. The legislation will give the Floating Island Project it’s own “special governing framework” creating an “innovative special economic zone.” In other words, the idea is that settlers would eventually be able to set up new models of governance, outside the jurisdiction of any nation, setting examples for existing nations to follow.
The city will be positioned in international waters, therefor the inhabitants will not pay taxes. Seasteads like this, by their very nature, would provide citizens with the technology to move fluidly among governments. In the seasteading model, citizens would take on the role of customers, choosing their government according to their unique preferences. If modular ocean homes and offices are mobile and can be reassembled according to individual preferences, small groups of entrepreneurs and investors can feasibly build “startup” societies on earth’s last unclaimed frontier. Thus seasteading attempts to transform a political problem into an engineering challenge. Whereas solutions in politics continue to elude even the most competent technocratic managers, relatively small groups of people have proven highly adept at solving complex engineering problems.
Seasteading investors such as PayPal founder and billionaire Peter Thiel will self-fund the initial studies and the construction of the floating islands. The pilot project is expected to cost between US$10 million and US$50 million.
There is some criticism on the project. Island inhabitants fear that the island will be a refuge for rich people who do not want to pay taxes.
Extensive research was conducted between March 2013 and March 2014. Potential residents from 67 countries and many income levels provided extensive feedback on what they desire from a floating city with political autonomy, and their requests are remarkably consistent. The market demand for the first floating city with some level of political independence is vigorous and growing. The Floating City Project will serve as testcase for a floating experiment in governance. If it prospers, the incentive to solve more ambitious engineering challenges on the high seas will be engaged.
Building will start in 2019. “Our sustainable modular platforms are designed by the Dutch engineering firm Blue21, who showcased their engineering ingenuity with the famed Floating Pavilion in Rotterdam,” said Joe Quirk, co-author with Patri Friedman of the book, Seasteading: How Ocean Cities Will Change the World, which was published in March.
What makes French Polynesia such an ideal place to start is that it is close enough to the equator, it doen’t experience high waves, it has very warm, there are no cyclones and it is blessed with lots of natural wave breakers.