The Seasteading Institute December 2012 Newsletter
December 15, 2012 by Eric Jacobus
Dear Friends of The Seasteading Institute,
It was merely one decade ago that Patri Friedman began to toy with the idea of seasteading. He imagined futuristic governments competing for citizens, who would use the fluidity of the ocean to sail their homes between city-states – choosing on the basis of which rules and communities are most aligned with their values. Less than five years ago, Peter Thiel made a generous donation to co-found The Seasteading Institute with Patri, sparking the most comprehensive effort to date for advancing the concept of new nations on the high seas. Today, “seasteading” is an increasingly familiar term all over the world, as thousands have become enamored with the spirit of the movement. It is clear we are making significant progress toward our long-term goal of improving governance and humanity around the globe.
Just this past month, I was invited to discuss seasteading with maritime industry professionals in San Diego, with delegates from Pole Mer Paca (PMP), a French ocean-oriented NGO, and with leading players in the water sector at a meeting in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. At the fourth annual Blue Tech and Blue Economy Summit in San Diego, I met professionals working with technologies that can enhance the comfort and longevity of permanent ocean communities, along with owners of businesses ripe for adaptation by seasteads. At the meeting with Pole Mer PACA, I presented numerous projects which could simultaneously engage their core mission and assist seasteading pioneers. In Rotterdam, I led a roundtable discussion where many of the participants were thinking big, as in, “How do we finance and build a floating city in the near future.” These groups – eager to collaborate with the Institute – have the experience, knowledge, and capacity to contribute to the creation of actual seasteads.
I can no longer count the number of times I’ve had friends and family tell me about a chance occurrence demonstrating the reach of our message. For instance, a longtime friend recently described an encounter he had at London’s Heathrow Airport, where a stranger began sharing his fascination with seasteading out of the blue while they waited to board the plane. Our feature on the cover of Discover Magazine led to a call from my Aunt Marilyn, who was ecstatic to be reading about my work in one of her favorite magazines. The rapid spread of our vision under the banner of Institute is made possible by the generosity of our supporters. As we come to the end of 2012, I hope you will stay committed to our movement and consider making an end-of-year contribution, so we can continue our increasingly important work in 2013. Your donations are tax-deductible in the US and will be matched by Peter Thiel dollar for dollar.
With the continued contributions of our supporters, nothing can stop the growth of our movement, until eventually, we reach the high seas.
Table of Contents
- New Promo Video, “Vote With Your Boat”
- Randolph Hencken Attends Blue Tech and Blue Economy Summit
- France’s Pole Mer PACA Includes Seasteading at Workshop
- Randolph Hencken Attends Netherlands Water Sector Conference
- University of Houston Graduates Research Medical Tourism Models for Seasteads
- The Most Humanitarian Cause in History
- Highlights from The Seasteading Conference 2012
- Randolph Hencken Interviewed on Australian Radio
- Donor Profile for Fernando Sánchez
- Featured Ambassador: Josiah Tullis
We’re pleased to showcase a new seasteading promotional video, “Vote With Your Boat,” which has been making the rounds via Facebook and Twitter over the last few weeks. Prior to the public release, the short was submitted by creators Gaston and Daniela Blanchet to a film consortium led by Morgan Spurlock on the topic of innovation. “Vote With Your Boat” was the first collaboration between the siblings, whose family left Argentina after the country’s devastating sovereign debt default in 2001. Their fascination with the power of storytelling independently drove them into filmmaking. When asked about the motivation behind the video, Gaston replied, “We hope that our brief but intimate look into Patri’s innovative concept of governmental competition will inspire more people to contemplate better and freer systems, especially in places like our native country of Argentina, where citizens suffer calamitous consequences of monopolistic and destructive governance. ”
Be sure to share the video with friends – the succinct narrative and inspiring audio/visuals lend themselves particularly well to newcomers to the movement. Also, tomorrow is the last day to support Gaston’s Humanity.TV Kickstarter, intended to inspire authentic travel through interactive shorts.
On November 7, Executive Director Randolph Hencken attended The Maritime Alliance’s 4th annual Blue Tech and Blue Economy Summit in San Diego, California. The Maritime Alliance is an ally organization promoting job creation and economic expansion in the maritime industry. Bill Riedy, Executive Director of The Maritime Alliance, spoke at the Seasteading Conference 2012 on how his line of work points to the imminent realization of large floating structures, including seasteads, as economic drivers of the future.
The full day summit covered topics varying from “Ports of the Future,” to “Maritime Transportation and Logistics Innovations,” to “Seafood Technology and Sustaining our Supply.” The opening keynote was delivered by Jerry Schubel, President and CEO of Aquarium of the Pacific, a nonprofit tourist attraction in Long Beach, California, whose mission is to advance appreciation and stewardship of the oceans. Schubel advocated for increased aquaculture and ocean energy harvesting technologies off the coast of Southern California, and decried the obstruction of progress caused by over-regulation. He noted that California is a leader in ocean research, technology, and protection of ocean life, yet it lags behind in development of sustainable offshore industries. Schubel asked whether we will use our knowledge to not only protect the oceans, but to use them sustainably. He then called for reform, and a streamlining of the permitting process for offshore industries in California.
The day after The Maritime Alliance’s summit in San Diego, Randolph joined a small group of business people for a workshop with France’s Pole Mer PACA (PMP), a cluster organization involved in the fulfillment of European and French maritime goals. The workshop sought to develop new cross-industry partnerships with groups based in the US, and Randolph presented an array of projects the Institute has been investigating, from aquaculture to deep ocean floating breakwaters. We expect to hear from PMP next spring to find out where our areas of interest are most closely aligned, and whether there are specific projects for advancing ocean economies on which we can collaborate in the near term. PMP has a particular interest in ocean observation, maritime energy, aquaculture, floating infrastructure and maritime robotics, and will hopefully provide access to key stakeholders, facilities, and financial support in France.
On November 27, Randolph attended “Waterproof,” a conference in Maarssen, Netherlands, held by the Netherlands Water Partnership. The Institute was invited to attend and host a roundtable with others interested in the possibility of creating floating cities. Anders Arfelt, a volunteer seasteading ambassador, maritime professional and longtime associate of the Institute, accompanied Randolph to the meeting, which was attended by two executives from Deltasync, a design firm specializing in floating structures and advocating for the creation of floating cities; a representative from Deltares, one of Holland’s largest independent applied research institutes working in areas of water, subsurface and infrastructure; a representative from the Center for Sustainable Food Security; two representatives from Blue Rise, an ocean thermal energy conversion company with a contract to build an OTEC plant on an island in Curacao; a director from the Netherlands Water Partnership; and two investment bankers.
After the roundtable, Rutger De Graaf and Karina Czapiewska, the executives from Deltasync, took Randolph and Anders on a tour of a floating structures in Maarssen and Rotterdam. In Rotterdam they visited a floating pavillion consisting of three geodesic domes. The pavilion has a self contained plumbing system, which recycles water from the channel, as well as an innovative cooling and heating system, which uses water-filled tubes in the walls to moderate air temperature without electricity.
Randolph is confident the diplomatic trip to Holland was just the beginning of what will eventually become fruitful partnerships to advance seasteading.
Remember when you thought writing a term paper was a challenge? Well, a team of graduate students at the University of Houston’s College of Architecture is midway through a year-long project that will culminate in the design of not one, not two, but three seastead platforms. The project is being conducted through the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture as part of their Extreme Environment design concentration. In my role as Director of Engineering at The Seasteading Institute, I have been mentoring the students for the past few months and keeping an eye on their progress.
The project envisions three phases of development, initially using a ship to serve as a demonstration platform to confirm the viability of a medical tourism businesses model. Specifically, the UH team hopes to provide a venue for the cancer treatment known as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). Although the procedure is not yet FDA-approved, it is being successfully used to treat patients in multiple countries around the world. For the first phase, they perceive an opportunity to establish a market for this treatment in relatively close proximity to the US, and use it as a springboard to a more comprehensive facility.The second phase anticipates the conversion of a decommissioned offshore oil rig to support a broader scope of medical treatments, pharmaceutical research, and other activities, possibly related to aquaculture or oceanographic research. Properly packaged, the platform would serve as a destination of hope for patients and pioneers alike.
After demonstrating the viability of the concept, the group hopes to attract investors to the culmination of the endeavor, a purpose-built semi-submersible floating community, offering the allure and amenities of a resort destination, while continuing to offer a broad range of research and treatment facilities.
Story-boards describing the progress to date can be found in the engineering research library on our website.
Continents of Poverty
Over a billion people live on less than $1.25 USD per day.
Seven hundred million people told a Gallup poll they want to leave their country permanently and find a better life elsewhere.
193 nations serve as gated communities locking them out.
Islands of Prosperity
When the African island of Mauritius gained independence from England in 1968, the average Mauritian earned $500 a year. While the average GDP of all of Africa went backwards over the next 30 years, GDP of the island of Mauritius grew by over 10 times. As of 2011, 87% of Mauritians own their own homes. People who stooped and cut sugar cane in the sun as teenagers are today wearing tailored suits and hosting meetings with visiting bankers from India.
When the peninsula of Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, the average citizen earned $511 per year. In fifty years, Singapore’s economy has grown 189-fold, while Malaysia, a country 478 times its size, grew at one-third the pace during the same period. Today, 17% of all Singaporean households possess at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth.
The coastal fishing village of Shenzhen lacked even a traffic light at the time it was designated a “special economic zone” in 1979. In 30 years, land values in Shenzhen increased 18,000%. In Shenzhen, people who raised families in mud huts enjoy retirement in skyscrapers with their adult children.
Poverty + Possibility = Prosperity
No cause to which we can dedicate ourselves is more vital than unleashing entrepreneurial innovation on the sea and welcoming the poor to man-made islands of hyper-accelerated prosperity. As volunteer ambassador Lasse Birk Olesen said in his seasteading TEDx talk in Copenhagen, “Our time is better spent on technological innovation than political agitation.”
Baoguang Zhai gets it. He arrived at the Seasteading Institute all the way from Gansu, the third poorest province in China, announcing: “I am committed to working on this idea for a lifetime.”
It didn’t take long before he was coordinating Project OASIS (Ocean Algae for Seasteading Integrated Solutions), the world’s first systematic cross-industry study of ocean-based algaculture.
And he’s only twenty.
The blue frontier awaits your talents.
The Seasteading Conference 2012 condensed years of expertise from dozens of experts, as well as months of planning by the Institute, into a single weekend of collaboration on the most pressing concerns for the movement.
We filmed the presentations for the benefit of those who were unable to attend, and are now highlighting a smaller selection of videos in each newsletter.
John Briscoe on Ocean Law at the Seasteading Conference 2012.
John Briscoe is Distinguished Senior Visiting Scholar at the Law of The Sea Institute at the University of California Berkeley. He spoke about the evolution of the Law of the Sea, from its roots in pre-enlightenment legal opinions to the post-WWII debate which formed modern definitions, eventually codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He concludes with recommendations for future research that can illuminate a more concrete path to legitimacy for different kinds of seasteads.
Myron Nordquist on Ocean Law at the Seasteading Conference 2012
Myron Nordquist is Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia Law School’s Center for Oceans Law and Policy. He was also the secretary of the US delegation at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, where he witnessed firsthand the process that shaped existing international policy with respect to territorial waters, the seabed, and the high seas. As in Briscoe’s presentation, Nordquist’s narrative involves a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the lawmaking process, along with personal anecdotes about cases closely related to the seasteading mission.
Ocean Law Panel Q&A at the Seasteading Conference 2012
After their individual presentations, Briscoe and Nordquist shared the podium to field questions from conference attendees. Topics ranged from questions of sovereignty, to the conflict in the South China Sea, to the optimal strategy for gaining autonomy under existing international law. Given their prominence in the field of ocean law and policy, these answers carry substantial weight and long-term value for our mission.
William Reidy on economic viability of large floating structures at the Seasteading Conference 2012
Bill Riedy, Executive Director of the Maritime Alliance, works to organize various interests related to Blue Technology – a growing field encompassing commerce, recreation, aquaculture, robotics, and more. The Maritime Alliance represents a consortium of these interests in the San Diego area, and envisions a growing role for the sort of infrastructure required by seasteading. According to Riedy, very large floating structures will play an increasingly important role in the world economy as Blue Technology advances.
ABC Radio Australia is the latest major media outlet to begin to take our vision seriously, dedicating several minutes of airtime to interviewing the Institute’s Executive Director Randolph Hencken on the question of whether or not floating communities can become a reality. As a South Pacific island nation, and neighbor to several low-lying atolls, Australia has good reason to pay attention to the ocean’s changing role in humanity’s future. It takes time to soften the host’s skepticism, but our emphasis on incrementalism and pragmatism seems to bring her around by the end of the interview.
Fernando Sánchez first took interest in The Seasteading Institute from a libertarian perspective. He considers seasteading a proactive, ambitious attempt at achieving real individual freedom – something to pass on to his children. From an intellectual perspective, he sees seasteading as an initiative that truly challenges how society is built and proposes a new blueprint for the next generation.
Mr. Sánchez is 41 years old, married with two kids, living in Madrid, Spain, with a PhD in Sociology, Political Science and Social Psychology and an MBA from the IE Business School. He is a former Executive from the telecom, consumer electronics and digital entertainment sectors, having worked for Nokia, Sony, and Sony Computer Entertainment. He is currently managing and developing his own companies, which include a videogame and entertainment studio, consultancy in retail and distribution, and a home appliance distribution company.
Getting the attention of younger generations is critical for any movement looking to stay relevant in the long term, so we naturally shun age requirements for our the volunteer ambassadors program, one of our primary movement-building efforts. Josiah Tullis, an 18-year-old resident of Gresham, Oregon and recent addition to the Ambassadors team, embodies the adventuresome spirit and enthusiasm for seasteading we seek to cultivate among young people, who are still discovering their passions and life goals. In just a few short weeks, he has already demonstrated a willingness to venture into unknown territory, and creatively spread the vision of the Institute to target audiences.
In October, shortly after becoming an ambassador, Josiah took time off school to attend The Singularity Summit in San Francisco, where he had a chance to meet and hear talks by prominent figures paving the intellectual road to a bold, bright future. He found time on the last day of his trip to visit our Oakland office, getting a first-hand look at the Institute’s day-to-day activity and stocking up on promotional materials to distribute in his area. More recently, Josiah conducted an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” on the popular news aggregator/forum, Reddit. His answers stayed true to the brand and vision laid out by the Institute while simultaneously reflecting his individual passion and personality. Most importantly, Josiah came across as relentlessly optimistic – never becoming defensive – even in the face of tough questions. He also is a frequent contributor and moderator on the seasteading Reddit, and promotes the Institute on other subreddits as well.
Josiah’s ambitions and unique interests are reflected in his extracurricular activities, which go far beyond the ambassadors program. He writes for AliveNDead, a blogging platform started by several of his friends, and serves as CSO for Aqua-Terra Planetary Holdings, Inc., a company exploring the possibility of a network of land and ocean-based “Bypass Stations,” interconnected by an advanced tube transport system. With a keen eye toward the future, Josiah clearly has big plans to help make seasteading a reality. In the somewhat nearer future, he hopes to organize a West Coast event similar to the FutureSteading symposium held at Columbia University earlier this year. We are fortunate to have Josiah on the team, and look forward to working with him to make our shared vision a reality.