[In light of ongoing blog discussions of Accelerationism, I thought I'd post the chapter that I've been editing this morning. It's one of several "news reports from the future" interspersed through the novel. Suggested augmentations are welcome.]
TAHITI – The first three of fourteen floating tax-free islands being built in the South Pacific are ready for occupancy. Some two thousand of the wealthiest individuals and families in the world have commissioned the construction of the artificial archipelago as a residential and financial paradise. Together the islands will comprise a new nation-corporation, with citizenship granted to anyone paying one billion dollars into the archipelago’s development trust. According to domestic and international law, the floating nation will constitute a tax-free haven for the global earnings of each citizen.
The floating islands, located in the open sea twelve hundred miles east of Tahiti, represent a significant advance in large-scale artificial land technology. Each island is assembled from enormous modules that are themselves being constructed at a Peruvian offshore assembly facility and towed into position. Layered with topsoil, the artificial surface can support most varieties of the lush plant life and exotic bird species native to the South Seas habitat. The islands are convex, a hundred feet above sea level at the center and sloping gradually toward the ocean, where a layer of sand will be maintained as an artificial beach. Each citizen is deeded a wedge of property extending from the island’s apex to the shore. Residences, constructed from strong ultralight material, are limited to a single storey and will be built at least forty feet above sea level as protection against tropical storms and the high waves they can generate. Citizens are also permitted to erect beachside cabanas. An area of each island will be set aside for establishing a small village of sturdy, attractive huts that will be assigned to servants and nannies and other personnel supporting the citizens’ households.
Automobiles are prohibited, so residents will use bicycles and motorboats to get around. A limited number of cafés and small shops will be built on the islands. Groceries, clothing, and other bulkier commodities will be sold from ships that travel from island to island, ferrying customers back and forth from their homes. A small, fully outfitted cruise ship will house’s the archipelago’s schools. Teachers, support staff, and boarded students will live in the luxurious on-board suites, while day pupils take the hydroplane “bus” to and from school. Electricians, plumbers, police, and other maintenance personnel will make “house calls” to the islands from their motorboats. The service marina will thus comprise another sort of floating community within the perimeter of the artificial archipelago. A decommissioned aircraft carrier will function as the local airport, with commercial flights scheduled to and from Tahiti and Pago Pago. Citizens will also have the opportunity to purchase private craft hangar space on the carrier.
The islands are kept afloat by enormous bulkheads that sink half a mile beneath the surface. The bulkheads are automatically maintained at the optimal level of inflation by computerized pumps and pipelines mounted on low, subtly-landscaped platforms positioned a mile offshore of each island. Instead of being anchored to the seafloor, the islands are stabilized by means of a network of enormous underwater buoys submerged at varying, precisely calibrated depths. The buoys are automatically raised or lowered to adjust for variations in tides, currents, and temperature. On the surface, the islands are buffered against trade winds and waves by a circular system of levees, also anchored to underwater stabilizers, that completely surround the archipelago.
Collectively, the fourteen islands and their citizen-owners will comprise the floating nation-corporation. It is anticipated that, once formed, the archipelago’s government will rapidly establish the country as a tax-free, unregulated offshore financial center. It has been proposed that multinational corporations and partnerships of which island citizens own at least twenty percent will be granted tax-free status by the archipelago. Not surprisingly, financial institutions, shipping firms, and other companies desirous of taking advantage of the islands’ attractive business climate have begun wooing potential citizen-investors by means of designer low-price stock offerings, limited-liability partnerships, and hedge funds.
If the floating nation-corporation proves successful, the owner-citizens may consider expanding the territory, constructing additional islands within the protected perimeter or even extending territorial boundaries farther into the open seas. While citizenship presently costs a cool billion dollars, the sticker price might well go up in future offerings. Other wealthy consortia are forming to explore the possibility of launching their own start-up floating nations that would demand less up-front outlay.
The wealthiest one percent of the world’s population controls more than sixty percent of the world’s wealth; soon most of that wealth might be sailing out to sea. Traditional land-based countries, watching their tax revenues floating away, are rapidly lowering their tax rates in order to compete.