How Ephemerisle 2010 Will Bring Us Closer to Seasteading

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As you probably know, the long-term goal for Ephemerisle is to be an incremental path towards seasteading, by cutting down the challenges along every dimension, and then advancing year by year. Here are some of the dimensions, and how we are making progress this year:

Multiple Islands. The growth I am most excited about is that we will have about 6 different islands (perhaps more), each with different rules and culture. Some may forbid alcohol and corporate logos, others may ban children and make grownups down a shot of firewater on the way in. With our facilitation, occupants will self-organize before the event into these diverse communities. If you think Libertopia or Hippieville are “great to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there”, well, you can live in one and visit another! If your island turns out to be not such a great place, we’re on the water, so you can always unhitch your vessel or platform and secede. In other words, dynamic geography will be a real feature of the event!

Mooring. Last year, we failed to anchor in the middle of the channel – plus local law enforcement didn’t like it. This year, we will be in much deeper water (~30 ft vs. ~3-6 ft) and we will anchor successfully far away from the shore. Current plans even call for two different types of mooring – pillars for our barge (known as “spuds”) and anchoring for the other platforms – so we’ll get experience with both. (See past discussion on Ephemerisle/Seasteading anchoring parallels).

Duration. The festival will be 72 hours instead of 48 hours. I’d say that duration is actually the most important way in which we’re cutting the problem down – it’s the main thing that makes Ephemerisle much easier than seasteading. So this will likely be the last axis to expand – it should be relatively easy to build up to a week, but after that will be difficult.

Size. We expect over 300 people, compared to last year’s 125. As with any event, scaling poses significant organizational challenges.

Marine Real Estate. We’ll have a construction barge (which is one design possibility for the first seastead – see also Flotel 92) with a crane in addition to homebuilt platforms.

Wind & Waves. The Delta’s sea breeze is much stronger in the summer, and can gust up to 30mph. This means larger waves than we had last year, even with such short fetches. While the waves are still miniscule compared to the ocean, we’re moving in the right direction.

Political autonomy is one of the most important aspects of Ephemerisle, but to make the first step we have to leave the sheltered inland waters and go just offshore, where we’ll only be in Coast Guard jurisdiction and not any local (county) authorities. And to make the big step, we have to make it 12nm out, to leave territorial waters. While we have no change in political autonomy this year, the main barrier is engineering, and as you can see, many of the above points of progress are advancing our engineering.

That’s a preview of our progress for 2010. We are, of course, already thinking ahead to 2011 as well, and after this year’s event we expect to be well set up to move the event to the San Francisco Bay in 2011. There we will face even more wind and larger waves, and in addition to meeting those new environmental challenges with more rugged engineering, our such close proximity to a major population center and the room to stretch out should allow us to scale the event dramatically (I’m hoping for 1000+, counting daytrippers, but I tend to be an optimist :) ). In addition, lower insurance and barge costs should drastically reduce our need to subsidize the event, and bring it much closer to break-even. If we can find the right foreign partners, we may even be able to do a second Ephemerisle in 2011, perhaps in the Mediterranean, Baltic, or Caribbean.

See you on the water!

12 comments

  1. vincecate 2:41 am

     

    Patri: "I’d say that duration is actually the most important way in which we’re cutting the problem down – it’s the main thing that makes Ephemerisle much easier than seasteading."

    I think the main thing that makes Ephemerisle much easier is that you don’t have to figure out how to engineer low cost structures that are safe and comfortable in open ocean waves.  You are just anchoring house boats in a few feet of flat water.

    A convoy of seasteads each with solar panels, water makers, fishing equipment, and a year supply of food storage could easily handle long durations.   However, the engineering of low cost, comfortable, ocean safe seasteads is still an unsolved problem.

    – Vince

     

  2. jhogan 7:42 am

    I’m actually inclined to agree that engineering/cost is more challenging than duration. Curious to hear more of Patri’s thoughts on that.

    To respond to one of your points in particular, though, we are not just “anchoring house boats in a few feet of flat water.” Patri addressed all of those above for Ephemerisle 2010. We plan to have a steel construction barge for the community platform (much closer to seastead candidate technology), anchor in water dozens of feet deep, and expect small waves in the section of the Delta where we’ll be at.

    It’s certainly a far way off from a seastead city, but it’s only year 2, and it’s strong progress from last year.

  3. Miguel Lamas 9:58 pm

    First developments in offshore oil industry 70 years ago was also only a few meters depth. Now it is a few thousand of meters depth!  Same is hapening with offshore wind farms now: only 60 m depth is reached nowadays, but there are a lot of projects for going deeper and deeper.

    Seasteading is getting a better progress: year 2 and you are already getting dozens of feet deep!!

     

  4. Jeff Chan 1:25 pm

    In general I agree with Vince’s comments.  At the same time the principle of progressing from the delta to bay to ocean incrementally makes sense.  My main objection, as before, is that the jumps in engineering difficulty from delta to bay are large, and from bay to even coastal ocean are much larger.  These are like large quantum steps in energy levels.  The energy in waves is a big deal and not all that easy to overcome with houseboats, barges, conventional ships, etc.  Waves are the major challenge.  There may be solutions.

  5. vincecate 5:23 pm

     

    I think the idea of moving incrementally toward real seasteading each year is not bad.  I just think for it to really move forward the focus needs to be on engineering, not art or partying.   I think there should be seastead model contests with waves from powerboats testing how stable they are, or maybe even towing them into the bay from a sheltered area to see how they do.   If people are staying on models and some models venture out into more realistic conditions then  relocating the site forward next time is more reasonable.  If people are just staying on houseboats then moving into waves incrementally does not work.   Also, if people were on models such that larger versions might actually work in the open ocean then it becomes much easier for people to take the event seriously.  I think the event needs to be more like the Xprize contests and less like Burning Man.   You want to work toward goals and have prizes for steps along the way, not just have some fun.   Each year people could kick around ideas for goals and prizes for next year.  Ephemerisle  could work, but I don’t think it will the way it is going.

    As for "dozens of feet of water" I have my doubts.  You are launching from the same place as last time.  They won’t let you anchor in any dredged shipping channels.   I will be surprised if when you are there you lower a rock on a string and find that it is more than 24 feet deep.

    And as for bigger waves, please.  If you see 6 inch waves I will be surprised.  Take a picture if you see such a huge wave.  As long as you are in houseboat territory you are in flat water, really.

    Barges and houseboats already exist.  Using them does not really advance seasteading.  We need to engineer new things to address the goals we have.  I am confident that there are engineering solutions.  But that is where the real work needs to be done.

    Models could be folded up and stored for the next year.  A U-Haul truck could move them to and from the event.   You could string 4 hammocks between the legs of WaterWalker2 and people could sleep on it.  Or a bit smaller version of my FLoatingVilla could work.  I had WaterWalker2 on the roof of my explorer and it held 3 people.

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/WaterWalker2

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/FloatingVilla

       — Vince

    PS  Could we have accounts that have been around for more than 1 year and not been spamming be exempted from the spam testing with each post or edit?

  6. livefreeortry 5:21 am

    Agree with Vince’s statement above. While art and parties might be useful in getting publicity and entertaining people, I think TSI should also include a seastead design contest of some sort, judging entries on the basis of safety, scalability, cost, mobility etc. Winners could be given a financial reward, while people who do a reasonable job could have their construction costs partly defrayed.

     

     

  7. Jeff Chan 12:54 pm

    An X-Prize style contest for wave performance is an interesting idea.  I agree with Vince that engineering for waves is more important than partying or fanciful but impractical art boats.  Part of the idea of Ephemerisle is community-building, which also has some merit.  But without a clear engineering path for dealing with waves or at least some movement towards that, community building seems somewhat of a moot point.  OTOH, this year’s event will feature barges, which do have some relevance to waves and in principle do scale up to larger waves. 

    I saw some 1 foot waves in the delta when powerboats went by too fast.

    Regarding the spam protection; it’s programmatic.  Posts with no links tend not to get the capcha from what I’ve seen.  I have moderator priviledges and even I get the captcha if I post links.

  8. vincecate 1:32 pm

    If you were building a community of engineers that were working on the problem, then community would have some value.  But if you are building a community of people who like to party on boats, there is not so much value.  Engineering contests will help bring in the engineers and get the type of community that will solve the problems.  The really cool thing about seasteading is that it transforms the freedom problem into an engineering problem.  But we still have an engineering problem that needs to be worked on.

    Yes, powerboats can make waves.  These could be used for some testing of models.  But natural waves in that location are going to be very very small.

    If I were writing a spam filter for a forum I would have an option that said accounts that have been around longer than X without getting removed can be assumed not to be spamming.  Are we sure there is no such option?
     

  9. nthmost 8:39 pm

    Vince: we’re focusing heavily on growing our community of engineers.

    This year we don’t think there is critical mass nor the support of needed resources to hold a contest which would attract engineers doing really advanced construction.

    Such engineers and builders who might want to participate would need to feel confident in their investment of time and especially resources. They need some incentive to come all the way to California for a festival with unproven public impact and zero industry cred.

    “Oh, you won some prize in a lake at a festival I’ve never heard of…”

    There’s no such thing, in this world, as “if you build it, they will come.” Promotion and community building is a lot of work.

    Rest assured, though — we’re making strides in our outreach to people who ARE likely to take a chance on building something interesting for this year’s event, and the success of this year’s event will give us a lot of leverage with engineer and builder communities for next year.

    Naomi Most, Development Manager
    The Seasteading Institute
    http://www.seasteading.org

  10. Jeff Chan 4:04 pm

    Hi Vince, One issue is intellectual property or more generally business advantages.  If someone came up with a really good design it could have commercial value, and it’s possible they may not want to disclose it publically and risk losing some of that value.  

    This also came up in a different form at the Seasteading Institute open board meeting after the second conference when I suggested having a contest for the best seasteading business plan.  The problem is that a really good business plan may be worth more than the contest award, so that may be a disincentive to disclose it if the prize was relatively smaller than the value of the plan.  Presumably there are already some interesting economic studies of the effects of prizes and awards on innovation.

    Generally speaking it seems that a contest can be productive in some cases.  The X-Prize and the prize Charles Lindhberg won certainly helped move along innovation in space travel and air travel respectively.

  11. vincecate 2:55 am

    >Vince: we’re focusing heavily on growing our community of engineers.

    What have you done  to grow a community of engineers?   Are they hiding someplace and working in secret?

    >This year we don’t think there is critical mass nor the support of needed resources to hold a contest which would attract engineers doing really advanced construction.

    You guys have hundreds of thousands of dollars and are not able fund a prize for anything with such advanced construction as I did over a year ago out of my own pocket?

    http://wiki.seasteading.org/index.php/User:Vincecate/WaterWalker2

    >Such engineers and builders who might want to participate would need to feel confident in their investment of time and especially resources. They need some incentive to come all the way to California for a festival with unproven public impact and zero industry cred.

    When I left California in 1986 there were lots of engineers there.  Have all the jobs moved to Russian and India or something?  No engineers at Berkeley and Stanford any more? Even a high school group could build very interesting things.  Engineers just need to be confident that the backers of the prize really have the money for the prize.  TSI has enough money cred for a $5,000 prize.  And I bet engineers would really come from far away for such a prize.

    >"Oh, you won some prize in a lake at a festival I’ve never heard of…"

    I don’t think you understand engineers.  They are not about fame.  It is more the fun and personal satisfaction of creating something that is good.  They want to be right not famous.  They like the challenge of showing that their design really works.  Teachers are looking for interesting projects for their students to work on.    But there would be press covering the contest and more than enough fame.

    >There’s no such thing, in this world, as "if you build it, they will come." Promotion and community building is a lot of work.

    Somebody at TSI needs to look at a bunch of engineering contests.  People just announce money prizes and engineers come.  I have never heard of anyone else who thought they needed to waste money on promotion and community building before putting up a prize.   Also, I think getting donations for prizes is easier because people know how efficient prizes are at getting results.

    >Rest assured, though — we’re making strides in our outreach to people who ARE likely to take a chance on building something interesting for this year’s event, and the success of this year’s event will give us a lot of leverage with engineer and builder communities for next year.

    If anything I think you are building up negative Cred as an engineering event not "leverage".    If you fund somebody to try something the odds are you won’t get nearly the  advances, interest, and effort that you could get with a prize.  It is so wrong.  Real engineers don’t want to write up stuff in an attempt to convince some random bozo who understands nothing that they have the best project to fund.   They want to take a prize by demonstrating that they built the best project.  

    "Funding approved attempts" is so much more like central planning and "paying for winning results" is so much more like a free market that it seems very strange to me that a libertarian leaning organization like TSI is not using prizes to get the key engineering progress that they need to reach their goals.

      — Vince

     PS  In engineering things have to work in the real world.  BS is neither useful to nor respected by engineers.

     

  12. ellmer 3:45 pm

    Patri, congratulations – i think the most important thing is just having the balls and do it again after a project has been "show stopped" by third party. 

    A very good move is to shift location to a "better jurisdiction" – although the new spot might just be different in "interference practice" not in written law. What you fear when doing a "never seen project" is not legislation but administration. This is seasteading theory applied.

    Sooner or later the land based communities will stop to be concerned to have the festival on the waterspace in front – they will start to be concerned that next years event could go elsewhere…

    I am also glad that working with barges comes up as natural solution – i have always been a fan of starting with flat floats like nkossa barge and raft up smaller private floating units (boats, living space bubbles) in their wave protected area allowing a come together of all kind of floating units.

    Wil

    concretesubmarine.com

     

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