Larry Page doesn’t know it yet but he’s just called for a Startup City

There is a tension between uniformity on one hand, with all the good things – such as efficiency – that that brings, and the benefits of diversity on the other hand, with lots of little experiments going on everywhere.

Google CEO Larry Page hit the nail on the head recently at the Google I/O conference when he said:

“There’s many, many exciting and important things you could do that you just can’t do ’cause they’re illegal or they’re not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense, we don’t want our world to change too fast. But maybe we should set aside some small part of the world … I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out: What is the effect on society? What’s the effect on people? Without having to deploy it into the normal world. And people who like those kinds of things can go there and experience that.”

A Startup City would be the ideal place for such a hothouse: a quarantined society where social, legal, economic, and political experiments can be conducted but where any damage done if an experiment goes awry would be limited.

The sheer dynamism that would accrue to an impoverished society hosting such a special administrative reason – a Silicon Freeport – by the very virtue of attracting the sort of people, would be enormous.


What is Startup Cities all about?

The Startup Cities concept was born with this brilliant talk by the eminent economist Paul Romer at TED – the scales fell from my eyes.

The major difference is that, while founding independent, quasi-sovereign city-states like the Chartered Cities concept, Startup Cities does it by its own bootstraps, rather than requiring a First World sponsor state.

In some cases, this idea will be more palatable to the host state, who may fear neo-colonialism, for example. Much better to have as a dynamic economic enclave within one’s territory a non-threatening private operation than a potential beachhead for a more powerful state.