We want to study building new, better cities. The world is full of people who aren’t realizing their potential in large part because their cities don’t provide the opportunities and living conditions necessary for success. A high leverage way to improve our world is to unleash this massive potential by making better cities. It’s more important than ever to think about how to do this. The need for new supply continues to increase significantly 1. Many constraints related to where cities should be located (e.g. near rivers for trade) have changed. We now have major technologies such as smart grids, autonomous vehicles, etc. The internet itself allows for participation never before possible. Also, housing prices in many cities have become untenable and we need more housing in places people want to live. Some existing cities will get bigger and there’s important work being done by smart people to improve them. We also think it’s possible to do amazing things given a blank slate. Our goal is to design the best possible city given the constraints of existing laws. There are many high-level questions we want to think through, for example:
- What should a city optimize for?
- How should we measure the effectiveness of a city (what are its KPIs)?
- What values should (or should not) be embedded in a city’s culture?
- How can cities help more of their residents be happy and reach their potential?
- How can we encourage a diverse range of people to live and work in the city?
- How should citizens guide and participate in government?
- How can we make sure a city is constantly evolving and always open to change?
And there are tactical questions we want to dig into, for example:
- How can we make and keep housing affordable? This is critical to us; the cost of housing affects everything else in a city.
- How can we lay out the public and private spaces (and roads) to make a great place to live? Can we figure out better zoning laws?
- What is the right role for vehicles in a city? Should we have human-driven cars at all?
- How can we have affordable high-speed transit to and from other cities?
- How can we make rules and regulations that are comprehensive while also being easily understandable? Can we fit all rules for the city in 100 pages of text?
- What effects will the new city have on the surrounding community?
The first phase of this will be a YC Research project. We’ll publicly share our results, and at the end of the process, we’ll decide if it’s something we should pursue and at what exact locations. We’re seriously interested in building new cities and we think we know how to finance it if everything else makes sense . At minimum, we hope this research helps others make existing cities better. This is not a small undertaking. We’ve begun research and are now forming a team to work on it full-time. We need people with strong interests and bold ideas in architecture, ecology, economics, politics, technology, urban planning, and much more. If you’re interested, please apply here by July 30, 2016. If you have ideas to share, but don’t want to work on this full-time, email us your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org. – Adora Cheung, Sam Altman
1 – Two out of three people will live in cities by 2050 – an influx of 2.5 billion new urbanites.
2 – Just to get ahead of the inevitable associations: We want to build cities for all humans – for tech and non-tech people. We’re not interested in building “crazy libertarian utopias for techies.”