Earlier today, my partner told me about a project to make a ship that is a city. Like, an entire city. I did some googling, and discovered that what she was talking about was the Freedom Ship, which at this stage is just a big plan.
Envision an ideal place to live or run a business, a friendly, safe and secure community with large areas of open space and extensive entertainment and recreational facilities. Finally, picture this community continually moving around the world. You are beginning to understand the Freedom Ship concept of a massive ocean-going vessel.
At first glance, this project sounds really, really cool. But looking closer at the website, it sounds not so much like a real city -- it sounds sort of aggressively pre-gentrified.
The idea of a city that is a boat, in fact exactly the sort of city they're roughly describing at that website, that sails around the world, stopping in at all the major ports, sustaining a real population of people who actually live there, is really cool. And, I think, just bordering on possible. But what they seem to be trying to do with this project isn't to make a city at sea -- they're trying to make a rich neighborhood from a city, at sea.
That, to me, makes it sound like a much more awful place. And it has all the trappings of that awfulness -- the name, especially, squicks me out. Neither a ship nor a city are good places to maximize freedom. They're great for a lot of other things -- adventure, multiculturalism, innovation, etc. But the principle 'your right to swing your first ends at the tip of my noes' is a lot more restricting when people are packed densely.
But this project does give me hope. Because if we're getting into the business of building ships like this, then it's only a matter of time before somebody gets it right. (And with the speed things change in the world now, that might only be a couple of decades.) I'm not interested in signing up to live on the Freedom Ship, but it would be awesome to live on the next one, the S.S. whatever, something with an organic nature that builds up its own, real infrastructure with a real mix of people from different socio-economic classes all pursuing what better life that ship can offer them.
And if it doesn't happen in real life, it almost certainly will, eventually, in one of my novels.