The Seasteading Institute March 2012 Newsletter
March 10, 2012 by Eric Jacobus
Dear Friend of The Seasteading Institute,
We are excited that The Seasteading Conference is quickly approaching, and we hope to see you in San Francisco from May 31 to June 2. For three days, pioneers of the seasteading movement will converge on the luxurious Le Meridien hotel to build new connections that will accelerate the launch of the first wave of seasteading business ventures. The conference will feature speakers from the Institute, Blueseed and other seasteading-related businesses, the Thiel Foundation, as well as engineering and legal professionals in prominent positions around the world. On Saturday evening, to close out the conference, attendees will be treated to a dinner cruise around the San Francisco Bay aboard The Chardonnay, a private luxury yacht.
In this newsletter, we are announcing newly published research, including our detailed study analyzing the best places in the entire ocean for seasteads to locate based on numerous environmental, legal and economic criteria, along with a paper on flagging options for early seasteads. We’re also pleased to announce a grant we recently awarded for the writing of a handbook on mariculture for seasteading purposes. Finally, we report on our presence at recent conferences and events, and provide details on exciting upcoming seasteading events.
President of The Seasteading Institute
Table of Contents
(This item was contributed by our Director of Engineering George Petrie)
If you’ve ever had the experience of moving to a new city, you’ve probably gone through the process of deciding which neighborhood is the best for your needs; considering factors like housing costs, taxes, proximity to work, schools, shopping, the gym, and anything else you deem important to your lifestyle.
A similar process is involved in trying to decide where to locate a prospective seastead venture or community. However, recognizing that oceans and seas cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface, narrowing down the choices can be quite daunting. For the past year, thanks to a generous donation by nanotechnology industry leader Jim Von Ehr, we have been developing a comprehensive methodology to address this issue. We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest research report, entitled Seasteading Location Study: Ship-Based and Large-Scale City Scenarios. It is available for download here.
Our study considers a wide range of criteria, including business and economic factors, legal and political considerations, and environmental conditions such as wind, waves, water depth, and more. For each criterion, we developed a global database and a set of transformation functions that rank each factor on a scale of 1 to 100 based on compatibility with the objectives of a particular seasteading scenario. Calculations were conducted using Esri’s ArcGIS software, and the results are displayed in easy to digest “heat-maps,” which use simple color-coding to illustrate the relative desirability of locations around the world.
In the report, we considered two different scenarios:
- Shipstead – A small community (between 100 to 1,000 people) devoted to a single enterprise or business model, representative of an early seastead community
- Metropolistead – A large community (50,000 people or more) engaged in a wide range of enterprises; a complete city-at-sea, representing the long-term vision of seasteading
The most promising locations for shipstead scenarios are generally within the exclusive economic zones of highly developed nations in North America, Western Europe, East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, etc.) and the eastern coast of Australia. By contrast, the most favorable sites for the Metropolistead scenario are found along the western coasts of Central and South America, off the Brazilian coast, and in certain areas of the South Pacific.
Check out the full report and let us know what you think of our approach.
In addition to bolstering our professional research into critical challenges posed by seasteading, the Institute is also looking to partner with highly motivated university-level students who want to conduct seasteading-related research for school credit. We were thus pleased to hear from Sean Hickman, an economics student at Amsterdam University College, who was interested in researching flag registry for early seasteads to fulfill a degree requirement. Our early research indicates that ship-based seasteads will have to fly the flag of an existing nation in order to be internationally recognized and protected from arbitrary interference by governments or foreign invasion from pirates.
Sean’s study of Flagging Options for Seasteading Projects, which gave us many new answers (as well as some new questions) is now available for the benefit of all present and future seasteading entrepreneurs and investors. Sean also created a video presentation of his research.
Shortly after contacting us, Sean visited our office to discuss the project before diving into the research, and after another few weeks he submitted a paper detailing the flagging requirements for seasteads based on various treaties and international laws, the organizations with a stake in the future of such requirements, as well as six case studies of countries that appear to be the most likely candidates for flag registration. All six of the countries examined operate open registries, which allow vessels to fly their so-called “flags of convenience” and benefit from the services of the registry and legal systems of the registry country, regardless of the ship owners’ nationality. The paper employs a logical methodology for limiting the case studies to only include internationally reputable registries, using rating conventions employed by port authorities around the world as a proxy for overall trustworthiness.
In addition to refining the flagging options for seasteads and laying out each of their advantages and disadvantages, the paper highlights several future directions for research, including a study of complicating factors arising from certain open registries’ connections to other countries (such as the U.S. and U.K.), and an analysis of the possibility that the “genuine link” principle could be enforced in the future, preventing open registries from operating. We are eager to investigate these topics, and welcome volunteer support from students and non-students alike.
The Institute extends our gratitude to Sean for his work on this project. Thanks Sean!
As the effects of the 2008 financial crisis linger, a startling thesis is gaining ground: except in a few industries, technological progress is slowing. The argument, championed by investor/entrepreneur Peter Thiel and economist Tyler Cowen (among others), is that from the 19th century until about the 1970s, ordinary people saw significant improvements to their standards of living through innovations like air conditioning, cars, planes, TVs, radios and phones. Since then, relatively few significant new technologies have improved the lives of the average workers in developed nations. With the exceptions of computers and the Internet, few industries are making radical improvements, and these information technologies have mainly benefited a relatively small group of knowledge workers and avid consumers of digital media. Some industries, like transportation, seem to be regressing: After centuries of creating increasingly rapid modes of travel, we’ve moved more slowly since the retirement of the Concorde in 2003.
The technological slowdown, the argument runs, has translated into an economic slowdown. In 1947, median family income was $21,771. 26 years later, it had more than doubled to $44,381. In the next 31 years, to 2004, median family income increased by only 22 percent, to $54,061. Disappointment with economic progress is driving political unrest, from the Arab Spring in the Middle East to the Tea Party and Occupy movements in the USA.
One driver of economic progress, Cowen writes, was the availability of free land during the opening of the American frontier. This free land (often stolen from Native Americans) was resource-rich, offered an alternative when established societies were oppressive or otherwise undesirable, and attracted many of the brightest and most ambitious workers from Europe.
We seem to be at a technological plateau. There was an era when lone inventors like Thomas Edison could make many useful advances without a large team or much capital. The low-hanging fruit has been picked, and now it takes many researchers and millions of dollars to make significant advances. Thiel argues that government barriers hinder such large-scale projects. The FDA’s slow and expensive approval process has led large pharmaceutical companies to liquidate their research departments. Progress in electric, civil, aeronautical, nuclear, and petroleum engineering is held back due to environmental and other concerns. Thiel frequently makes the point that bright students who used to become rocket scientists went to Wall Street instead, leading to innovations of questionable or even negative value like mortgage-backed securities, which actually contributed to the fragility of our financial system.
What is to be done? There are a few favorable trends. India and China are increasingly focused on science and technology. The Internet is spreading ideas and knowledge, enabling scientists to coordinate internationally and providing the masses with access to information. There might soon be a revolution in education, whether through Internet innovations like Khan Academy and the many free online college courses such as Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence course, or through political initiatives that improve incentives like school choice, charter school systems, better monitoring, or whatever proves effective.
For those unwilling to wait for existing governments to struggle out of stagnation, seasteading offers a different path. This new frontier will be an alternative for people stuck living under broken systems, will make use of the increasingly accessible bounty of the oceans, and will attract the best and brightest minds from around the world, much like the American frontier did in its early days. New societies will experiment with new policies, including much-needed transportation, pharmaceutical, and education policy reform. When government regulation is the problem, the freedom offered by the seas can be the solution. Even the powerhouse industry of tech startups is under threat from restrictive new intellectual property laws, quotas on highly skilled immigrants, and onerous investment regulations. In short, seasteading has the power to reboot the engine of technological progress.
The path out of stagnation is not predetermined, nor is it guaranteed if we do not leverage our resources to enable the next wave of innovation. As a nonprofit, we count on the generous support of our community; together we will solve the most pressing seasteading-related challenges and build a thousand new nations on the high seas.
FutureSteading is an awareness-raising event for The Seasteading Institute and a social gathering for everyone with a stake in creating a better future. Organized by seasteading Ambassadors Kimberly Blozie and Charles Peralo, FutureSteading is designed to help define where human beings are headed as a species. FutureSteading will be comprised of presentations, booths where the future of different aspects of our humanity will be presented and discussed, food and drinks, and a large crowd of forward-thinking individuals. Expect to learn, have fun, meet new friends and think in broader ways about yourself, your friends and family, your nation and our planet as a whole.
FutureSteading — where the edge moves forward
- March 21st, doors open at 7:30pm
- Columbia University, The Roone Arledge Auditorium
- 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Free to register, RSVP appreciated
- Opening Remarks – Kimberly Blozie and Charles Peralo
- About Seasteading – Founding CEO of HavenCo, Sean Hastings
- Keynote Talk – President of The Seasteading Institute, Michael Keenan
- Other speakers TBA
- The Future of Culture – The Seasteading Institute
- The Future of Aging – SENS with Silvia Gravina
- The Future of Politics – Columbia University College Libertarians
- The Future of Medicine – The Cure is Now
- The Future of Spirituality – EnlightenNext
- The Future of Fitness – Valhalla Freerunning and the New York Freerunning Association
- The Future of Health – Rick Seedman and the Bar-Barians
- The Future of Art – Shane Hope (3-D artist)
- Many more TBA
We are thrilled to report on the amazing reception The Seasteading Institute received at the 2012 International Students for Liberty Conference – the largest gathering of liberty-minded students ever held. We owe a huge thanks to our awesome Ambassadors Matt Pritchard, Charles Peralo, Alex Merced and Tony Cotzias, who bused down from New York and Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. to help us maximize our presence at the event. Their efforts enabled us to add nearly 100 passionate students to our monthly mailing list, and inspire many more in various conversations with conference participants. Michael Keenan’s breakout speech on how students can contribute to the seasteading movement was one of the most widely attended, and had students lined out the door. We have already received new applicants to both our volunteer student research and ambassador programs.
The opening night of the conference featured a keynote speech by seasteading co-founder and major funder, Peter Thiel, who talked about the need for greater entrepreneurship among young people, something we’ve been promoting at The Seasteading Institute through our new volunteer research program for students. Several questions during the Q&A portion of Thiel’s speech revolved around seasteading, which was an early indicator of the excitement and curiosity about seasteading among the conference attendees.
Thiel pointed out the role the Institute plays in furthering a public discussion about the lack of competition and consumer choice in the government industry. He also plugged Ephemerisle, the annual floating festival on the Sacramento River Delta, noting that it is a great venue for exploring radical but important ideas in a safe space of open-minded and forward-thinking individuals. You can watch the video of Thiel’s speech here, and the numerous seasteading-related questions he received during the Q&A here.
Later, we hosted a social gathering for the most enthusiastic conference attendees we met over the course of the weekend. Conversations about the present and future of the seasteading movement lasted until the wee hours of the morning, as we connected with to future ambassadors, supporters and seasteading entrepreneurs.
It was especially helpful to receive feedback directly from our Ambassador team on how we can hone our message for different purposes and audiences. We also talked about possibilities for new Ambassador projects. For example, YouTube pros Matt Pritchard and Alex Merced offered to start producing a seasteading-themed podcast (you can find videos from the conference on Alex’s YouTube channel), and others suggested more active event-organizing on college campuses. We’re eager to continue these conversations, and to start new ones with other Ambassadors and community members who have ideas for bolstering our movement-building efforts.
Once again, we give a big shout-out to all the volunteers who helped us at the conference, and we hope to meet more of you at similar events in the future!
We are occasionally met with reactions of surprise and bewilderment while promoting the Institute at various venues. Although we often win skeptics over after explaining the how and why of seasteading, many people just aren’t used to thinking about such grand visions of the future unfolding outside of science fiction, in the realm of practical (albeit gradual) action. However, we were met with much less skepticism than usual at the 5th annual BIL (un)conference, where we recently spent the weekend among kindred spirits ranging from life extension gurus to experts and D.I.Y.-ers in biology, robotics, and open hardware hacking. The Seasteading Institute was honored to attend BIL 2012 as sponsors, which enabled us to raise awareness of the seasteading movement as well as meet some of the most interesting thinkers around. As an added bonus, the event took place on a really, really big boat: the historic Queen Mary cruise ship in Long Beach, CA.
Although it’s hard to exactly define the common thread that unites the individuals and organizations in attendance at BIL, almost everyone seems to be passionate about improving the world through means that some would consider far-fetched. Accordingly, the vision of seasteading was welcomed by attendees who were previously unfamiliar with the Institute. Several attendees immediately saw crossover potential between their own radical visions and seasteading, such as launching rockets from ocean platforms (a la Sea Launch) or conducting cutting-edge research in transhumanist technology. The familiar faces, many of whom we knew from the Ephemerisle festival, were curious to hear about our recent progress.
Sunday’s presentations on the main stage included a talk by Michael Keenan on the Institute’s role in ushering in a new era of competitive government on the ocean, followed by a talk on Blueseed’s planned visa-free tech incubator by the company’s CEO (the Institute’s former Director of Business Strategy) Max Marty. Both presentations generated substantial interest and further questions on the side of the stage after the allotted time for Q&A ran out.
We look forward to attending next year’s BIL, and expect to see progress being made on multiple fronts toward the actualization of a bolder, better future. We will be working hard between now and next year to show BIL and the rest of the world that our vision of the future is coming sooner than they think!
A special thanks goes to seasteading community member Simone Syed for organizing and including us in the event!
Michael Keenan and the Institute’s Senior Director Randolph Hencken recently traveled to San Diego to tour the RP FLIP vessel. The “FLIP ship” is an innovative vessel with interesting potential for seasteaders; it is essentially a long tube designed to be tugged to its destination horizontally then flooded at one end, re-orienting it vertically so that only a small portion of the ship is above the surface. The vertical configuration makes it behave much like a spar buoy or platform, with minimal surface area exposed to waves and currents and heavy ballast at the bottom, providing a very stable environment. The ship is owned by the Office of Naval Research, and operated by the Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, for the purposes of studying wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and collecting meteorological data.
Robert Ballard, famed discoverer of the Titanic and the Bismarck (check out his fascinating TED Talk) and promoter of ocean colonization, organized and escorted our visit. The Institute is continuing talks with Ballard on plans for single-family aquaculture seasteads, perhaps farming with the techniques pioneered by the Velella Mariculture Research Project, based on the RP FLIP design. The Velella Research Project employs sustainable methods of farming fish in submersible pods in the open ocean, making it a promising business model for early seasteads.
Last week, we met with The Ocean Stewards Institute in Las Vegas at their annual meeting. The Ocean Stewards Institute is a trade organization advocating for the emerging open ocean aquaculture industry. We learned that the industry is in its early stages, and already faces frustrating regulatory barriers to which seasteading may be the solution. Many attendees were already familiar with our organization and mission, and the group as a whole was very receptive to our presentation and interested in pursuing aquaculture from a seasteading angle. We also met some of the founders of the Velella Mariculture Research Project, and are eager to strengthen our relationship with them, along with other leading firms and individuals in this exciting industry.
We believe that mariculture will play an important role in the development of ocean communities, and are pleased to announce that we have awarded Professor Ricardo Radulovich and Schery Umanzör a $3,000 grant to co-author an introductory handbook on sea farming. “Sea Farming: A Starter’s Guide,” will educate readers about the benefits of sea farming and provide basic technological know-how for anybody interested in experimenting with sea farming. Basic principles, fish and shellfish production, seaweed cultivation, freshwater distillation, rainwater harvesting, and many other topics related to open ocean mariculture will be covered. The Institute will publish the text as an electronic document with creative commons licensing, so it will be free for seasteaders to read and share.
Ricardo Radulovich has spent many years doing pioneering work at sea, developing and disseminating production systems. His work has included publications on sea farming in general, caged shrimp production, floating horticulture and freshwater production, and storage at sea. He is currently coordinating a project on cultivating and using seaweed as human food, which is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His previous funding has included a grant from the World Bank for the Sea Gardens Project, which ended in 2010. He has over 50 scientific and technological publications, and holds a PhD from the University of California as well as BS and MS degrees from California State University. He is currently a professor at the University of Costa Rica, and has been a McNamara Fellow of the World Bank, a Fulbright Research Scholar, a visiting professor at Cornell University and a dean at the Panamerican College of Agriculture in Honduras. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Schery Umanzör is a marine biologist with considerable experience in marine genetics and ecosystems. She was also a field researcher for the project on cultivating and using seaweed as human food, and is in charge of developing and testing off-shore production systems. She holds an MS degree in biology from New Mexico State University and a BS in tropical aquatic biology from the National University of Costa Rica. Umanzör received training in marine ecosystems from the International Seabed Authority in Goa, India, and is a certified diver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Cotzias is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is enrolled in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics bachelor’s degree program. Although he only recently joined The Seasteading Institute’s Ambassador team, he has already proven to be an invaluable asset to the movement. In addition to joining our group of representatives at the International Students for Liberty Conference last month, Tony spent part of his winter vacation looking into the pressing issue of flag registration for early “shipsteads.” He boldly reached out to a representative of the Cayman Islands in Greece (his home country) with a number of pertinent questions about how a seastead would go about registering under their flag, and received a response that clarified some future directions for our research.
Tony has always stood in awe of human achievement, and wants to further such progress in order to improve his own life and the lives of other people. Although he strongly believes in the free market ideals endorsed by the Austrian School of Economics, Tony believes that research and preaching a vision of a freer society are not enough to actually make it happen. Accordingly, he wants to enable seasteading as a means of bringing about greater freedom and innovation in governance, and to finally test the theories of a purely free market. He moved away from his previous theoretical orientation to the more action-based approach embodied by seasteading after reading Patri Friedman’s 2009 essay “Beyond Folk Activism,” and looks forward to dedicating himself to the realization of our vision.
Tony also recently started the Penn Libertarian Association, and plans to take an active role in the Students for Liberty organization, through which he will be able to meet and recruit passionate young people to our movement.
Join us for the first East Bay Seasteading Social at the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland, CA! The Institute’s President, Michael Keenan, will give a brief presentation on the latest activity at The Seasteading Institute, after which we’ll have a Q&A session, followed by mingling and discussion of weighty seasteading topics. We look forward to hearing your ideas, suggestions and criticisms, as well reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones.
Please join us (and bring a friend!) for this feast of imagination, ideas and enthusiasm with a community of thinkers, visionaries, tinkerers and like-minded individuals. Also, chicken and waffles.
Home of Chicken and Waffles is located in Jack London Square, within walking distance of the 12th St. Oakland BART station. Drivers will be available to shuttle people to and from BART upon request. We’ve reserved space to chat, eat and drink.
- 7pm – Socializing (you can order food/drinks — naturally, we recommend the chicken and waffles)
- 7:30pm – News/updates from Michael Keenan, President of The Seasteading Institute (2012 Conference, Ephemerisle, upcoming projects, talks, etc.)
- 7:45pm – Q&A/open discussion
- 8pm – Wrap-up and informal networking
January’s survey question, “If you could live and work on a seastead in the near future, what profession would you like to have?” prompted numerous responses ranging from “bartender” to “writer” to “garden manager.” Topping the list were “information technology” and “aquaculture”-related professions, followed by “security / law enforcement” and “professor” positions. This diversity of opinions makes us all the more optimistic of the future of seasteading.
Please take a moment to answer this month’s survey question:
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.