Certain times and places contribute disproportionately to human progress. Some unique combination of people and ideas ignite creative sparks, leading to innovations and insights that humanity treasures for generations. Ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and Victorian England all played unique roles in creating the world as it exists today.
Today, it is possible to build a 21st Century Renaissance City. A city that can draw the best minds from around the world, that can help break out of complacent and narrow-minded thought, and chart a better path forward for humanity.
It is time to rebuild our institutions for the digital age. Modern states were built on the industrial revolution. However, they have become stagnant and sclerotic, unable to quickly adapt to changing times and technologies. Hostility to innovation and building have become widespread.
Reform is possible, and there are promising signs, but building a city dedicated to progress could demonstrate just how much is possible. Rather than fighting with various stakeholders for marginal gains, a 21st Century Renaissance City could supercharge innovation and propel the frontier of knowledge perpetually forward.
The internet has served as a great sorting mechanism. Communities that developed online are coming to life in person. It is easier than ever to find people with shared interests and values. Vibecamp and Zuzalu are two examples of this trend, proto network states that can be leveraged for more.
There are three reasons to build a 21st Century Renaissance City. First, to create a place to experiment with new technologies, including biotech and aeronautics. Second, to build a hub for talent that allows new ideas to be created. Third, to create a broader cultural shift, demonstrating a better way for people to live and work together.
The great stagnation is over. With advances in biotechnology, aeronautics, and AI, we are on the frontier of a new world. However, governments have been slow to adapt, and sometimes outright hostile, to these new technologies. Drones, for example, are often tested outside of the United States. The FDA is slow to approve new drugs and therapeutics. Some of the top AI engineers struggle to get into the United States. Building a city that attracts and encourages new technologies can help accelerate technological innovation and encourage current governments to adopt better regulations.
Talent matters. The United States remains the premier destination for talent, but it is not living up to its potential. Limiting high-skilled migration, as well as the declining quality of governance in American cities, creates an opportunity to build something better. Building a 21st Century Renaissance city focusing on technology and culture could attract talented individuals who want access to the US market but don’t want American taxes or governance, as well as some Americans looking for a more welcoming city. A well structured new city could compete with San Francisco and New York for talent within a decade.
The last reason is a broader cultural shift. Many of the challenges facing the world are because of a culture against building. America has stopped building new infrastructure, in part because of specific zoning and environmental regulations, but those regulations spring from a deeper well. America has a sense of malaise, of decline. A 21st Century Renaissance city could demonstrate that a better world is achievable.
With a changing world, we are once again seeing the power of small groups of people dedicated to new ideas. My company, Braavos Cities, is exploring potential locations in the Caribbean to build a 21st century Renaissance city.