We recently learnt that the mysterious company gobbling up land in Solano County, California, is funded by venture capitalists including Mr Marc Andreessen, Mr Reid Hoffman and Mrs Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Their goal: build a new city from scratch. In doing so, they are getting in a long line of technotopians that includes Google co-founder Larry Page and his effort to build cities “from the Internet up”, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale and his plans for “charter cities” and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and his desire for “Seasteader” cities floating on water. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wants to see cities floating in space, and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has proposed cities in Texas and on Mars. There is 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 have been recruited to lead some of these technotopian ventures. What I learnt 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.