Back in the early nineties, there were several things a budding radical transhumanist might do to distinguish themselves. To keep abreast of the latest libertarian ideals, and the freethinking technologies that would be required to realize them, subscriptions to cutting edge publications like the Extropy: Journal of Tranhumanist Thought, and the Alcor Foundation’s Cryonics magazine would be essential. But what really separated the early doers from the wannabe futurists and dreamers was throwing some tangible support into ‘Operation Atlantis’ — the Floating City of Oceania — by purchasing and actually wearing their promotional T-shirt.
Oceania promised much more than just a neat place to live; it offered an entirely new way to live, and a new way to think. Unfortunately, like many other would-be Waterworlds proposed both prior and since, it just wasn’t to be. In hindsight, we now know that the primary reason for the failure of the Oceania concept was its shape. Specifically, its design was not modeled after that sleek and mysterious denizen of the deep — the manta.
Fortunately, French architect Jacques Rougerie has been able to spec out a massive floating city capable of housing some 7000 “ocean scientists,” and yet still hold the strict tolerances of the manta form factor. That, he says, provides the “best possible correlation between space and stability needs.” Practically speaking, that translates into the ability to resist turbulence and severe weather. Rougerie’s City of Mériens would be 900 meters long and 500 wide, while extending to 120 below the surface, and rising to 60 above.
The mantamorphic shape contains within itself another surprise, a large interior lagoon which provides shelter for yet another key Rougerian innovation — the SeaOrbiter. This nimble creation is more than just a properly dimensioned CAD file with a complete Bill of Materials (and we are giving the City of Mériens the benefit of the doubt on that here). In fact the SeaOrbiter is already a work in progress. Construction on the $50 million craft is apparently moving right along, with the first operational prototype expected to be operational next year.
As seen above, these comparatively modest sea-horse style boats will each have six floors below and six floors above the water’s surface. It is being billed as a research platform with exceptional stability and accessibility both above and below. Success with the SeaOrbiters, it would seem, is a critical stepping stone to securing the funds and general glam that success in the larger floating city project needs.
There is not much talk yet as far as actual power for the city — only that it will be sustainable. Presumably that would entail some form of renewable marine power using wave-pumped hydraulic pressure heads driving rotating turboelectric machinery. Some successes in this area have already been achieved elsewhere using a serpentine system of linked buoys that flex and wiggle with the motions of the sea. We might compare the general concept to a giant background energy harvester, which instead of rectifying radio waves or separating charge using ambient heat, channels the whims of the waves into electrical power.
One can only hope that their energy plan entails more than mere harvesting whatever they might find around around them, particularly during what might be expected to be an ongoing or even open-ended construction phase.
There is certainly no shortage of like-minded efforts on different continents. Peter Theil, for example, put over $1 million into The Seasteading Institute a while back. Among their many proposals is one that could potentially house 300 people by 2020 using various assemblages of a basic concrete platform design.
The City of Mériens, on the other hand, might be looking at a timeline a little closer to 2050. While the actual location may not be known, the proposed system of governance would be based on United Nations standards. Undoubtedly the world will be a much different place by then, but it seems like the floating city is an idea whose time has come.