Newsletter, November 2011
November 18, 2011 by admin
Greetings Friends of The Seasteading Institute,
As protests spread across the USA, Congress approval ratings hit all-time lows, and the European Union contemplates dissolution, interest in seasteading is higher than ever. There’s never been a greater need for an alternative to today’s inadequate governments.
It’s unfortunate that such gloomy news fuels our project, but the future is bright. The whole world will benefit when seasteading societies pioneer new forms of government, new policies, and new institutions. It is finally time for humanity to discover what government always should have been – innovative, effective, responsive, diverse, and benevolent.
With your support, The Seasteading Institute is enabling the next generation of government technology. We thank you, and thank the entrepreneurs, investors, volunteers and others who work on this cause all over the world.
President of The Seasteading Institute
Table of Contents
Seasteading Engineering Report: Floating Breakwater and Wave Power Generators, Just Released
President’s Corner: Government Can Be Much Better Than This
Thiel Foundation to Match Your Donations Until 12/31/11: Now is the Time to Support Seateading!
Seasteading in the Media
Colbert Lampoons Seasteading, Gets it Backwards
Bay Area Seasteading Meetup, November 22
Interested in Meeting Up in NYC?
Featured Ambassadors: Kim Blozie, Allison Marks, and Agata Niedermann
Featured Donor/Volunteer: Ken Sims
Introduction from Charlie Deist, New Staff Member
Welcome Chris Williams, New Development Director
Latest Seasteading Blog Posts
(This item is contributed by director of engineering George Petrie and refers to our newly published survey research of floating breakwaters and wave power energy generators. Interns Jorge Suarez and Elie Amar conducted the research, and created a narrated slide presentation.)
Although we’ve always known it, one fact that was revealed in crystal clarity during our soon-to-be published location study is this: there is virtually no place on the oceans of this globe where you can avoid the occurrence of wind-driven waves. Wind and waves can be useful potential for energy generation and recreational sailing, but they’re troublesome in excess. They must be confronted if we are to build cities in the open sea.
One way that shore-side communities protect themselves from waves is by constructing a ‘breakwater’, which is a pile of rocks or other heavy materials that form an artificial barrier against the waves. Of course, this is not a very practical approach for a seastead in the deep ocean. But you could instead build a ‘floating breakwater’, like a floating atoll, to create a giant oasis of calm water in the center. What’s more, rather than just ‘blocking’ the waves, it just seems logical to harness the wave-energy and convert it to electrical power!
Understandably, to protect a floating city at sea, the floating breakwater must be enormous; perhaps one or two kilometers in diameter. So this is on the very long-term development list at the Institute. But even the longest journey begins with a single step, and thanks to the efforts of a pair of bright and enthusiastic interns from the University of Southampton, the Institute has taken a great leap forward in this endeavor. Elie Amar (a naval architect student) and Jorge Suarez (a mechanical engineering student) teamed their talents this past summer, scouring the internet, library collections and the patent office to compile an impressive review of technology related to floating breakwaters and wave energy conversation. To put their findings into context, they thoroughly and systematically assessed the different technologies and identified those that are the most promising for further development by the Institute. Although their report is extensive, it’s an easy read (even for non-techies) and there are lots of pictures. Check out the paper here or the slideshow here!
(Contributed by Michael Keenan, President of The Seasteading Institute)
The US government spent 1.2 trillion dollars more than it earned last year. Congress’ approval rating is as low as 9%, an all-time low. Protests are spreading throughout the country. The US government is not doing a great job, and the US is one of the better-governed countries. The worst governments kill many of their own citizens.
We sense that more is possible, but we’re focused on government’s immediate problems. In the USA, those problems include the need to balance the budget, fix the healthcare system, and find a way to make Social Security sustainable. What would it be like to work on building something truly great, not just repairing something dysfunctional?
Seasteading offers us a chance to start entirely new governments, try new ideas, and create societies that serve citizens. How much better could government be? There is a stark difference between the service offered by governments and the service offered by the best organizations.
I bought an Apple Macbook recently, and was impressed at how the customer experience was so carefully designed at every step. Some technology companies focus only on the user’s experience when using the device itself, and often the result is a beautifully designed piece of software in an ugly beige box. But Apple, once lagging far behind its competitors, found a way to become one of the world’s most successful companies by offering innovative products and closely attending to the needs of its customers. Using Apple products, it is clear that careful attention to detail has shaped every aspect of the purchase process–from a customer’s experience in the Apple store, to the efficient and upbeat way staff interact with customers, and even the bag that carries a purchase. I’d like to see what similarly skilled designers could do with the citizen’s experience of government.
(That said, I’d prefer not to live in Appletopia. Last year, Apple banned an app by Pulitzer Prize-winning satirist Mark Fiore, lampooning public figures being considered a violation of the terms of service. There’s more to wise governance than great design.)
The citizen’s experience with government is ready to be disrupted by an innovative competitor who attends closely to the needs of citizens. I travel in and out of the USA frequently, and am intimately familiar with the horribly flawed border control process. It doesn’t just need to not be flawed—it could be beautiful! Not all interactions with government are as famously bad as that, but they rarely excel. There are many examples of aggravating government interactions: parking meters, tax returns, and anything involving the DMV. These are not the best experiences they could possibly be.
If it were 1985 and we were building the platform that becomes the Internet, we’d know that there was huge potential for a wide range of applications. We might come up with a few ideas—email, online retail, online newspapers—but we couldn’t have imagined the millions of websites and web apps that the next decades would bring. This potential exists because the internet is an immensely flexible platform. Government is a platform too, and its quality can enable opportunity or destroy it.
We don’t see all the organizations and institutions that don’t exist because poor governance prevented them from even being considered. We have ideas about how society can and should be better and that’s why we work on seasteading. But the future won’t just implement the ideas we have today. We’ll benefit from ideas that don’t yet exist when we can experiment, learn, and experiment again, building on what we’ve learned.
Technological progress works by expanding the adjacent possible – new combinations and incremental steps beyond existing technology. Government is a technology, and it’s barely progressing. We don’t explore the adjacent possible, and we rarely get an opportunity to see what step two could be. Seasteading can take us many, many steps into the future.
As we approach the holiday season and end of 2011, we hope you will consider making a generous tax-deductible contribution to the Institute. The Thiel Foundation will match every donation we receive before the end of the year, up to a total of 500,000 dollars. As of this writing we are still $376,297 short of receiving the full match, so any donation you are comfortable giving can make a significant impact.
This past year has been incredibly productive for the Institute and the seasteading movement. The last four years of the Institute’s work have spurred the founding of Blueseed, the first for-profit seasteading venture. In line with our incremental strategy—where we believe businesses are the key to developing ocean space into habitable space for the growth of new societies—we are ramping up our efforts to empower more entrepreneurs and investors to enter the seasteading arena. Your support this year is an important part of the future of our movement.
While we typically try to be passive about raising funds through our email newsletters, we would like to give our community fair warning that we will be actively campaigning for support through the end of the year. Please consider contributing so we can earn as much of the Thiel Foundation match as possible.
In the last month, major media covering seasteading have included NBC, The Colbert Report, and TechCrunch. We’ve had interviews for upcoming stories in the Financial Times and The Economist, recorded a podcast interview with the Libertarian Party of Ohio Podcast, shot a documentary with Atom Jones, and will soon begin shooting for a documentary with National Geographic where we’re interviewed by Robert Ballard, famed marine explorer and discoverer of the wreck of the Titanic (see his fascinating TED talk).
On November 8 Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert had some fun with seasteading in a segment titled "Colbert Platinum – Wealth Under Siege." We’re still chuckling at the 7 minute-long clip, which pokes fun at the often misreported notion that Thiel and The Seasteading Institute are trying to create "libertarian islands," which could serve as havens for the rich in the event that the Occupy Wall Street slogan "Eat the Rich!" ever takes hold. Colbert equates seasteads with stereotypically ritzy toys, like armored limos and yachts (complete with infinity edge pools), ignoring the potential for seasteading to improve the lives of the non-rich currently living under dysfunctional governments.
We at the Institute have a good sense of humor when it comes to coverage like this–we have to, given the audacity of our vision and the inevitable misrepresentation in the media. Still, we hope that Colbert and his producers will consider a follow-up in which they get the facts the straight. If anything, it is the poor and middle class who stand to benefit from greater innovation in government. After all, the rich already have the ability to escape to tax havens like the Cayman Islands, while the less wealthy have fewer options. We wouldn’t mind if the satirical talk show host built a real-life, seastead-based "Colbert Nation" for himself and his wealthy buddies, but the Institute promotes a much more pluralistic vision, with seasteading providing an opportunity for anyone wishing to experiment with new governments.
For those who haven’t attended yet, semi-regular seasteading meetups offer the eclectic seasteading community an opportunity to meet and discuss the latest developments in seasteading with like-minded people in the area, all over dinner and drinks. Our last meetup, on October 25, was another big success! Attendance at the event had noticeably increased since the August meetup, and was not limited to Bay Area residents–an inventor came all the way from Florida to share his concepts for wave reduction and energy creation technologies, and a twelve year old girl from England accompanied her uncle to the gathering. Laura Sydell of NPR news was also in attendance.
The October meetup gave the Institute’s new president, Michael Keenan, a chance to give an update on our recent activity. Then, former legal strategist Dario Mutabdzija spoke on the legal challenges to seasteading, as well as the early stages of his for-profit "shipsteading" venture, Blueseed, which he founded with former business strategist, Max Marty.
Many meetup attendees have been interested or actively involved in new country projects for many years while others are fairly new to the concept. Some are hoping to get involved in near-term seasteading business ventures, and some are more interested in our ultimate goal of large, city-sized seasteads.
6pm – Networking, socializing (you can also order food/drinks)
7:30pm – Introductions
8pm – Keynote from Blueseed
8:30pm – Q&A/open discussion
9pm – Wrap-up and informal networking
There will likely be a meetup or larger seasteading event in New York City soon. If you are interested in attending please indicate your interest at this Facebook page or contact our Ambassador Kim Blozie.
If you think there are enough people in your area to organize a meetup group, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get the ball rolling!
Kim Blozie is a scientist, entrepreneur, writer and fundraiser currently residing in New York City. For the past four years, Kim served as Manager of Clinical Research at Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. She also co-founded TrialX.com, a website and online community that matches patients with clinical trials to facilitate cutting-edge health research. Kim’s belief in the importance of experimentation doesn’t end with medical research, though, which is why she wants to enable seasteads that can be used to test out new ways of living together. Kim recently represented The Seasteading Institute at the Singularity Summit 2011, which took place in New York City on October 15-16. She is also organizing a meetup group and other social gatherings for the growing number of seasteading enthusiasts in the Big Apple.
Allison Marks is a marketing professional living in Los Angeles, and one of our newest ambassadors. She holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics where she studied the intellectual origins of the European Enlightenment as well as 20th century international affairs. After her exposure to Andrew J. Galambos’ Science of Volition, Allison observed a divergence between recent technological advances and social progress, with the former being used in large part to create powerful weapons that stifle and even threaten to reverse the latter. Because of this divergence, Allison believes that competitive government, a la seasteading, is needed to create peaceful and lasting civilizations. Since becoming an ambassador, Allison has helped the Institute by applying her editing skills to our newsletters (Thanks Allison!).
Agata Niedermann is one of our many international ambassadors, living in Zürich, Switzerland. In October, Agata reached out to a number of potential contacts in Switzerland on the behalf of The Seasteading Institute, including magazines, student groups and other free-thinking organizations. Her activity resulted in an invitation to speak to a Swiss Rotary Club, as well as an opportunity to write an article on seasteading for an independent Polish political magazine, Liberté!. Agata has been politically active since she was a student, and wants to see a global society composed of individual communities built on shared values, common trust, and respect. She believes that community building should be based on the "bottom-up" strategy inherent in seasteading, rather than the "top-down" approach most governments take.
A self-described "natural-born techno-nerd", Ken Sims began his career as a programmer of IBM midrange computer systems in July 1976, less than two months after graduating from high school and while still just seventeen years old (by a few days). For the next four years he worked full time and also attended college full time, graduating in 1980 with a B.A. in Math. In 1995 he left that first full-time job to move from the cold winters of northern Indiana to the hot summers of southern Nevada.
In June 2009, after reading about The Seasteading Institute in Reason Magazine, Ken registered as a user on the Institute’s website. On July 4th—deliberately on the United States’ Independence Day—he became an Octopus donor (Octopus donors give $20/month or $240/year).
In August 2009, being strongly anti-spam and seeing the amount of spam on the Institute’s wiki site, Ken volunteered to serve as the Institute’s official spam fighter. More recently, in response to a major spam run in the forums, Ken now also uses his skills to eliminate spam there.
On July 4th 2010 Ken upgraded his Seasteading Institute membership from Octopus to Argonaut (Argonauts give $10,000 and due to a prior definition of the Argonaut membership, Ken is grandfathered in as a "Pledged Argonaut"). He has generously accelerated his Argonaut donations and expects to be a full-fledged Argonaut in July 2013.
While Ken believes in the long run the human race will need to expand to space, he believes in the shorter run that seasteading is an integral step to spacesteading. He also believes that the United States will undergo a massive political and economic upheaval before its tricentennial in 2076. Because that upheaval is probably a few decades in the future, he hopes that seasteading can advance before then to where true floating cities will be available to the average person who has at least enough courage to leave land behind.
My first few weeks as The Seasteading Institute’s administrative associate have been a pleasure, and I look forward to interacting with more of you in the seasteading community in the near future. The prospect of working for the Institute has excited me since I first discovered seasteading in my third year at UC Berkeley, where I recently received my Bachelor’s degree in economics. Rather than give a standard biography, I would like to describe my transition from an argumentative libertarian to a bridge-building seasteader, and encourage other people of all political persuasions to do the same.
I have been a contrarian for as long as I can remember, and a vocal one at that. After being exposed to the free market ideas of Milton Friedman, I relished in labeling my peers’ wrongheaded for supporting supposedly compassionate, but potentially counterproductive policies like the minimum wage. Although I tried to keep civil, to my surprise, I made very few converts and occasionally alienated friends. Accordingly, I figured a better course would be to try to promote change at the policy level, with an internship or job at a libertarian think-tank. I followed this strategy for a while, but I felt like my individual efforts were too small to make a difference in terms of actual government policy.
Despite these setbacks, I wanted to advance three core libertarian principles that still deeply resonate with me:
1. A belief in an ethos of individualism
2. Skepticism of large-scale social planning by experts.
3. A favorable view of creative destruction, based on the belief that economic growth is the best anti-poverty program ever devised.
Remarkably, I found that I could promote all three by working to enable seasteading. Not only that, but I could do so without playing destructive games of intellectual tug-of-war with friends who I perceived as political enemies. I don’t believe my list is anywhere near comprehensive with respect to what makes a society (or a seastead) successful, which is why I hope that others will take after me, and work to stitch the best ideas together, leaving tired political arguments behind.
While my main responsibilities consist of keeping the office running smoothly, I am most looking forward to learning what core principles animate our community of supporters, volunteers and enthusiasts to pursue seasteading.
The Seasteading Institute is pleased to welcome our new director of development, Chris Williams. Chris is an experienced executive, having run hospitals, a multinational security company, and a boutique consulting firm. He has spent the last four years in the nonprofit sector. Chris will lead the Institute to obtain grants and major gifts so we can expand our scope of research and move more quickly toward our goals. With his degree in economics and a drive to leave a better world for his three kids, he is passionate about the Institute’s mission.
“I am excited to be a part of the The Seasteading Institute team! I have frustratingly worked at helping reform our political, economic, and education systems at both a local and national level. What is captivating about the institute’s approach is it creates a blank canvas for innovation to occur. My goal is to play a role in creating innovations that make this a better world for my children to raise their families.”
Welcome aboard Chris!
- Free Cities & Seasteading on John Stossel Show – September 29, 2011
- Thiel to WSJ: Seasteads Can Help Spur Innovation
Let A Thousand Nations Bloom
- Left-Anarchism, Seasteading and Occupy Wall St.
- Was the Declaration of Independence Illegal?
- Steve Jobs on Exit vs. Voice
We look forward to bringing you more news soon. In the meantime keep up with all that is happening at The Seasteading Institute by visiting our blogs, forums, and Facebook page. We’re also on Twitter.
***Special thanks to volunteer ambassador Allison Marks for editing this edition of our newsletter!***