Friday, 26 August 2011
PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand's novel about free-market capitalism - that he's trying to make its title a reality.
The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.
Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: 'The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn't do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?'
Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco
The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.
The Seasteading Institute says it will 'give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get'.
Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an 'open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government'.
After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: '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.
'We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.'
Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.
Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.
The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.
Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.
'Big ideas start as weird ideas,' Mr Friedman said.
He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.
But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it's not without its critics.
Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: 'it's a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.'
Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: 'There are quite a lot of people who think it's not possible.
'That's a good thing. We don't need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don't think it's possible they won't take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it's too late.'