The Seasteading Institute June 2012 Newsletter
June 23, 2012 by Eric Jacobus
Dear Friends of The Seasteading Institute,
Those of us who attended The Seasteading Conference 2012 can practically taste the refreshing salty air that will one day surround our homes. The convergence of experts, ideas, and perspectives that took place in San Francisco earlier this month has left me more inspired than ever about the Institute’s pragmatic approach to better the world through seasteading. For those who were not able to join us, while we cannot provide you with the new friendships, the dinner and drinks at Forbes Island, or the sunset toast on the San Francisco Bay cruise, we hope you will enjoy videos of the conference programming, which are now online.
While the success of seasteading feels closer with each new partnership and piece of research, we are still years away from fully realizing our vision. Until then, the Institute will continue the research and movement-building efforts needed to spur the first round of seasteading businesses. Fortunately, Peter Thiel is magnifying our community support this year by matching dollar-for-dollar any donations we receive, up to $250,000. If you see potential for seasteading, and wish to advance humanity by making government an efficient, competitive industry, please donate to the Institute today, and have your gift doubled. Where else can your money make such a large impact?
Toward the high seas,
Table of Contents:
- Recap of The Seasteading Conference 2012
- Special Thanks to Conference Sponsors, LiveFuels, Inc.
- Thank you Director of Special Events Brian Wallace!
- New Engineering Report: Seasteading Energy Study
- Peter Thiel Will Match Donations to The Seasteading Institute
- Simon and Schuster to Publish Seasteading Book!
- Milestone Media Mentions
- Featured Ambassadors: Ryan Garcia and John F. Bechtol
- New Houseboat Experiments, and Lessons, from Ephemerisle 2012
- The Seborgan Blueprint
Recap of The Seasteading Conference 2012
(Note: Video of the conference programming is now available online!)
When our team envisioned this year’s conference, we focused on the most immediate steps to actualizing seasteading ventures. This meant bringing together those with the capacity to launch seasteading businesses, and expanding our reach beyond those who have traditionally affiliated with the Institute. We have defined a realistic strategy for enabling the blossoming of a thousand new nations on the high seas, with the first step of helping single-purpose businesses launch operations on ships or small platforms, to prove the economic viability of the seasteading lifestyle. With this in mind, we curated this year’s conference to include a broad spectrum of experts in key areas related to existing and emerging ocean industries.
Our two days of programming opened with Thiel Foundation Board member James O’Neill’s riveting call to advance humanity and restore liberty through the means of seasteading. Institute founder and Chairman of the Board Patri Friedman shared the big picture of seasteading by revisiting his recent TEDx talks, which framed seasteading through the lens of competitive businesses (see TEDx Hong Kong) and evolution (see TEDx SF). On the subject of the economic viability of large floating structures, William Riedy from our ally organization The Maritime Alliance, spoke about the driving forces behind the “blue-tech” industry.
Our next set of speakers focused on seasteading engineering research challenges. George Petrie, the Institute’s director of engineering, recapped his previous research and gave an overview of current and potential future research. Institute intern and recent Northeastern University graduate Melissa Roth discussed her report evaluating the costs of diesel, wind, solar, wave and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). Our engineering advisor, Guillaume Ardoise (who came all the way from France), discussed his research on wave energy generation in greater detail. Biochemical engineer and ocean policy expert Patrick Takahashi, spoke about his team’s vision to build the Pacific International Ocean Station. The station would essentially be a seastead — a large floating research facility producing fresh water, energy, and enabling a new ocean ecosystem, with OTEC and deep ocean water upwelling as central component. Concluding the engineering talks was Robert J. Nicholson, President of OTEC International, a company with a contract to build a 1 megawatt full-cycle demonstration OTEC plant in Hawaii. This project could lead to a contract for a 100 megawatt commercial OTEC plant floating off the coast of Oahu in the coming decades. Connecting the dots, such a plant could one day serve as the heart of Patrick Takahashi’s Pacific International Ocean Station.
The afternoon’s programming featured California Maritime Academy cadet Ben Harmon sharing portions of a white paper he and his colleagues produced on securing a seastead from pirates or other intruders. Next, two seasoned distinguished scholars of ocean law and policy gave fascinating talks. Attorney John Briscoe recounted several stories about the origins of the United Nations Convention on The Law of the Sea, and his colleague, Attorney Myron Nordquist, shared some interesting perspectives on beltway politics. Nordquist was actually one of the authors of UNCLOS.
Next came the five-minute lightning round talks. John Trepl from Marine Hydroelectric Company presented an innovative alternative energy design. Michelle and Thrond Toftely, winners of the Institute’s 2010 “Sink or Swim” business plan contest, presented their idea for outsourcing government decision-making to a seastead. Henry Mariano, CEO of Harvest Energy, shared his company’s mechanisms for generating electricity from linear energy on roads, sidewalks, ships or platforms. Gabriel Rothblatt spoke about intelligent design, and genetic engineering for the advancement of seasteading. Mike Doty, another winner of the “Sink or Swim” contest, discussed his plans, already underway with a Singaporean partner, for a cage fishing business. Lissa Morganthaler, CEO of conference sponsor Live Fuels, Inc., talked about the looming phosphorus crisis and associated opportunities with algae. Lastly, aquaculture expert Neil Sims shared an idea currently being assisted by the Institute to investigate a potential role for ocean aquaculture to play in reducing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and reversing ocean acidification.
The first day concluded with spirited remarks from Thiel Foundation president Jonathan Cain about the foundation’s efforts to resist violence and coercion, and to promote freedom across the globe.
The second day opened with Thiel Foundation’s VP of Grants and Let a Thousand Nations Bloom blogger Michael Gibson sharing his perspective on the end of political philosophy and why seasteaders must be both optimistic and definite in their political ideals. Next, Joe Quirk, author of the book-in-progress, “Seasteading: How Ocean Cities Will Change the World,” gave a motivating speech based on his experiences of writing and doing interviews so far.
Day two also highlighted several business concepts we believe can draw people to live on the ocean. Our friends at Blueseed opened with a panel about their plan to create a visa-free tech incubator off the coast of Silicon Valley (Dario Mutabdzija and Max Marty). Next, Alexander Wissner-Gross presented his idea of a mid-Atlantic financial hub, which could execute high frequency trades based on information from major centers in the US and Europe. This was followed by three presentations about medical tourism. Longtime seasteading enthusiast and supporter Marc Joffe presented some of his preliminary investigations assessing the viability of a medical ship stationed between Florida and Cuba. The ship would employ Cuban doctors and provide US citizens with treatments not yet approved in the US or for lower prices than those offered on land. Institute grantee and Duke medical student Peter Wei discussed his proposal to travel to Asia to investigate how foreign hospitals are delivering procedures more efficiently, and how those efficiencies might be emulated on a medical seastead. Wrapping up the medical tourism block was Nishant Bagadia of Health Travel Technologies. Nishant has extensively studied medical travel and proposed that medical ships provide noninvasive treatments (to limit risk of associated with a moving vessel) that are not available in nearby coastal states.
The afternoon highlighted aquaculture projects. The Institute’s staff writer Charlie Deist introduced Project OASIS (Ocean Algae for Seastead Integrated Solutions), and was joined by researchers Baoguang Zhai, and California Maritime Academy student Ryan Larsen. Next, Institute grantee and University of Costa Rica professor of water science Ricardo Radulovich summarized his experience with sea farming, as well as his vision for creating platform habitations off the coast of Costa Rica and Panama that sustain themselves with both aquaculture and floating horticulture. Neil Sims concluded the aquaculture talks with a presentation on the Velella Project, his cage fish operation that raised sushi grade kampachi fish in the open ocean near Hawaii.
Later that afternoon, Institute Board member and software entrepreneur John Chisholm led a group discussion about the different methods one can use to introduce seasteading and competitive governance to those who have never heard of it. This was followed by an open forum which brought a lively discussion on a variety of topics. Programming ended with talks by senior director Randolph Hencken, director of development Chris Williams, and Patri Friedman. The conference itself, however, concluded with an elegant dinner cruise on the San Francisco Bay, where attendees were able to reflect and discuss new ideas for advancing seasteading over drinks and a delicious meal.
We want to extend our sincere gratitude to Dave Jones and Lissa Morganthaler-Jones of LiveFuels, Inc. for their sponsorship and participation in The Seasteading Conference 2012. Their booth and presentation, which highlighted concerns about waning phosphorus supplies and the ocean’s potential to resolve them, were highly informative. Many participants considered this to be one of the most interesting revelations of the conference. We look forward to continuing to communicate with Dave and Lissa on how the seasteading movement can position itself to take advantage of abundant ocean resources like phosphorus, and how innovative firms like LiveFuels can lead the way there.
As we wrap up loose ends related to The Seasteading Conference, our contract with Brian Wallace — Director of Special Events at The Seasteading Institute since January — is coming to an end. Brian was moved and motivated by the amazing individuals he interacted with during his term with the Institute, and he would love to branch out and continue to work with innovative for-profit and nonprofit organizations to produce conferences, meetings, fundraisers, cruises, and any other events. He comes highly recommended by the Institute staff. Brian may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for the next few weeks. After that he can be contacted at email@example.com, or via cell at (209) 988-9946. Brian would also like to remind conference attendees to fill out the follow-up survey on the conference if they haven’t done so already.
In the long run, it’s a safe bet that the price of energy is going to go up. For seasteaders that’s a particularly vexing scenario; in the pursuit of autonomy, the last thing a seastead community would want is to be held hostage by its energy suppliers.
An obvious strategy is to avoid dependence on oil and gas imports at the outset, pursuing energy independence in parallel with political autonomy. For seasteads, the possibilities for alternative energy sources are wide-ranging; sun, wind, wave energy, and even the thermal mass of the ocean itself offer enormous potential for generating substantial quantities of energy without the need for a single imported hydrocarbon. Furthermore, a completely “green” seastead will likely be more appealing to potential citizens and the global community than one that belches diesel fumes and risks spilling fuel on the pristine ocean.
But what about the cost? After all, seasteads must be sustainable from an economic view as well, and conventional wisdom holds that alternative energy just doesn’t make sense without those big government subsidies.
As a first step towards resolving this question, our intern Melissa Roth, a graduate student at Northeastern University, undertook an independent study project examining the costs of different alternative energy schemes that might be adapted for a seastead community. Using a conventional diesel-fueled generator as a baseline, she compared the long-term costs of energy derived from solar, wind, waves, ocean current, and ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems.
Melissa’s findings suggest several economically attractive approaches for seasteaders, even without subsidies. This result is largely due to the relatively high cost per kilowatt-hour of the baseline diesel-fueled generator compared to shore-side commercial generating plants, but unfortunately this baseline is the true cost of the status quo.
In her report, Melissa also discusses issues related to energy storage that are unique to seasteads; for example, there is no “grid” at sea to absorb excess energy during periods of slack demand. She also notes one of the more attractive benefits of an OTEC system: it generates large quantities of fresh water as a byproduct.
You can read Melissa’s full report on our website.
In order to advance the mission of The Seasteading Institute and to encourage the support of others, Peter Thiel, through the Thiel Foundation, has offered to match donations giving to the Institute in 2012 dollar for dollar, up to $250,000. Last year the Institute received approximately $175,000 in donations which were doubled by Thiel. Every donation is important to us and used to advance our mission. Whether you can give $35, $100, $1000, or even more, we greatly appreciate your support.
Do you remember your “seasteading moment,” the instant you gasped when the light bulb went off over your head and you realized this is going to change the world? Mine was when I “got” the idea of competitive governance, that if the same principles that drive progress in biology and markets could be applied to governance, we’d experience unimaginable progress in how to get along. I enjoy hearing everybody’s “aha!” moment, whether they want to feed the world, clean the oceans, cure diseases, create wealth, jettison millions out of poverty, or prove they’re not nuts.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize your eureka moment came about because you had:
1. the luck of stumbling on it 2. the background to understand what it means 3. the time and energy to read a few hundred web pages.
That’s what I call a high barrier to entry. We need to get it all in one fun-to-read format. That’s why Patri Friedman and I are delighted to have sold “Seasteading: How Ocean Cities will Change the World” to Simon and Schuster.
We’ll combine Patri’s years of expertise with my knack for entertaining readers, in order to amaze, delight, astonish, and inspire the most creative minds waiting to have their own “seasteading moment” and test their unique solutions on the sea. Any ideas you have for the book, any stories you think are memorable, please share them with me, and make sure I turn on my digital recorder. The goal is to make this book about people, to feature the diverse community of self-starters who are dedicating their talents to experiments on the blue frontier. Whether you’re a physician, agriculturalist, humanitarian, environmentalist, political pioneer, marine biologist, or maritime lawyer, we want to know your great idea and what moves you.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story!
Seasteading’s presence in the public arena continues to grow, as more outlets recognize the seriousness of our efforts and likelihood of our ambitions. Ventures like Blueseed (which has recently garnered stories on Bloomberg TV, Wired UK, and BBC), are helping draw attention to the business and political aspects of seasteading; our conference drew interest from Mother Jones, the Maritime Executive, and even made the front page of the Huffington Post San Francisco. Lastly, a story on CBS’s 60 Minutes featured a quick comment on The Seasteading Institute at the very end of a segment on Institute co-founder, Peter Thiel.
We hope to build on this impressive list in the coming months, and will be bolstering our outreach efforts to draw the attention of noteworthy people and groups who can help make seasteading a reality.
Ryan WH Garcia is an incredibly active and prolific ambassador, based out of San Diego, CA. Having spoken about seasteading at Libertopia twice in 2011 and tabled numerous times, Ryan will continue to participate in the voluntarist forum through speaking and blogging. However, this only scratches the surface of his accomplishments as an ambassador, which include organizing a San Diego meetup, speaking to a college class, and developing potent arguments for supporting seasteading in op eds and on his personal blog. For example, on the political and humanitarian benefits of seasteading, Ryan writes the following:
“The majority opinion among seasteaders is that some combination of profitable blue industry is necessary to financially sustain a seastead. This is sound logic, but the possibility for politically oriented seasteads to be viable business models warrants attention and consideration.
Seasteads are fresh “ground” to innovate new political and social systems that better engender peace and prosperity, and give real effect to humanitarian ideals. Demand for the same is strong. Satisfying humanity’s demand for better treatment by competing with existing governments for the human and financial capital they currently monopolize may be the most valuable economic opportunity seasteading offers. The advent of new polities offering an array of socio-economic terms permits Individuals to opt out of the status quo, launching a market for and by the earth’s industrious. In time this will see longstanding notions of sovereignty, self-determination and human grouping rendered archaic—not unlike the way the Internet profoundly advanced human communication, and radically affected everything else.
Seasteaders should embrace this perspective and seek to develop and normalize political solutions that serve humanity better than existing governments. Doing so may best attract the interest, investment and human creativity necessary to solve the complex challenges dwelling on the ocean presents. Although it will be a difficult process to establish and preserve new polities upon the sea, a Berlin Wall falls when a Seastead negotiates with a land-based nation for visitor and residency visas and investment terms and incentives for Seasteaders. That potential alone is worth exploring.”
Founder of RISE (Residential Infrastructure Solarization Enterprise), a pioneering solar-thermal equipment provider, John F. Bechtol is one of the ambassador team’s most versatile members. In addition to his thirty years of contracting, construction, industrial, marine, and general business experience, John is a lifetime social and political advocate. Since becoming an ambassador last September, John has represented The Seasteading Institute at Northern California alternative energy conferences and tabled with our staff over the course of the entire four-night TEDxSF/OKEANOS event. In promoting the vision and strategy of the Institute, John has used his unique sense of humor and relentlessly positive attitude to win over skeptics and naysayers. In the lead-up to the conference, John promoted registration by reaching out to his personal networks, including Mensa, of which he is a lifetime member. Most recently, John has been collaborating with other members of the seasteading community under the umbrella of Project OASIS, whereby he hopes to apply his knowledge of the alternative energy, construction, and maritime industries to position seasteaders as the builders and operators of budding ocean energy infrastructure.
“The opportunity is before us, to alter the world’s fuel production to renewable sources. Ours is the team to do it. We can stop the burning of fossil fuel and transform the landscape of climate science.”
The weekend following a successful seasteading conference, the Institute’s staff joined hundreds of our community’s most creative and dedicated members for a four-day outing on the Sacramento River Delta, at the fourth annual Ephemerisle festival. Once again, the festival grew in size and diversity of attendants from the previous year — this year there were so many boats that they could not all be anchored to a single flotilla. As a result, three separate islands formed, spawning a primitive experiment in dynamic geography.
There was a western cluster of sailboats, a northern island with many boats and peripheral platforms, and a smaller southern flotilla, populated by families and tight-knit crews. As competitive governance theory might predict, houseboat formations converged toward certain customs and preferences of their “quasi-citizens”. At night, the big island became the social setting, while the south settled in for a quieter night.
Not everyone was content with their houseboat island’s “policies,” however, and there was strong demand for cross-platform transportation. Some bravely swam the gulf, but most used kayaks, rowboats, and platforms pulled by a rope connecting all three floats. Though simple, these mechanisms were effective and there were no accidents.
On the last day, the Ephemerislanders did a sweep of the few pieces of debris that had blown off the boats over the windy weekend (seasteaders must be stewards of the environment) and headed back to Paradise Point Marina to return the rental boats. We look forward to seeing how the festival will continue to evolve, and hope to see more of you next year! For more information about the event, visit the Ephemerisle wiki.
Perched atop a hill overlooking the Italian riviera in Imperia sits the Principality of Seborga, but what appears to be a modest Italian town of 350 people turns out to have an exceptionally unique quality. While she sits within Italy’s borders, based on a series of land transfers throughout history and her omission from the Italian Act of Unification in 1861, Seborga has formally claimed independence from the Italian Republic itself. With her thousand years of ongoing jurisdictional arbitrage and demands for sovereignty, Seborga should be of particular interest to history buffs and seasteaders alike.
Seborga was featured with The Seasteading Institute in Jodie Shapiro’s documentary How to Start Your Own Country. With this common connection I was able to connect with Nina Menegatto, the wife of Seborga’s democratically elected Prince, to meet and learn about how Seborga is navigating the complex issue of national sovereignty. I timed my trip to arrive in the Principality during the second anniversary of the election of His Serene Highness Prince Marcello Menegatto. Seborga’s maze of narrow cobblestone alleyways exhibited a thousand years of history, with each residence or business displaying its own stamped, metallic Seborgan mailbox. The center square recalls Seborga’s extensive Catholic roots and features a large church, a rock mosaic of the Templar cross embedded in the ground, and wall murals of Knights Templar.
Mrs. Menegatto agreed to a short interview where she went over the status of Seborga’s claim to sovereignty. The claim is based not only on the history of the land transfers from the Counts of Ventimiglia to the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato and to the Savoy Kingdom in the 1700s, but also on recent decisions by courts and police, who have conceded select administrative powers to Seborga that are not otherwise granted to Italian cities. And while the Italian government is reluctant to acknowledge their sovereignty outright, they have yet to deny it, taking a uniquely “hands off” approach when it comes to Seborgan affairs.
Seborgans are optimistic of their nation’s future as a recognized independent state. Prince Menegatto’s effort to bring business into Seborga is paving the way for even more economic growth in the Principality, which is further evinced by the quality of merchandise and locally grown foods. Visiting the Principality puts one’s heart into another time, when government was small and familial, the laws were tailored to the locale, and national pride didn’t involve machine guns. It was hard not to imagine a world of a million Seborgas, and a sea of a million more.
Seborga isn’t just a look into the past. If Seborga is recognized as a sovereign, landlocked state in a world of oversized and ineffective governments, they may prove to be a blueprint for future governments, be they on land or sea.