The Seasteading Institute January 2012 Newsletter
January 1, 2012 by Eric Jacobus
Dear Friend of the Seasteading Institute,
We thank the community for supporting us during our fundraising drive in December. Your generosity brought the year’s total to about $175,000 to be matched by the Thiel Foundation, and your help is both deeply appreciated and vital to the progress of seasteading. Together, we will bring about a new era of political innovation and prosperity.
Registration has opened for The Seasteading Conference 2012! Join us this May 31st to June 2nd for a landmark event featuring the vanguard of the seasteading movement. Network with fellow entrepreneurs, ocean law experts, maritime professionals, industrial leaders, investors and seasteading enthusiasts for two days of cutting-edge presentations.
President of The Seasteading Institute
Table of Contents:
- President’s Corner: We Need More than Voices to Solve World Problems
- Economist Article Points to Growing Recognition of Seasteading
- Seasteading Community to Convene May 31st – June 2nd in San Francisco
- Michael Keenan Talks Seasteading with Rotarians and Futurists
- Update from Blueseed, a Seasteading Business Venture
- Featured Donor: Marc Joffe
- Continuing Bay Area Meetups
- Marin County Seasteading Event
- Upcoming NYC FutureSteading Event
- Interested in Meetups in New Places?
- Featured Ambassadors: Matt Pritchard and Alex Merced
- The Seasteading Institute at the 2012 International Students for Liberty Conference!
- Flotilla: A Seasteading Novel
- Survey: What profession would you like to have on a seastead?
When humans lived in bands of about 50 people, it was effective to make group decisions through discussion and coalition-building. In 2012, the US will hold an election and apply that approach to hundreds of millions of people. I predict that, whichever party wins, we won’t see the dramatic increase in freedom, prosperity and innovation that we believe is possible.
Humanity lacks the institutions necessary to solve our biggest problems. The current system is . Many voters have no options that truly represent them, and no single voter will be harmed or benefited by her choice–we each face the strange task of choosing the best politician while knowing that our single vote will make no difference. Meanwhile, the primary incentive of politicians is to win elections, not to serve the country.
We need more than our voices, expressed once each election year. We need the possibility of exit, expressed every day. Competitive government is the institution that can bring about effective political systems, and seasteading is the way to build it. When countries are focused on acquiring and retaining citizens, not controlling or exploiting them, we’ll see much better quality and choice among governments.
We’re early in seasteading history. The first seasteading venture was founded last year, and we expect more to be founded this year. Soon, we’ll have many competing options, experimenting with new ideas, and finally restarting the long-stalled engine of government progress. In 2012, the best place to change society for the better is not at the ballot box.
Seasteading enthusiasts will immediately recognize the colorful computer rendering of a floating platform on the cover of the December issue of The Economist’s Technology Quarterly. The image by András Gyõrfi, which won our 2009 seastead design contest, is sure to catch people’s attention at news and magazine stands around the world. Inside the magazine, more images of potential seastead designs are accompanied by an in-depth profile titled “Cities on the Ocean,” which focuses on both the technical and legal problems that must be overcome if seasteading pioneers are going to succeed.
We recommend the article as a solid primer on seasteading (of course, our introduction page is also a good place to start). In addition to providing a good factual overview of The Seasteading Institute’s activities, the article portrays seasteading as more mainstream than some past media treatments have.
In assessing the likelihood of a successful seasteading movement in the near future, The Economist echoes a point we often make here at the Institute: numerous seastead-like structures, such as cruise ships and oil platforms, already exist. Our vision is squarely based on existing technology, and spending in related industries already totals more than $150 billion per year. The current engineering challenges to enabling permanent seasteads involve scaling up the size of platforms and reducing their cost within a reasonable time frame. On these issues, The Economist seems guardedly optimistic about the prospects for seasteading. After reviewing specific obstacles, the article concludes that “the ideal builders of seasteads may not be small groups of innovators, but giant engineering firms.” The Institute believes in an incremental approach to achieving the ultimate goal of permanent floating cities on the ocean, and is optimistic about the prospects for small startups like Blueseed. At the same time, we are just as willing to support larger corporations that might share parts or all of our vision.
The Economist’s Technology Quarterly is a respected publication which focuses on the cutting edge of applied science and technology within the broader context of the world’s social and political institutions. We expect to find a receptive audience in the magazine’s readers, given seasteading’s close connections to economics, politics and technology.
Join us for The Seasteading Conference, an international meeting of seasteading enthusiasts, maritime experts and forward-thinking entrepreneurs. The meeting will take place over three nights and two days, starting on Thursday, May 31st. Presentations on technology, policy, security and much more will enlighten and empower attendees with the requisite knowledge to start a seasteading venture, develop a business plan, or meet future partners and/or investors. Fantastic food and drink are included in registration costs for both conference days, as is entrance to a closing sunset dining cruise around the San Francisco Bay on Saturday evening. Registration is now available at the conference website. Take a moment to see who’s RSVP’ed on Facebook, and invite a couple of friends while you’re at it. See you in San Francisco!
On December 17, 2011 Michael Keenan presented seasteading to an eclectic group of futurists, activists and counter-culturalists at the Extreme Futurist Fest in Los Angeles. He discussed the need for experimentation in order for progress to occur, and why progress occurs so rapidly in fields like computers, and so slowly in government. The event billed itself as counter-culture meets academia, hosting a variety of fascinating speakers and subjects including physician Kim Solez and Halycyon Molecular’s Randal Koene. On January 4th, Michael spoke about how seasteading can enable a start-up sector for experimentation in political and social systems to the Foster City Rotary Club. The Institute benefited from donations and volunteer offers as a result of each talk.
This item was submitted from our colleagues at Blueseed.
The last months have been very eventful for Blueseed, the first commercial shipsteading venture (co-founded by former Institute employees Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija), with Peter Thiel getting on board as an investor, and the widespread domestic and international media coverage we’ve received. To help visualize the dynamic and vibrant environment that Blueseed will provide, five of the top participants in the Seasteading Design Contest participated in a new contest, submitting their vision of the Blueseed vessel. All five designs have been featured in numerous print publications and TV shows. The winning design, pictured above, comes from Anthony Ling.
In December, Blueseed enjoyed large amounts of attention from the press. Fox Business (interview with Max, interview with Dario), USA Today, Wired, New York Times, plus international media like The Economist, El País (Spain), Economic Times of India, BBC Radio (UK), Fantástico (Brasil) and others reported on how Blueseed’s business model would allow new companies to take root in the world’s best environment for technology startups and promote innovation within the American economy, and the world at large. Furthermore, environmentally-oriented publications like Inhabitat and Green Prophet picked up on the prospect of Blueseed creating a unique environment for novel clean-tech solutions.
Finally, but perhaps most significantly, the Seasteading Institute’s principal donor, Peter Thiel, will also be leading Blueseed’s seed financing round. Thiel is known as a foresighted entrepreneur who created PayPal, invested early in Facebook, and co-created The Seasteading Institute. Blueseed is looking for a total of $500,000 in this round, to finance the next year of research and flesh out their business plan.
Want to help seasteading and Blueseed? There are several ways:
- Investors are welcome to join Peter Thiel with a minimum investment of $50K in this financing round.
- Blueseed is hiring a Chief Environmental Officer – an entrepreneurial candidate who’s passionate about environmental and PR issues from a strategic point of view. More details here.
- To assess the ship market early in the process, Blueseed is looking for contacts at reputable shipbrokers.
Please send your investor, environmental officer and ship broker leads to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This issue’s featured donor is Marc Joffe. Marc received his MBA from New York University in 1985 and has spent most of his career in application development and management positions at various financial institutions. In 2011, he established Public Sector Credit Solutions – an organization dedicated to the development of financial models for sovereigns, states, cities and other government bond issuers.
Marc was active in both Students for a Libertarian Society and the Libertarian Party in the 1980s. By the 1990s, he had concluded that traditional libertarian activism was ineffective and became interested in the idea of starting a libertarian new country. After supporting the Atlantis Project in 1994, he founded New Country Report – a newsletter promoting sea cities and land-based free zones. In 1995, New Country Report was folded into the Free Nation Foundation’s Formulations newsletter, which was published until 2000. During his time as a new country supporter, Marc had the pleasure of meeting and working with Michael Oliver, who started the Minerva Project in 1972 and the Espiritu Santo independence effort in 1980.
While previous efforts to start new countries have been largely unsuccessful, Marc is undeterred and believes that The Seasteading Institute has taken this idea to a whole new level. “The simple fact that Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman started The Seasteading Institute gives the idea much greater credibility than it ever had,” Marc said. “Also, the Institute’s focus on business models, its efforts to identify and recruit highly capable supporters and its incrementalist orientation are all improvements upon previous approaches.” He further believes the Seasteading Institute has gotten us to the point where “we realize that getting a few friends together to write a constitution and start a web site is not the route to successfully starting a new country.”
As Marc sees it, “the core problem with libertarian political activism is that it tries to sell an abstract idea to a general public that overwhelming thinks in concrete terms. Communism did not fall in Eastern Europe because of theory; it collapsed after people realized that conditions were better in more capitalistic Western Europe. Until we have a successful, working example of a libertarian society, most people will be hesitant to support our ideas.” Marc continues, “A libertarian Seastead that provides peace and prosperity to a large number of residents is the example we need to spread our ideas internationally.”
Since our last newsletter, members of the San Francisco Bay Area seasteading community organized two meetups in Millbrae. In late November, Blueseed’s Dan Descalescu presented the moral and practical arguments in favor of an offshore, visa-free tech incubator and gave an update on the team’s progress. At the December meetup, Mike Doty gave a talk on practical aquaculture, expanding upon his winning entry from our 2010 business model contest. At the same meetup, several attendees formed a team to explore the prospects for a medical tourism shipstead. Eating, drinking, socializing and seasteading-related discussion are staples at every meetup, but each one is made unique by the formal and informal presentation topics and, of course, the people in attendance. We will continue to help organize meetups for as long as members of the community show up, and promote them through meetup.com as well as our Bay Area Facebook page.
We hope you’ll join us for the upcoming meetup at 6 pm on Thursday, January 26th, at the usual location in Millbrae, CA. Mike Parziale will present the “Elastic Republic” concept – an attempt to create new self-managed frameworks to run a society, including all the necessary systems/services (legislative, judicial, executive, financial, political, etc). It is a fresh, innovative and somewhat controversial concept that utilizes the modern Internet technologies, social networks, reputation web and other tools to help any society self-organize, evolve and manage itself in a simple, transparent and fair way.
Mike has a wide range of experience and interests in politics, economics and monetary systems. He has been working on the “Elastic Republic” idea for quite some time and getting ready to launch the first web application with his team at Walking Innovators meetup. Please join his team to learn more about the project (http://meetup.com/walkingInnovators).
We’ll have the Q/A session right after the presentation and we look forward to your ideas/suggestions/criticism.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 29th, Michael Keenan will be giving a talk on seasteading at the Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley, California. He will be making the case for working to establish new countries in international waters as a viable and necessary supplement to engaging in traditional political activism. He will also talk about the the ways that remaining challenges related to homesteading the high seas are being broken down into incremental, realistic goals.
Similar to our semi-monthly meetups, this event will also be an opportunity to meet and network with like-minded local people over dinner and drinks, and to discuss the latest developments in the liberty movement, seasteading-related or otherwise. The event begins at 4 pm. You can RSVP at the Evite page.
We hope to see you there!
We are excited to alert our East Coast supporters to an upcoming event being organized by our ambassador Kim Blozie in New York City. The event, titled “FutureSteading,” is planned to take place in late March, and is meant to attract seasteading enthusiasts and other futurists who may not be familiar with our Institution. Kim expects to bring in as many as 300 people, and is looking to find someone willing to donate a venue with enough space for that size crowd. Please email email@example.com if you have any leads! For updates on the FutureSteading event, or other seasteading meetups in New York City, join the Facebook group here.
While Seasteading meetups have been limited to New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area so far, we hope to expand the number of meetup locations in 2012. We have received emails from numerous supporters asking if there are regular meetups in their area, and have begun compiling a list of such people organized by location. So far, the most interest has come from Southern California. If you would be interesting in organizing or attending a meetup in your area, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will help you connect with others to get the ball rolling.
Matt Pritchard is an actor, singer and voice-over artist living in New York City. He also owns a small photography business specializing in actor’s head shots. During his final years of college, Matt discovered a love of economics and philosophy, and quickly came to believe that democratic nation states are incompatible with maximum human freedom, both morally and practically. Accordingly, he is excited by the prospect of introducing greater competition into the field of government. His perspective on how to achieve these goals changed radically after watching Patri Friedman’s 2009 speech on seasteading at the Mises Institute in Brazil.
Matt recently posted a Youtube video with a point-by-point rebuttal to an online talk show host’s misinformed rant on the subject of seasteading. The video has received over 400 views since being posted in mid-December, and is a stellar example of creative ambassador outreach.
Alex Merced works as a securities licensing instructor on Wall Street, where he trains new entrants to the financial industry. He is also a political theorist, activist and prolific blogger/vlogger (video blogger). Alex uses online media channels to spread the message of seasteading and other freedom-related causes to a wide audience–his YouTube channel alone has over 160,000 views and nearly 1,000 subscribers. You can find Alex’s seasteading-related content here and here, and additional content at AlexMerced.com.
Alex is interested in enabling alternative governance structures, a la seasteading, for the purpose of learning how societies can better coordinate their various functions.
Both Matt and Alex will be joining The Seasteading Institute at the 2012 International Students for Liberty Conference, where they will help recruit students for our new volunteer research program and spread the word about our organization, which brings us to…
We are co-sponsors of the upcoming International Students for Liberty Conference, February 17 – 19, 2012, in Washington D.C. The event will the largest gathering of young liberty-oriented people ever organized, and we see huge potential to raise awareness of our organization and mission, and to recruit the next generation of seasteading enthusiasts, volunteers and entrepreneurs.
Seasteading Institute President Michael Keenan will speak at one of the breakout sessions on the latest developments in the movement, and will inform students on opportunities to further our mission while simultaneously satisfying graduation requirements. We will soon be launching a section of our website that shows students how to craft research proposals and navigate their schools’ independent study requirements, enabling them to tackle practical questions facing early seasteading ventures in exchange for school credit.
We are particularly excited because our co-founder and generous supporter Peter Thiel will be the keynote speaker on the opening night of the conference. Thiel has been a vocal advocate for greater entrepreneurship among young people, and his speech will likely echo this theme, priming conference attendees for Michael’s pitch to students to participate in our research program.
In addition to hosting a breakout session, The Seasteading Institute will be tabling all day on Saturday, December 18th, and networking with students and other conference attendees all weekend long. Three of our ambassadors have already confirmed their attendance, but we are still hoping to recruit more volunteers to help us spread the word. We are also looking into shared accommodations to make it more affordable — if you or anyone you know lives in the D.C. area and can host a few seasteaders for a night or two, please email us at email@example.com.
Dan Haight, author and friend of the Institute, recently published Flotilla a novel about a mariculture society in the future. Responding to our 2011 call for stories from the future, Dan generously submitted “Fishing is the Future and Colony D Already Lives There,” which is styled as a news article adapted from Flotilla. The book chronicles Jim, a boy who raises fish, dodges fish and grows up on the open ocean. Facing difficulties at home Jim is sent to a seasteading colony off the coast of California with his estranged father. We hope you enjoy reading Dan’s story from the future and encourage you to check out Flotilla.
We are curious to know what professions aspiring seasteaders imagine having on a seastead. So this month we’re asking for a quick response to the open-ended question: If you could live and work on a seastead in the near future, what profession would you like to have? We’ll let you know the results of the survey in the next newsletter.
You can access the survey here.