Earlier this week Marc Lore, fifty-year-old billionaire, spoke in an interview of the future city he is planning in the west of the USA. A small project: 400 billion dollars and 5 million people.
The name chosen for this future "city-state"? Obviously a Greek word: Telosa, which means "higher purpose".
And how would this new "promised land" be governed? Between project details, Lore coined the word “equity” for the occasion: a sort of crasis between equity and capitalism. Beautiful ideology, which as happened recently covers the "simple" need to make its own rules to escape the injustices perpetrated against the poor billionaires.
And so we see a full bloom of beautiful videos and beautiful renderings of highly advanced “sovereign” cities teeming with greenery and solar-powered flying machines.
Telosa and other “cities of the Sun”: (im) possible utopias?
The utopia of Lore's future city, like other similar projects (mostly abortions) between presentation videos, "core values" and "sustainable urban design", seems more dictated by the fact that its "creator" got tired of to pay taxes. At least in the traditional way.
“Purpose” taxes and the future city as a startup
In the future city that Lore wants to build, the land will be owned by a private trust on which citizens are free to build and sell their homes. Taxes will be paid mainly for city infrastructure improvements voted for by citizens. A rather banal idea, presented as a "battle of ideas" to be voted on.
If you go to the desert where the land is worth nothing, you create a foundation that manages the land and people go there to live and pay taxes to build infrastructure, as the future city grows the value of the foundation increases. It could be worth a trillion dollars. And everyone would know exactly what the taxes they pay are being spent.Marc Lore in a recent interview
Future city: a technology gym
The imposition of startup culture on every aspect of a Telosa citizen's life would obviously be accompanied by an infinity of technologies that would presumably support this “fiscal cathedral” in the desert.
Among the first companies to officially collaborate with Telosa are those in the field of electric air taxis, a bit like in Dubai.
Self made city
Lore says he is fascinated by the idea of “something that comes from nothing”. It sounds like a praise to himself: a man who started his career in the bank and today owns a 40 million euro penthouse (with a life-size bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin).
Yet physics has taught us: nothing comes from nothing and grows like this, by magic. The challenge is unlikely, and it seems like a nightmare in terms of sustainability. It goes without saying that the desert is very hot, and water is scarce - things that don't seem to stop the desires of Lore and many other wealthy ones. Why?
In fact, for some time now, the dream of generating new-concept future cities using more or less artificial intelligence has prompted a surprising number of companies and billionaires to attempt the enterprise. And they all seem to insist on areas with significant structural problems that are difficult to solve if not with an environmental "bloodbath".
The "new founding fathers"
Before Telosa, examples abound. Bill Gates has his own future city plan that he is building in southwestern Arizona, in 2017 bought nearly 100 square kilometers (25.000 acres). There he hopes to install a data center and launch a self-driving car-based transportation model.
Earlier this year, in Nevada, an entrepreneur in the bitcoin industry called Jeffrey Berns initiated the procedures for found a self-governing territory called Painted Rock. Almost a techno government, spanning 270 square kilometers (67.000 acres), where services would be based on blockchain.
Akon City instead is the name of the future city project launched in 2018 by the Afro-American singer and entrepreneur Akon. It should arise in Senegal, and this has earned the project the office qualification of "Wakanda in real version" (the African hyper-technological state told in the Marvel universe).
Saudi Arabia is instead the place chosen for the foundation of Neom, a "linear" city which stretches for the length of 170 kilometers (105 miles) into the desert. The founder, Saudi prince Mohammed Bin Salman, says the future city will be accessible in just 20 minutes with futuristic means of transport.
BiodiverCityinstead, it is a future archipelago city for 16.000 inhabitants designed by Bjarke Ingels that wants to come to life off the coast of Malaysia. Three islands connected to each other by land, sea and sky by autonomous vehicles, boats and aircraft.
Ingels is also behind the pompously named technology village project (70 hectares, less than a square kilometer) Woven city and announced by Toyota in January 2020. There too autonomous vehicles, home automation and robotics for all citizens (employees of the Japanese company).
Future city: the "higher purpose" is another
In some of these scenarios, despite all the bluster about a sustainable future and fairer societies, the shortages are gigantic, especially the water shortages. A circumstance that qualifies many of these future city projects as waste paper. Or it shows widespread certainty on the part of tech billionaires of overcoming problems that seem insurmountable.
Or again, it makes us understand that these moves are dictated by another type of urgency.
Every man for himself
In 2018, to the futurist Douglas Rushkoff an exorbitant amount was offered to speak to what he believed was a panel, but in reality it was a small investor conference.
These investors didn't want Rushkoff's ideas about the future as much as his views. On what? On which countries would have been least affected by climate change and above all on how they would "maintain authority" over their security forces "after the degradation of the social fabric".
They have since emerged meaningful reports about the tech industry's attempts to isolate itself from impending disaster by brewing golden exiles with money earned through an industry that has sometimes done just that. It accelerated political instability and ecological decline.
Take the Money and Run
There is certainly something striking about the idea of Telosa, 5 million people living in a future technological garden city. An oasis in the desert where everyone lives, works, votes via app.
The more likely dark future, however, is that these "new founding fathers" will use their money and talent to take cover when the problems the world is trying to tackle become particularly dire.
The super rich, in other words, have water reserves (the aforementioned Jeffrey Berns who is building Painted Rock bought 200.000 liters, 7.000 cubic feet, in two separate underground basins), private jets and bunkers in New Zealand. And they want to enforce them.
At the very least, it is obvious that these glorious visions of the future city, with their accompanying slogans about a "higher purpose", are very different from their private contingency plans.