TECH
02/06/2012 04:39 pm ET | Updated Mar 19, 2012

Floating Cities Could Be A Reality Within Decades (VIDEO)

It's hard to imagine, but it's not just a pipe dream. In fact, a think-tank out of California believes we could have thriving floating societies on the world's oceans within a few decades.

The nonprofit Seasteading Institute hopes these "seasteads," or independent, floating cities, are the key to creating havens of social happiness by experimenting with innovative forms of government.

Naturally, the idea appeals to those who embrace the libertarian philosophy. The unclaimed, ungoverned territory would serve as an opportunity to test out the 'free state' vision of low taxes, low regulation and a free market. PayPal Founder Peter Thiel, a prominent libertarian and billionaire entreprenuer, has donated millions to the institute to help them chase the abitious goal.

It's not hard to understand the temptation to open up our oceans, which make up 70 percent of the Earth's surface, for the chance to create a fresh start for society. But can it even work?

If you ask anyone at Seasteading, the answer is yes. In some ways, we're already doing it; head engineer George Petrie explains the design for the proposed floating cities is largely based on technology that already exists. The cities are modeled after offshore oil platforms, which can accommodate hundreds of people and are built to stay stable in rough seas. Petrie says that even in a storm, the platform would be steady enough that "one would hardly know that they are on a floating body." The cities would be powered by solar and wind energy, available in abundance out at sea.

Another model is to design the cities' functionality similar to a gigantic cruise ship or ocean liner. About 12 miles off the California coast, Thiel is helping to fund a test-run of a seastead in this style, called Blueseed. Blueseed is essentially a floating startup incubator, just a 30 minute boat ride from Silicon Valley. Set in international waters, the city would by able to bypass U.S. immigration laws, and by not requiring a Visa, attract top engineers from around the world to help boost the economy through innovation. This type of business incentive may be the first step to making the futuristic vision a reality, even within our lifetime.

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