French Polynesia could become home to the Seasteading Institute’s first floating city after presidential meeting

The Seasteading Institute has announced that it met with Édouard Fritch, the President of French Polynesia, in order to discuss the development of a floating city in the region.

The meeting, held on Friday, was attended by an international delegation from the Institute and followed a tour of several potential sites as well as meetings with other officials.

The delegation has looked at the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Tupai, and Raiatea as possible locations for the Seasteading and met with Teva Rohfristch, Minister for Economic Recovery, the Blue Economy and Digital Policy, Sylviane Terooatea, Mayor of Raiatea, and Gaston Tong Sang, former president and Mayor of Bora Bora and Tupai.

The tour was part of the Seasteading Institute’s hope to negotiate a Special Economic Zone with French Polynesia in order to construct one of their floating cities in the region.

seastead-meeting

“We look forward to working with French Polynesia to develop floating islands that will benefit our host country and our international community of seasteaders,” said Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute.

“With numerous protected waters where we could station the first pilot platforms, French Polynesia offers many optimal locations for seasteading from an engineering point of view.”

The Institute has already undertaken tests of its design for the floating platforms that will ultimately make up the city and proved that, provided the Seasteading was located in a protected area of the sea, it would be perfectly buoyant.

Given their plans to begin construction of the first such city within four years, the securing of a location for the city has been a vital step that has thus far eluded the Institute. The visit to French Polynesia however, seems promising in the fit between the project’s goals and the needs of the nation.

Images courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

Images courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

From an engineering standpoint, the location is ideal due to its range of protected waters while the Polynesian people would benefit from the economic possibilities offered by the Seasteading as well as the potential solutions it offers to rising sea levels.

If approved, the Polynesian platforms will serve as a test pilot in order to prove the final constructed model, as well as showcasing the actual functioning of the Seasteading as a city in collaboration with the host nation.

Former Minister of Tourism for French Polynesia Marc Collins expressed his support for The Seasteading Institute’s vision.

“Polynesian culture has a long history of seafaring across the Pacific Ocean that will contribute to this ambitious project,” he said.

“More than most nations, our islands are impacted by rising sea levels, and resilient floating islands could be one tangible solution for us to maintain our populations anchored to their islands.  For many Polynesians, leaving our islands is not an option.”

Mark Zuckerberg: VR goal is still 5-10 years away

Mark Zuzkerberg has said that the true goal of virtual reality could still be a decade away, in a testimony during a high-profile court case against his company.

Facebook, as owner of Oculus, is currently in the middle of being sued by ZeniMax Media for allegedly stealing technology for the virtual reality device. If proved guilty, they will be pursued for the amount of $2bn by ZeniMax.  However, perhaps more pertinent to the actual future of virtual reality are comments arising from Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony.

As it currently stands, virtual reality is still a far cry from being integrated into everyday life on a wide scale. Oculus, HTC Vive and Playstation VR are still largely targeting gamers and the idea of entertainment experiences. While they have found varying levels of success, all three platforms are being held back by the youth of the technology and, in the case of Vive and Oculus, the limited by the need for a high performing computer to plug into.

Image and featured image courtesy of Oculus

“I don’t think that good virtual reality is fully there yet,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s going to take five or 10 more years of development before we get to where we all want to go.”

The revelation isn’t a particularly shocking one; even the most ardent believer in virtual reality has to admit that we’re a fair way off the goal. Indeed, we can be seen as being in the first wave of mainstream virtual reality, with the main players in the tech using gaming as a way to introduce the technology to a group that are most likely to be interested from the off.

Zuckerberg has far grander plans than simply expanding the user base however, as seen with projects such as Facebook Social VR. If games are the entry, the idea is to expand virtual reality to become a whole new computing platform used for a bevy of experiences and containing a whole load of tools. The ambition is high, the reality slightly lagging behind.

Mark Zuckerberg with Priscilla Chan in 2016

When asked about the realisation of VR as this new computing platform, Zuckerberg replied: “These things end up being more complex than you think up front. If anything, we may have to invest even more money to get to the goals we had than we had thought up front.”

He then went on to add that the probable investment for Facebook to reach that goal is likely to top the $3bn mark over the next ten years. Considering the social media giant spent $2bn just to acquire Oculus, this represents a truly colossal investment in something that seemed to be initially set to hit a lot sooner. Admittedly the goal is rather grand: providing hundreds of millions of people with a good virtual reality experience transcending gaming alone.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s very important that you know that Mark Zuckerberg did in fact wear a suit to trial. Whether Palmer Luckey, making his first public appearance since his Gamergate/Trump support scandal last year, will manage to ditch the flip flops when he testifies is yet to be seen.

Historic Seasteading agreement to see floating city built in French Polynesia

A landmark agreement has been signed between the government of French Polynesia and the Seasteading Institute that lays the foundations for the establishment of a floating city in the country’s waters.

Signed on Friday, 13th January, the agreement will see the government and non-profit cooperate to develop a legal framework for what they are now calling The Floating Island Project.

Although located within the territorial waters of French Polynesia, the floating island will have its own governing framework and economic regulations, allowing it to attract businesses with offers of low – if any – taxation and little red tape.

However, it should also offer significant benefits to the nation, by not only bringing jobs and preventing a brain drain on the archipelagos, but also offering resilience to rising sea levels associated with climate change.

“Our seasteading collaboration with French Polynesia was initiated by the Tahitians themselves and will bring jobs, economic growth, and environmental resiliency to the region,” explained Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute.

“Signing the memorandum of understanding with French Polynesia is an important first step, and a huge milestone for seasteading.”

Images courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

The agreement is a vital step in what has already been a long journey towards the development of such a floating city. Back in September, a delegation from the Seasteading Institute examined multiple sites around French Polynesia, as well as meeting with several of the nation’s senior ministers.

Now a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed, the next steps will be to complete and extensive environmental assessments of the ocean and seabed, as well as the completion of an economic analysis by the Seasteading Institute to demonstrate the financial benefits to the nation.

“The Seasteading Institute and the government of French Polynesia will draw from the best practices of more than 4,000 existing Special Economic Zones around the world to create a ‘Special Economic SeaZone,’” added Hencken.

“The SeaZone will combine the advantages of French Polynesia’s geopolitical location with unique regulatory opportunities specifically designed to attract businesses and investors.”

When construction finally begins on the floating islands, it will be funded by investors in the Seasteading Institute, with a total anticipated cost somewhere between $10m and $50m. The floating platforms that will house the city have already been designed by Dutch engineering firm Blue21, meaning the focus now is on making the concept work for the area.

The organisation plans for many businesses on the floating island to be areas of clean-tech, meaning there are likely to be numerous skilled jobs available to the people of French Polynesia.

“We need to create new clean-tech and blue economy jobs for our youth, and this project has the potential to be a real game-changer locally,” said Marc Collins, former Minister of Tourism for French Polynesia. “This project could help us retain our bright minds, who would otherwise emigrate for work.”

However, with many of the country’s islands under threat from rising sea levels, the project also could provide a long-term survival solution for the nation.

“Polynesian culture has a long history of seafaring across the Pacific Ocean that will contribute to this ambitious project. More than most nations, our islands are impacted by rising sea levels, and resilient floating islands could be one tangible solution for us to maintain our populations anchored to their islands,” added Collins.

“For many Polynesians, leaving our islands is not an option.”