Perfect City.

By Philippa Hadlow

Reading time: 16 minutes

Utopia is, by definition, a place where things are perfect. But who gets to decide what defines perfect?

Perhaps the residents of utopian future-city Telosa will have something to say on the subject. When they get there, that is.

Upon arrival in 2030, those who choose to call themselves ‘Telosans’ can enjoy a custom-made city that offers just about everything known as Good. The name Telosa itself stems from Aristotle’s Greek “highest purpose” and follows lofty social ideals like equity, inclusiveness, cohesion, and community governance.

Sustainability is high on the list, too. Avant-garde urban architecture will comprise the city's construction. A central tower will be topped by a photovoltaic roof and will also house

By Philippa Hadlow

Reading time: 16 minutes

Utopia is, by definition, a place where things are perfect. But who gets to decide what defines perfect?

Perhaps the residents of utopian future-city Telosa will have something to say on the subject. When they get there, that is.

Upon arrival in 2030, those who choose to call themselves ‘Telosans’ can enjoy a custom-made city that offers just about everything known as Good. The name Telosa itself stems from Aristotle’s Greek “highest purpose” and follows lofty social ideals like equity, inclusiveness, cohesion, and community governance.

Sustainability is high on the list, too. Avant-garde urban architecture will comprise the city’s construction. A central tower will be topped by a photovoltaic roof and will also house elevated water storage and aeroponic (soilless) farms mooted to supply produce to the people. Fossil-fuelled vehicles are banned, and all facilities are accessible within 15 minutes via scooters, bikes and autonomous or flying cars. Architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been hired; suitable land narrowed down to 150,000 acres somewhere in the deserts of America; the promo website’s looking snazzy, and, all going to plan, Telosa will be inhabited and ready to set sail in 2030.

By 2050, an extra four and a half million people will have been encouraged to up sticks and move to a whole new world.

Telosa City is a social engineering project that aims to revolutionise society’s 21st-century concepts on taxation, capitalism, housing, healthcare, consumerism, infrastructure, and land ownership. It’s the brainchild of Marc Lore, ex Diapers.com king and speculator-cum-entrepreneur of numerous think big projects and e-commerce ventures.

It was Marc Lore’s own gung-ho yet highly successful approach to capitalism that led him to think there must be a different way. A new model that would share wealth in order to feed infrastructure and create opportunities for all.

His idea to build Telosa, a city designed to be the envy and inspiration of all society, was sparked by a best-selling book called Progress and Poverty, written by economist Henry George in 1879. The book piqued Lore’s attention by highlighting the pattern of asset ownership, growth, and wealth by a certain few and the juxtaposed effect of increased poverty on the majority of others. Lore resonated with ‘Georgism’, as it became known and he began to think seriously about building a new city from scratch, specifically engineered to fulfil Aristotle’s “highest purpose” ideals.

Upholding the Georgist social values of ‘equitism’ or inclusive growth would be paramount. Telosa would follow an economic system enabling citizens to have an ownership stake in the city’s land via an endowment model. Land value returns would be reinvested back into the community to fund essential public services; as the city does better, the residents do better. Telosa has a major business ally, The Junto Group. Junto endorses this endowment ethos in their modern-day take on the 18th-century philosophies of Benjamin Franklin’s original Junto Club. Members cultivated “a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others in a club of mutual improvement”.

With Juntoism and Georgism at the helm, social systems are set for a shakeup. Henry George maintained that “if progress and profit aren’t reinvested into all of society – not just back into the coffers of the top feeders – then the contrast between the ‘House of Have’ and the ‘House of Want’ becomes extreme and unsustainable”. George maintained that the social inequality that invariably accompanies the upward trajectory of capitalistic endeavour must end.

Has it ended? In 2021, the gap between the haves and the have nots is no tighter than during George’s time in the late 19th century. If anything, regardless of governmental and philanthropical intervention, there is a far greater gulf than ever due to increases in income inequality at the national level.

Governments that under-tax big corporates and under-fund essential facilities and services, like health and education, are partly to blame. Fair wage and conditions ensign, Unionism, which had its heyday in the ’50s, no longer has as much clout. According to Oxfam International, the world’s richest comprise 1% of the population and own more than 43% of its wealth yet sometimes pay little or no tax. Almost half of humanity lives on less than $5.50 a day; men own 50% more of the world’s wealth than women; minority races are poorly represented at the top of the income scale. Vaccine distribution favours high-income nations, poor lives are shorter … and so the list of social inequities goes on.

Do the wealthiest contribute to making the world a better place?

Marc Lore is a rich man in his own right. He’s no stranger to monetary success and has been a speculator since his high school days. Lore founded Diapers.com in 2005, sold out to Amazon, then took on a leadership role with Walmart. He grew Walmart sales by 44% in twelve months, then tripled them in three years before moving into rather more high-flying ventures (quite literally) when he opted to be lead investor in Archer Aviation all-electric vertical takeoff and landing jet (flying car) company.

The Midas touch, you reckon? I don’t judge Marc Lore for his kind of dreaming big. There’s an old saying about a rising tide lifting all boats and I think Lore would love this idiom to be realised. If his Telosa eventuates, we can only hope it becomes the role model big sister for copycat developments worldwide. Dubbed an “e-commerce wizard” by actor Gwyneth Paltrow and “one of the smartest people in technology” by Fortune Magazine, perhaps Lore can make it work.

But before you jump to the conclusion that the concept behind Telosa comes from ‘hippy-dippy cloud cuckoo land’, stop and think again. Those quietly accused of living in such a land might rightfully remonstrate and defend their case based on facts, facts, and double facts – plus a lot of research. And who’s to say that ever-evolving technology matched by human idealism can’t create a way?

It is not a generalisation to say we all possess an innate desire for a better world. Call it conscience, or the unconscious and unstoppable energy behind our evolution as a species. Our natural sense of hopefulness sees us through all sorts of trauma, change and revolution. The plentiful signs of optimism in those most disadvantaged by a life they may or may not have chosen are mind-blowing. We naturally hope and trust our current situation will get better, even if there are slim pickings in possibilities. Plato’s philosophy on idealism exemplifies that extropian good cheer.

Extropianism is a philosophy first coined by Tom Bell and developed in 1988 by future thinker Max More. He defined extropy as “the extent of a living or organisational system’s intelligence, functional order, vitality, energy, life, experience, and capacity and drive for improvement and growth.”

It’s a practice and thought system that brings Plato into the 21st century, promoting an “evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition” (Wikipedia). Extropians contribute towards achieving that ideal by researching and implementing advances in specialist and revolutionary areas. Space exploration, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, robotics, health improvement and life span extension, mind uploading – aka whole brain emulation (WBE), idea futures, memetics (hence the indisputable and enduring popularity of modern-day memes!) are all prime examples of future-forward thinking.

These mind-boggling aspirations can be linked to various forms of ‘transhumanism’ wherein the human condition is improved and enhanced by sophisticated scientific methods. A chap by the name of FM-2030 (previously Fereidoun M. Esfandiary) is now in cryonic suspension after dying 30 years before his preferred date of demise in the year 2030, age 100. His belief in futurology, or the holistic study of how people will live in time to come, gave him the transhumanist hope of his physical revival at some stage in the future. Instead of dying at the ripe old age of 100 as hoped, could his resurrection be in 2030 instead? Seems ironic that Telosa is due for human recruitment that same year.

Gearing Telosa to be a utopian city is hardly an original idea, though. Other high-achievers have tried and largely failed, albeit with a small few boasting some success.

Nowa Huta, in the easternmost district of Kraków, Poland, was built as a deliberate social engineering project styled on an ideal utopian city in 1949. It was supposed to represent a communist future; a proletarian paradise, and its construction was a hidden fortress style combined with Poland’s native Renaissance elegance. Ironically, Nowa Huta later turned into an anti-communist hub and was key in the Solidarity Movement of the 1980s.

Other cities have founded – then floundered – like scientist / visionary Athelstan Spilhaus’s Minnesota Experimental City – a 60,000-acre constantly evolving ‘green town’ designed to be built (but never was) in the 1970s and consisting of a green space partially enclosed in a geodesic dome.

Arcosanti: a self-sustaining 1970s city of 5,000 people built in the desert community of Arizona. Its designer, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciple Paolo Soleri, developed Wright’s philosophy of ‘organic architecture’ into the theory of ‘archology’ – a portmanteau of architecture and ecology describing a utopian style designed to work in harmony with nature. Arcosanti is now a tourist attraction and learning centre.

Floyd McKissick’s Soul City: a planned community in North Carolina comprising three villages housing 18,000 by 1989. Soul City was envisioned to be a place open to minority groups and the poor and where all races could live in harmony. Progress was made until 1980 when political interference and mismanagement stymied further growth.

Toronto’s Quayside was a recent 12-acre high-tech ‘smart city’ collaboration between Google company Alphabet Inc. and subsidiary urban planning company Sidewalk Labs. Described as “a dynamic, inclusive, and resilient community that will help reorient the city towards Lake Ontario”, Quayside was also striving towards sustainability, economic opportunity, housing affordability, and new mobility. Covid-19 put an end to that one, as well as public concerns over digital privacy.

The single-most ambitious project underway right now may well be Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans for The Line – NEOM, a smart city in Saudi Arabia funded by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund and run by artificial intelligence. The Line is Neom’s 170 km underground ‘spine’ linking multiple, hyper-connected communities. An operating system called Neos will use internet-of-things data submitted by each resident to keep tabs on their every movement. Neos will also predict exactly what those residents might need next – a potential privacy intrusion similar to Quayside that could cast a death knell over this project too. For millennials and Z-gener’s, though, volunteering digital data is already part of life – and there are benefits to be had; from health and wellbeing to daily-life conveniences and the enjoyment of incredible facilities. Bin Salmon calls it “a place for dreamers” – and he’s right: it’s a city without cars or streets, powered by 100% recyclable energy and built around nature. Everything is only a few minutes away. Invisible technology generates a hidden infrastructure and transportation system driven by AI and robotics.

NEOM’s rousing YouTube video sells it admirably: “You see desert, we see opportunity. You see the sun; we see inexhaustible energy. You see ancient lands, we see the world, tomorrow. This is NEOM. 26,500 square kilometres of desert, valleys, mountains, and coastline. A living laboratory, home to the brightest minds dedicated to the sanctity of all life on Earth. Where ecosystems of abundant plant, animal, and ever-enriching marine life will thrive as never before. A blueprint for tomorrow in which humanity progresses without compromise to the health of the planet. Where technology will advance in harmony with nature. Where the questions about our future relationship with our home are, at last, being answered. NEOM. Accelerator of human progress.”

There’s a common theme running behind the concept of creating the perfect city, from the prototype failures of the ’60s and ’70s to the as yet unfinished Telosa and NEOM. It’s the idea of urban sustainability in architecture and services, preserving and enhancing nature, unmatched liveability, and the philosophy of inclusivity and equality. But is it better to stay with the devil you know than the devil you don’t? Do enlightened people really want to move from a familiar home to a new and unproven one that promises the world? I, for one, am tempted.

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