A group of Silicon Valley techies are now formulating a plan to build their very own dream city – away from the US entirely and governed by themselves. Twenty-five-year-olds Dryden Brown of New York University, and Charlie Callinan of Boston College, co-founded Bluebook Cities in 2019 — described as a “full-stack city builder,” which “partners with communities to develop beautiful, energetic, resident-owned cities,” the website states.
So far, their community remains online, in “the cloud”. But they expect to enlist around 2,000 willing participants (about the size of a small college town) to pack up and move to their yet-to-be-built city. No word yet on where the concept will touch down — but the two hope to land somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Currently, Brown and Callinan are looking to partner with a country in the region who wants to attract a slice of Silicon Valley and is seeking to forge a partnership with them.
“Whereby they contribute land, perhaps for equity in the project and the terms will obviously be negotiated,” Brown explained. “We are not trying to be a total sovereign nation or something like that. We want to partner with a government and build something really cool that works with us and works for them and is mutually beneficial,” he said, adding that they want a government that will stop blocking people with “dumb regulations.”
With the backing of angel investor Peter Thiel, who has already invested nearly $9 million in Pronomos Capital — a venture capital that focuses solely on startups like Bluebook Cities — the company is expected to soon morph the online community into a private city reality. But membership is even more limited than the already cost prohibitive Silicon Valley real-estate scene.
“Praxis applicants are carefully vetted with a written application and numerous phone calls with current members. New members are rare because membership is sacred,” the application states.
Their move follows the crippling pandemic, racial tensions and a controversial election — all of which has mounted talk of secession in what was once the tech capital of the world. The Silicon Valley techies are looking to take matters into their own hands by exploring ways to build an apolitical private city run by private residents without US government control.
“When COVID happened, the labor market migrated to the cloud. Now you can move sort of wherever you want and your job will follow — if you are a knowledge worker in many cases,” says Brown. “And I think this is going to create a shift in urban dynamics that’s greater than we have seen in 300 years, where people are no longer moving into cities for the labor market.”
Brown and Callinan are currently building their online community via Praxis – a social-media platform for those interested in possibly joining Bluebook Cities (that is, if they meet their exclusive criteria) and where they can communicate directly amongst each other. The website describes Praxis as a “society of pioneers racing to settle the first resident-owned Affinity City, developed by Bluebook Cities on the Mediterranean,” explaining how the global reach of the internet helps build a community of “new cities organized around shared values and glorious visions for the future.”
One way to join the Praxis community is through the digital distribution platform Discord which is designed specifically to create a community among people with shared ideas and thoughts. “We want young and ambitious people who want to go out in the frontier and build the future.” But the plan isn’t without its catches.
“If San Francisco gets radically better, or New York, and none of these people no longer want to leave,” Brown muses. “I think that is fairly unlikely but who knows? So there could be a demand problem.”
He also cited finance sourcing as a potential issue, describing how it would take at least $500 million for Phase 1 of building a city to come into fruition.
“You’re joining a startup city and you’re owning equity in the startup city by living there,” Brown says. “We intend for it to go to the moon but we will see.”
Bluebook Cities isn’t the only entity pursuing this dream. In February, Japan’s Toyota company launched their idea of a new city titled “Woven City.” Saudi Arabia also gained its own footing on futuristic cities with the company Neom, which they began developing in 2017.
For Further Reading:
- Bluebook Cities and it’s thesis are at: https://www.bluebookcities.com/
- An article, Futurists Aim to Build Semi-Autonomous City Without “Dumb Regulations”, can be found at: https://www.propmodo.com/futurists-aim-to-build-semi-autonomous-city-without-dumb-regulations/
- Inside A.I. has published an article on this subject at: https://inside.com/campaigns/inside-ai-2021-05-17-27833/sections/235946