Cities are the heartbeats of a civilization, hubs of human interaction and innovation. But as we move towards the future, the question arises: what will our cities look like tomorrow? Many new city experiments are playing out by world technology leaders like Vitalik Buterin and Patri Friedman, and it will be an fascinating sector to watch play out over the next decade. This article focuses on the exciting new city development concepts, exploring their contrasting ideologies and introducing new possibilities for intentional communities.
Established Ideologies Redefining Urban Spaces
- Green Cities: Imagine vast metropolises where nature seamlessly intermingles with concrete, similar to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. The “garden city” movement champions sustainability and walkability, fostering a healthier population. Modern green buildings are designed to minimize carbon footprint and energy consumption, and some even generate carbon credits. Singapore’s biophilic design mandates have increased urban greenery by over 30% since the 1960s.
- Tech Marvels: Enter a future where technology is supreme, with self-driving cars, intelligent traffic management, and hyper-connected infrastructure in smart cities like Songdo in South Korea. Effectiveness and accommodation are fundamental, yet concerns await information protection and computerized isolates.
Introducing New Arenas in Urban Living
- Consciousness Villages: Experimental eco-villages like Auroville in India offer a glimpse into cities designed for mindfulness, wellness, and spiritual growth. While measurement remains a challenge, research shows that green spaces, meditation, and community engagement enhance cognitive abilities. However, some critics argue that these communities are elitist and exclusionary.
- Longevity Havens: Can cities be designed to extend healthy lifespans? Okinawa, Japan boasts high rates of centenarians, partially attributed to lifestyle factors like diet and social engagement. Purpose-built “Blue Zones” in California integrate community gardens, walking routes, and accessible healthcare. Meanwhile, experimental concepts like Vitalia City are leading the change for locales that emphasize access to life extension technologies. Vitalia is setting itself up in multiple districts, including the pioneering private city of Prospera in Honduras. By setting up a friendly law that accelerates the FDA approval process and allows human challenge trials, cutting-edge longevity technology can be more rapidly deployed on patients who desperately need it, instead of waiting for the lengthy FDA process in the USA.
“A self-governing community in a distributed city like Vitalia.city can coordinate to remove bottlenecks in medical innovation, and create therapies at warp speed, not just for a crisis like COVID, but for aging itself, as we consider it a bigger crisis. With decentralized, online + in-person governance, we can foster such environments in new cities and network states. The rest of the world can then incorporate what works.” Laurence Ion , cofounder of Vitalia and founding steward of VitaDAO
- Private Cities: Can cities be operated like private companies, where profits and customer satisfaction are prioritized while remaining autonomous from their host country? Special economic zones and special administrative zones have been experimented with, and there are currently more than 1000 such zones in the world — all with varying degrees of autonomy. Agility in setting up laws and regulations in response to current economic trends and industry demand gives such cities a competitive edge to operate to some degree like an independent jurisdiction. Prospera is the first private city that is recognized by its host country — Honduras — to operate as an autonomous jurisdiction, all written into national law and regulations.
- Digital Communities: Zuzalu, Vitalik Buterin’s popup city initiative, was a unique experiment in a hybrid digital/real-world community project. While still in its infancy, it demonstrated a new model that brought together a diverse set of individuals while not tying itself to a permanent physical location.
“It’s a crazy social experiment where we basically brought together about 200 people from a combination of the ethereum space, some bio and longevity hackers, people interested in building new cities and societies and a lot of the adjacent communities. And we basically got people to come and live together in one place for two months.” — @VitalikButerin
- Digital Nomad Meccas: Locations like Bali, Madeira, Dubai, and Estonia cater to location-independent remote workers through coworking spaces, community events, and legal accommodations. While estimating the digital nomad population is difficult, some put it over 30 million globally. Cities can attract these untethered workers through strong digital infrastructure and targeted visa programs.
What we Envision
We envision a new city pilot project that takes learnings from multiple successful projects and begins with an enclave of like-minded digital settlers. This digital community will form the initial interest base for a yet-to-be-named physical hub (or hubs). The community will then play a role in designing the concept for an initial settlement and have a stake in the overall success as the settlement evolves from a small enclave into a full-scale metropolis (see: The Promise of Charter Zones for notes on incentive alignment). Designs will be developed in stages, starting with low-density horizontal development, while reserving blocks of space for future medium and higher-density development.
- A highly aligned digital community (see Network State, Digital Nation Stack)
- A greenfield space, adjacent to other infrastructure and an existing hub (reducing cold start issues, leveraging existing network effects)
- An idealized legal framework, ensuring property and personal safety, while maximizing freedom and opportunities for digital workers
- Good location, timezone, weather, amenities, etc.
- Start small with an MVC (minimum viable city), but ensure there is plenty of space for growth if and when the pilot zone is successful
Metropolis believes in setting up the optimal and attractive legal environment first, taking input from existing digital nomad communities. The next step will be to build city infra-technologies that serve digitally native people, to maximize life convenience and experiment with new innovation within. This can include tokenizing real-world assets, digitizing finance transactions, optimizing supply-chain and other services with blockchain, and more. Lastly, we believe a city needs to live in harmony with its neighbors and the environment. Human connections and sustainability lie in the heart of a city with a soul. This can be achieved through mindful activities and programs such as small conferences and retreats.
This is just a glimpse into the kaleidoscope of possibilities that await us in the age of city development. As we move forward, it’s crucial to engage in open and inclusive discussions about the kind of cities we want to inhabit. By embracing diverse ideologies, fostering innovation, and prioritizing the well-being of all inhabitants, we can co-create urban landscapes that are functional, efficient, nurturing, sustainable, and blooming with the potential for a brighter future.
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