Tech leaders are fed up with cities and their politics. So they want to start over. And that doesn’t bode well for cities old or new.
We recently learned that the mysterious company gobbling up land in Solano County, Calif., is funded by venture capitalists including Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman and Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Their goal: build a new city from scratch. In doing so, they are getting in a long line of Technotopians that includes the Google co-founder Larry Page and his effort to build cities “from the internet up,” the Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale and his plans for “charter cities” and the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and his desire for “Seasteader” cities floating on water. The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wants to see cities floating in space, and Elon Musk has proposed cities in Texas and on Mars. There’s even a venture capital firm funding the creation of new cities.
As a professor of urban tech who has worked in the industry for years, I’ve been recruited to lead some of these Technotopian ventures. What I learned from these meetings keeps me focused on my day job. The tech leaders may have the money to build new cities, and they certainly have the hubris. What they lack is the disposition.