Wired has an article on moonshots, schemes that can potentially have big impacts on humanity. Unfortunately, Wired’s vision is constrained. The moonshots listed are technological feats, build an engine that can get to mars, create AI, reduce malaria. By focusing on technology, Wired misses how changing the rules of human interaction with free cities can have monumental effects.
Below are the criteria listed for the moonshot.
In February 2016, Teller laid out the principles of the philosophy. A moon- shot, he said, should be firstly about solving “a huge problem in the world that affects many millions of people.” That could cover solving the energy crisis, cutting road deaths or halting global warming. Second, a moonshot should not settle for half-baked measures: it has to provide a “radical solution” that can do away with the problem for good. The last criterion, Teller explained, is the reasonable expectation that technology can actually solve the problem. Moonshots should be as much about pragmatism as they are about dreaming.
Free cities fit this description. First, urbanization and poor governance cause poverty which affects billions of people. Free cities can alleviate that poverty. If special economic zones (SEZs) in China accounted for only 10%, a conservative estimate, of China’s economic growth, then SEZs are responsible for lifting 70 million people out of poverty.
Second, technology is the driver of long run economic growth. If free cities can even slightly accelerate technological innovation, they can improve the lives of billions of people.
Third, free cities are both radical and practical. They are radical in the sense that such devolution of power is difficult to achieve political. They are practical as free cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore have already shown it is possible to lift millions of people out of poverty.
Free cities are a moonshot, but a moonshot worth investing considerable time and energy in. I hope Wired considers free cities projects the next time they write about moonshots.