Sunday, 5 February 2012

Floating cities proposed as havens of future happiness

From Russia and the Middle East to western Europe and the United States, dissatisfaction with politics and politicians has led to protest, conflict and, in many cases, violence. But it doesn't have to be that way, according to a U.S. think-tank called The Seasteading Institute. Backed by wealthy donors, the non-profit group believes future peace and prosperity lies far out at sea.

California's Seasteading Institute believes countries of the future will be built on the ocean. These nations will be fully sustainable, self-governing floating cities designed as havens for research and innovation. The institute's president Michael Keenan, says the most successful will become thriving new societies. It's an idea he says, whose time has come. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHAEL KEENAN, PRESIDENT OF THE SEASTEADING INSTITUTE, SAYING: "There is no one kind of government for everyone. There is no one ideology for everyone and so if there was a new space to start governments we would see an ideal society for everyone. But there is no more land, however, seventy percent of the world's surface is covered by ocean and it is unclaimed, it's international waters. So the Seasteading Institute strives to create to new countries floating in international waters." Keenan says this is no idealistic pipedream. Paypal's billionaire founder Peter Theil has donated more than 1.5 million dollars to the Institute and other wealthy donors are following suit. The design of these off shore communities is led by Institute engineer in George Petrie. He says much of the technology to build floating cities already exists. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GEORGE PETRIE, HEAD OF ENGINEERING, SEASTEADING INSTITUTE, SAYING: "Why don't we just utilise what is so readily available to us by colonising the surface of the sea and positioning ourselves to intelligently take advantage of the resources that the open oceans, the bounty of the open oceans offer us." Petrie says the first floating cities will be modelled after semi-submersible oil platforms. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GEORGE PETRIE, HEAD OF ENGINEERING, SEASTEADING INSTITUTE, SAYING: "So even in very inhospitable, even in very stormy sea conditions, the platform will remain very stable, very minimal motion. One would hardly know that they are on a floating body." He says the cities will be able to expand by linking on new, modular parts - much like Lego pieces. Petrie says solar power, wind turbines, and other cutting edge technology will supply the floating cities with power. (SOUNDBITE) ( English) MICHAEL KEENAN, PRESIDENT OF THE SEASTEADING INSTITUTE, SAYING: "In a decade you will start to see custom built semisubmersible platforms resembling oil rigs and in a few decades - huge cities the size of Hong Kong with millions of people living in very diverse, very effective and efficient societies on the ocean." And the institute's ideas are already taking off. A company called Blueseed is converting an ocean liner into what it says will be a floating version of Silicon Valley. With no visa requirement, it's designed to attract foreign talent to develop new technologies. The ship is is scheduled for launch late next year, the first of what Michael Keenan hopes will be hundreds of seasteads created over the next several decades. Keenan admits it's an ambitious idea…but one that will eventually offer millions of people the opportunity to choose a country that suits them best.

Ben Gruber, Reuters
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