An organization in which Paypal founder Peter Thiel is an investor is aiming to build a floating city-state by 2020. The Seasteading Institute says semi-independent floating cities would provide an opportunity to try out new modes of government and could also tackle a number of other problems.

The Seasteading Institute says the development of floating cities is the first step in fulfilling what it calls the "8 Great Moral Imperatives," which include feeding the hungry, enriching the poor, curing the sick, cleaning the atmosphere, restoring the oceans, living in balance with nature, powering civilization sustainably and and putting an end to fighting.

The Institute believes that, in order to achieve these ambitions, humanity must harness the oceans. It cites their potential for providing space to accommodate a growing global population, for providing a source of food, and for being used to generate sustainable energy.

Not only would floating cities with some degree of independence lend themselves to these ideals, but the Seasteading Institute argues that they could create more innovative start-up governments unlike what it calls the "monopolies" of today. Now, it argues, individuals are born arbitrarily into states created by past wars and cannot change the government to which they are affiliated without leaving their home. Floating city-states, however, would allow individuals to sail their home to a new colony if they disagreed with the way a government was operating.

The Seasteading Institute argues that this would force governments to compete to attract citizens in a way that they currently do not. The city-states would be like floating jigsaws that could be shifted and reassembled at will, with popular and effective governments attracting more inhabitants. Indeed, governments could only form if people chose to attach to each other.

Since Gizmag last featured the Seasteading Institute, the group has had a feasibility report published by Dutch design firm Deltasync, crowdfunded a floating city design and explored other floating city designs. The Institute believes that there is a market for the concept, that it could be developed to a price-point suitable for the market, and that it can find a nation willing to host a residential seastead with significant autonomy.

Deltasync's initial design took the form of modular platforms that could slot together. The platforms would either be 50 x 50 m (164 x 164 ft) reinforced concrete squares or pentagons with 50-m (164-ft) sides and could support three-story buildings. Apartments, terraced housing, office space and hotels were all factored into the design. The initial concept is based on 11 modules that together could host 225-300 full-time residents and would cost an estimated US$167 million.

The Seasteading Institute says that its work surveying potential customers is ongoing, and that it is in negotiations with coastal nations to develop the first floating city with substantial political independence.

The video below is a short talk given by Seasteading Institute spokesperson Joe Quirk and provides an overview of the concept and plans.

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