There are people building floating cities in the sea!!
I said the words aloud last night, to feel that little surge as my heartbeat rapped in double staccato for just a moment. Cities in the sea! Oh, I’m not a scientist, much to my chagrin. I was never good at the math. Renewable ocean fisheries? Waste recycling? Using algae farming to produce food (and in the process creating an immense carbon sink); harnessing the sun’s boundless power when not interfered with by mainland weather patterns or stupid white elephants subsidized by the unenlightened and crowding out real technology? These are not questions to which I have the answers. But how would they be governed? How would they protect themselves from rogue nations, criminal syndicates – piracy? What currency would they use and what nationality will they have – what passports will they possess; how would they trade, what laws would they adopt to protect their property, and how would they police themselves and secure their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? “There are idiots everywhere,” as a friend of mine rightly reminded me – and how do we mitigate against them? These are things I know about!
“If you could have a floating city, it would essentially be a startup country. We can create a huge diversity of governments for a huge diversity of people.” Says Joe Quirk, President of Seasteading Institute. “Governments just don’t get better. They’re stuck in previous centuries. That’s because land incentivizes a violent monopoly to control it.”
How would they organize, if people unbound from the violent incentives of land could self-select and proceed to build, un-opposed, their ideal world?
Would one city become a warrior city, a mercenary city – Sparta in modern days protected by austerity and viciousness? Would they float the world, martial training upon fields of turf implanted above the deep blue – for hire to the desperate governments of the third world anxious to quell the persistent rebel movements that bedraggle their besotted regimes? What about a humanitarian city, sailing to torn places to serve as aid workers to the starving or witnesses to the brutality of those selfsame despots? A refugee republic upon the waters?
Will the libertarians now finally get to build their voluntary world, away from those who have a joint claim to their productivity by that ancient accident of citizenship? Galt’s Gulch disappearing into the fog, the ‘motors of the world’ free to assemble their engines unobstructed; no longer coerced to entertain ideas they see as foolishness? And what happens with the second generation – who will grow up entitled, as second generations tend to do? And how about the commies? Do they get their chance to attempt unopposed to raise their utopias? Will they at long last call to themselves the enthusiasts of serfdom as they push out to the great beyond, forming the councils and the working groups and the redistributive committees and regulatory agencies as they try and divvy up the goods from their stacked chicken coops and rooftop carrot gardens? And consequently will a death-city of wasting unfortunates float up to the “Gulch” to display its naked need as its only claim, with no ties of sacred citizenship to chain themselves to their betters? Or perhaps it will simply vanish from the world in an explosion of imagination and nostalgia as it slips to the bottom of the sea, Plato’s second Atlantis seeding legends of utopianism and authority far into the future.
Yes, there are people building floating cities!! And it is exciting to think about!
In 2015 Angus Deaton wrote a somehow simple book called “The Great Escape”. The main sub-point (I think) of Deaton’s book is that humanity only ever innovates when it is threatened by large-scale catastrophe. Apocalypse. Disease. Extinctions. We let ourselves be led to the brink of annihilation before somebody emerges from the mists with an idea that changes everything. We certainly are approaching that moment again, aren’t we? 400 years after Westphalia saved us from religious extermination, we are at it again – our sclerotic governments becoming brittle to be answered only by the populist socialists promising “free stuff” in an ancient bait and switch in which they get power and we get nothing, and from which we never seem to learn.
Will our next great escape be to floating cities in the sea – the laboratories for the new technologies and philosophies, the new models of governance that will save us? Perhaps… Perhaps.