Science fiction authors have been envisioning floating cities for years. One was described in Neil Stephenson’s classic, “Snow Crash” as repurposing a discarded aircraft carrier.
The latest South Korean plan to construct a 15 acre prototype to hold twelve thousand people will share many of the same problems of a space colony. For example, how will it handle waste products? How will it supply fresh food and water? How will it handle vibrations from wave action, shifting loads, and hurricane force winds? How will supplies arrive and will there be any sort of production on their island?
While South Korea wants their floating city to accommodate population, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build an eight-sided city that would float on the Red Sea. It said the city, Oxagon, would be “home to the world’s first fully automated port and integrated logistics hub.” in other words, an industrial zone.
There have been discussions on “seasteading” or floating cities that would actually follow deep ocean currents with the seasons and never be connected to land, once launched.
Neil Stephenson’s Raft is a flotilla of thousands of boats fastened to a former aircraft carrier and each other that functions as a floating city. While this design wouldn’t work as envisioned, because ocean chop would smash the boats into kindling, there are ways it could be managed with a flotilla of large vessels.
Another problem shared by space colonies and floating cities is socio-political. Oceanix had already been vilified as a “vanity project for the rich.” What these complaints refuse to admit is that human research and advancement has always been the realm of the wealthy. Of course the first independent space colonies will be populated by the very rich. While it is wonderful to feel bad about the impoverished and attempt to help with various projects, nothing will solve the problems associated with overpopulation until we learn to control breeding on a large scale.
The Seasteading Institute is a non-profit think tank that has been examining these ideas. They promote the creation of floating ocean cities as a revolutionary solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems: rising sea levels, overpopulation, poor governance, and more. They envision new city-states with their own governments. Naturally, other nations dislike the idea of losing citizens to whole new “countries”.
Perhaps Neil Stephenson’s reuse of discarded large vessels as overflow slums will actually become reality.
If you’d like to learn more, here are a couple of links: