In the hopes of rising above the laws and regulations of terrestrial nations, a group has bold plans to build a floating city in Tahiti, French Polynesia. It might sound a bit like the start of a sci-fi dystopia (in fact, this is the basic premise behind the video game Bioshock), but the brains behind the project say their techno-libertarian community could become a paradise for technological entrepreneurship and scientific innovation.
The Seasteading Institute was set up in 2008 by software engineer, poker player, and political economic theorist Patri Friedman, with funding from billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel. Both ardent libertarians, their wide-eyed mission is to “establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems."
“Seasteading will create unique opportunities for aquaculture, vertical farming, and scientific and engineering research into ecology, wave energy, medicine, nanotechnology, computer science, marine structures, biofuels, etc,” their website reads.
Their vision consists of multiple reinforced concrete platforms, approximately 50-by-50 meters (164-by-164 feet) in size each, out at sea. The platforms will be able to sustain three-story buildings, along with parks, offices, and apartments for people to live in. For starters, it will be home to at least 250 residents. Ideally, the whole settlement will also be powered by renewable energy too.
The settlement will still need to follow international laws, but the institute hope to have minimal governmental regulations, meaning scientific research and entrepreneurship are not “hindered” by red tape.
“Accelerating innovation is rapidly transforming the world: The Seasteading Institute will help bring more of that innovation to the public sector, where it’s vitally needed,” Thiel boldly said in a statement.
“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."
The Seasteading Institute has already set up an agreement (PDF) with the French Polynesian government. By the end of this year, they have to provide the government with studies on the environment and economic considerations of the city, from which the government will reply with the appropriate legislative framework. Eventually, they will act as a “host nation” to the city.
Even those working on the project say this is “technically possible”, although currently expensive and dauntingly difficult. Like many of these ambitious futuristic plans that come with dozens of impressive artist's impressions, the whole thing could easily just remain a pipe dream.