Today's billionaires think big: they seek to colonize space and the earth's oceans. But if scientists, artists, and governments created earlier projects of the future, now private companies are engaged in this process. We can only guess what drives them: the dreams of the founders or business opportunities.
Last year, a group of cryptocurrency investors acquired the decommissioned cruise liner Pacific Dawn and renamed it to MS Satoshi, after the alleged creator of Bitcoin. The investors were members of the seasteading community, which wants to create autonomous floating city-states in international waters. The leading proponent of this movement is Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire and self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist.
Like the colonization of space, such communities attract a certain kind of people – fantastically wealthy, tech-savvy, and right-wing ones.
The MS Satoshi project has failed. The cruise liner's owners were unable to obtain insurance to travel in international waters, and it was sold for parts in December 2020. It was a massive blow to the movement. However, this incident did not kill it.
Beautiful digital renders invite you to vibrant and conceptual worlds. Here are the most famous ones:
- Elon Musk said he wants to create a human colony on Mars by 2050.
- Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin intends to develop habitable space stations.
- Virgin Hyperloop One by Richard Branson is a vacuum capsule that reaches a speed of 670 miles per hour and does not emit harmful substances into the atmosphere.
- Uber is proposing the idea of autonomous taxis that would carry passengers from roof to roof. The company has prepared 16 projects of "sky ports," developed by renowned architectural firms.
Such projects often use fantastic imagery to inspire the public's imagination and gain approval. But while scientists, artists, and governments used to create projects for the future, today's "future" is almost entirely invented by private companies owned by tech billionaires. What does this mean for us?
If companies design an image of the future, this implies that they will have influence in it and will be able to control the infrastructure. Ultimately, they will determine how society functions. Platforms like Amazon Web Services and Facebook have already become massive projects that control a large part of our economy and the public sphere.
We must envision a collective future that will empower more than just a small number of people. Will we be able to get closer to the futurists of the last century, who thought boldly and democratically at the same time? It's worth a try, at least.
Just as the seasteading movement faced legal difficulties, the "new world" contains the old one's DNA. Once, European land-use laws gave impetus to the United States, whose government was expanding westward of the continent. Today, someone has to define tomorrow before the tech billionaires formulate it.