PayPal founder Peter Thiel has invested $1.25 million in an ambitious project--floating, autonomous colonies at sea.
The progressive entrepreneur who pays bright, young students $100,000 each to drop out of school and pursue business ideas, is one of Silicon Valley's more prolific investors. After selling his then-startup PayPal in 2002 for $1.5 billion, Thiel bankrolled Facebook in its early days. A series of successful investments has placed him comfortably on the Forbes billionaire list.
Inspired by Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, Thiel has stated that he thinks sea colonization is an important step in securing mankind's future on Earth. "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," Thiel said in a statement released in 2008, when he made his first investment ($500,000) in the project.
His most recent grant ($1.25 million) to the Seasteading Institute may help propel development of independent island colonies off the coast of San Francisco.
Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer (and grandson of Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman), is working on the seasteading project. "Big ideas start as weird ideas," Friedman told Details magazine in response to critics. "The ultimate goal is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government."
Thiel and Friedman say that the colony should be ready for "full-time settlement" in seven years. Margaret Crawford, a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley and recognized expert on urban planning, isn't so convinced. "It's a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever," she told Details.
What do you think? Is a floating sea colony science fiction or sound planning?