The Seasteading Institute June 2013 Newsletter
June 24, 2013 by chdeist
Dear Friend of The Seasteading Institute,
With summertime officially upon us, our seasteader instincts tell us we should be spending these longest days of the year close to the water – perhaps at the nearby piers in Jack London Square, or at the beach across the bridge. Instead, we are postponing our gratification to push forward several core initiatives, capitalizing on the present moment when our dreams seem more possible than ever before.
Our “Comprehensive Seastead Project” is now off and rolling, thanks in part to the large number of participants who took the time to fill out our brief survey at floating-city.org. Our motivation for tackling this audacious project – an investigation into all major aspects of a potential seasteading community – stems in part from the research conducted and movement we have built over the past five years. A second motivation is the noticeable shift in mainstream public opinion toward supporting free cities and experimental zones. We are thus coupling our ongoing research with a renewed push to grow our movement, using a Change.org petition to signal support for the remarks recently made by Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page at his company’s annual I/O Event. Hopefully you read Page’s words with the same excitement that we felt when the stories about his comments first broke.
This newsletter also features evidence of our growing relevance in public discourse, such as our recent appearance on Glenn Beck’s TV network, TheBlaze, and of the myriad ways our community is making an impact independently of the Institute.
Finally, we feature upcoming community events and programs, like the time-tested Ephemerisle festival and the brand new “Geeksteading” initiative being pioneered by our featured ambassador, Faruq Hunter.
By the time this year’s Ephemerisle rolls around (July 11-14), we expect to have earned a short break from our landlocked workstations. We hope you will show your solidarity by spreading our petition, taking our survey, or making a generous donation to the Institute today.
Enjoy the summer days,
Table of Contents
- Announcing Comprehensive Seastead Project and Floating-City.org Survey
- Petitioning Larry Page: Support Google CEO Larry Page’s Call to Improve Governance With Experimental Zones
- Modular Seastead Design Developed by Lina Suarez
- Ohio Wesleyan University “Future Habitats“ TEDx Features Seasteading Talk
- “We can’t change Washington, but we could start fresh”: Randolph Hencken and Joe Quirk visit Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV program, The Wonderful World of Stu
- Huffington Post: “Why Doesn’t Government Get Better?”
- The Institute Co-Sponsors Bitcoin 2013 Conference in San Jose; Blueseed Scores $100,000 BTC investment.
- Ephemerisle 2013 – Year of the Art Boat
- Go Solar and get a Discount for You and $750 for The Seasteading Institute
- Other Press Mentions: Ignite.me, Vice, and N+1
- Featured ambassador – Faruq Hunter, Geeksteading Visionary
- Five Year Anniversary Raffle Winners: Anupama Jain and Jesse Adkins
- Seasteading Conference Highlights: Seastead Security and Marine Hydroelectric Company
- USAID Denies Sea Farming Grant
The Institute is excited to be embarking upon an ambitious new undertaking, the Comprehensive Seasteading Project, in which we are attempting to produce feasible plans for what could become the world’s first permanent community at sea. Last month we began gathering data from prospective seastead residents and business owners using a brief survey at floating-city.org, and have already received over 250 responses. It’s not too late to give us your input if you are interested in potentially becoming a seasteading pioneer.
In addition to measuring customer demand through our survey, Phase I of this project will determine an optimal design and location, which we expect to span approximately 18 months. Other major components of the project include the following:
- Our engineering team is investigating multiple designs for an affordable yet comfortable seastead, which would appeal to a sufficient number of pioneers. (We expect the community to comprise a mixture of full-time and part-time residency, as well as timeshares.)
- We are measuring logistical costs associated with the seastead’s operations, based on assumptions from survey responses on preferred locations, maximum travel times, and business needs.
- Our team is working with oceanographers and geopolitical experts to assess the most desirable and practical locations for the placement of the seastead.
Once we make it to the end of Phase I of this comprehensive study, we hope to spin off a collaboration with real estate developers and investors to actualize the resulting plan. We anticipate the opportunity to put down earnest payments for the unit of your dreams early in the next phase.
We estimate the first phase of research to cost between $250,000 and $500,000.
At our last count, we have collected over 1,600 signatures on our petition in support of Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page, who recently appeared to be channeling The Seasteading Institute when he spoke of the need for more experiments with alternative legal and social systems. If you haven’t already done so, please sign our Change.org petition to Page telling him, “I Support Your Idea for Free-Experimentation Zones… on Land & Sea!”. In his keynote address at Google’s I/O event in May, Page said the following:
“There’s many, many exciting and important things you could do that you just can’t do ’cause they’re illegal or they’re not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense, we don’t want our world to change too fast. But maybe we should set aside some small part of the world … I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out: What is the effect on society? What’s the effect on people? Without having to deploy it into the normal world. And people who like those kinds of things can go there and experience that.”
We created the petition for our community to signal their support of Page’s sentiment, and to encourage Page’s collaboration on seasteading and startup city projects.
Lina Suarez contacted the Institute at the beginning of this year to apply her experience in naval architecture toward an ambitious month-long design project under the guidance of our Director of Engineering, George Petrie. Her assignment was to conceptualize a modular, adaptable seastead, complete with a top-side crane mechanism for re-arranging 300 cargo container-sized “modules.” These modules would primarily comprise residential real estate, and allow newcomers to customize their units before their installation. We value this feature, as it would give residents the ability to easily enter or exit a seastead (i.e., voting with one’s house). This would grant citizens freer choice while amplifying the competitive pressures on the governing body to innovate better laws and services. The design grew out of a previous concept envisioned by seasteading supporter and design competition runner-up Anthony Ling, whose modular seastead titled “Rendering Freedom” won for the “Personality” category.
Suarez’s design also incorporates all four of the Institute’s core tenets of engineering – i.e., that a seastead should be safe, economical, comfortable, and modular. The chosen semi-submersible base would provide both comfort and stability, while the stacked, reconfigurable topside units exhibit modularity and maximize the available square footage, providing economy for residents and business owners.
View Suarez’s research for more images and information on the platform specs and module.
TEDx continues to provide a fruitful forum for seasteading acolytes like Ohio Wesleyan University student Charles ‘Zeke’ Brechtel to pitch seasteading to forward thinkers around the world. Previously, ambassador Lasse Birk Olesen delivered a talk in Copenhagen, which has now been viewed over 14,000 times. Zeke’s talk was given as part of his school’s TEDx event, titled “Future Habitats: Earth, Sea & Space,” and can be viewed on YouTube here.
Zeke recently graduated from Wesleyan, majoring in physics and minoring in math. As an undergraduate, he participated in the Juneau Icefield Research Program in Alaska, where he was exposed to current trends in climate science. He was particularly interested in research that indicated rising sea levels, and was fascinated by how this would impact the future of human civilizations — especially communities living close to the ocean. As Zeke points out in the talk, ocean communities are a natural candidate for producing the next human habitats, given the need to expand sustainable resource cultivation on 70% of the largely untouched Earth’s surface. At the end, Zeke draws a connection between seasteading and the inevitable leap one step further, to outer space.
Popular television and radio talk show host Glenn Beck made waves earlier this year when he proposed a vision for a brand new society – Independence, USA. This model city, intended for somewhere in Texas, would try to return to what Beck considers the governing principles of the United States. We assume his interest in alternative governance for himself and his followers was what prompted our invitation to pitch seasteading on his independent television network, TheBlaze. Seeing potential to enlist new supporters of our mission, Executive Director Randolph Hencken and seasteading book co-author Joe Quirk visited Beck’s studios to record a segment for his primetime television show. While Randolph and Joe did not end up speaking with Beck himself due to a scheduling conflict, seasteading was given full exposure on The Wonderful World of Stu program.
“This is a really interesting idea in a world where I sometimes don’t think there are a lot of interesting ideas at times,” opened Stu Burgiere, before asking a series of tough but even-handed questions. The end result was an accurate depiction of startup nations at sea, which framed seasteads as a practical and necessary alternative to the status quo. Joe nimbly cited the dominance of the cruise ship industry as an example of cost-effective habitation already existing on the ocean, and Randolph laid bare the reality of why state and federal jurisdiction on land makes seasteading a superior choice for people with Beck’s ambitions. “We’re trying to offer people a new opportunity that they don’t have anymore because all the land is claimed,” said Randolph, adding, “I think viewers of TheBlaze are the perfect audience, because they’re looking for something new. They’re frustrated – they know that we can’t change Washington, but we could start fresh.”
Prior to its airing, the segment on seasteading was enthusiastically promoted by Stu and his co-host, Pat Gray, on their Friday radio program. Stu sounded genuinely inspired by our efforts, and repeatedly emphasized that we should be taken very seriously. We believe this message reached a large audience of people, who seek to start fresh with government but doubt the feasibility of doing so in their home states or countries.
Just out of high school, seasteading Ambassador Josiah Tullis already writes like a true scholar in a recent blog post for the Huffington Post titled, “Why Doesn’t Government Get Better.” Inclined toward a scientific and technocratic worldview, Josiah laments the lack of true experimentation with new ideas relating to rules and legal systems:
“The problem, I think, is that there’s this great misconception that we’re stuck with what we’ve got– that we’ve somehow already considered every possible political organizational structure that might exist, and that we’ve settled. Somehow, it seems we have found ourselves, as a culture, with a great deficiency of ambition to find new solutions.”
We sometimes claim that the current “state-of-the-art” in governing technology is more than two centuries old, but Josiah reminds us that our basic principles of a democratic republic are in fact much older:
“It’s this invisible resistance to progress that has stifled change. Even 200 years ago our founding fathers realized this, with John Adams eloquently declaring that, ‘While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill- little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.’”
Josiah will be attending the University of Washington this fall, where he will be studying industrial engineering. Just as industrial engineering aims to optimize complex processes and systems, Josiah hopes new communities on the ocean frontier will allow for better optimization of one of the most bloated and inefficient systems of all – government. We look forward to seeing how Josiah will continue to champion our cause in college and beyond.
To many outside of the technology/futurist community, the ideas of seasteading and bitcoin are difficult to grasp, given the seeming okayness of the status quo. Only a small but growing handful see how sorely out of date the old paradigms of currency and governance are. Bitcoin, the digital payments protocol developed by an anonymous programmer in 2008, has amassed a movement much like seasteading in terms of its passion for decentralized, freedom-enhancing technology. These similarities made seasteading an easy sell for our tabling team at the Bitcoin Conference held in San Jose last month.
Our vision was met with a much higher than average understanding of what we are trying to achieve with startup countries at sea. Tiresome Q&As about pirates, tsunamis and absurd hypotheticals were far outnumbered by intelligent discourse on the possibilities for entrepreneurial disruption of our most desperately failing institutions. In addition to staff members Charlie Deist, Randolph Hencken, and Joe Quirk, our presence at the conference included our superstar ambassador from Denmark, Lasse Birk Olesen, who delivered a talk on the complementarity of seasteading with the objectives of bitcoin. Dan Dascalescu was also present to pitch Blueseed’s offshore incubator services to Bitcoin startups. Since then, Blueseed has received the equivalent of $100,000 in bitcoin investment from BitcoinAngels.
As a result of our table, we gained dozens of new followers and newsletter subscribers, an ambassador applicant and a couple of bitcoins to boot.
We will once again be attending the floating festival Ephemerisle, first organized in 2009 by the Institute, and taking place this year from July 11 – 14. Located on the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, Ephemerisle was established to bolster the seasteading movement’s sense of community, and give land-lubbing seasteaders a chance to experience life on the water in a safe manner. An entirely community-organized event since 2010, Ephemerisle 2013 is likely to be bigger and better than ever before.
This year has been dubbed the “Year of the Art Boat,” and aims to host even more creative on-the-water projects than have been seen in previous years. Past art boats/projects have included a lighted, submerged octopus sculpture, a two-story pirate boat called “Apocaisle,” a Chevy-powered floating couch, and the Achievement Lounge – a balance beam obstacle course with a reward of a free beer for those who made it across. Blues dancing, yoga, art demonstrations, and “microtalks” on topics ranging from Bitcoin to Zen Buddhism will also be in the offing.
We expect an increase in the number of separate “islands,” up from three last year and just one the year before that. Having multiple islands enables experiments with different ways of living together – all within a framework of safety – and mimics the competitive governance ideals we promote at the Institute.
Want to build art on the water? Boat with some fellow seasteaders? Experiment with new forms of society? Find out more on the Ephemerisle wiki, the Facebook discussion group, and the Facebook event page.
We hope to see you there!
Are you looking to install solar on your home this year? If you get a solar lease from Sungevity, you can choose to have them donate $750 to The Seasteading Institute, while receiving a discount for yourself. Click here to view the offer.
Journalist and blogger reactions to seasteading fall into three main camps, each involving a penchant for imagination. In some pieces, like a recent article by Kimbriel Dean on Ignite.me, the author will imagine the positive potential of free choice in government, and the boundless opportunity to solve problems associated with the landlocked status quo. Dean writes:
They’re not trying to proselytize for their one “right” ideology. Instead, they’re supporting the development of different types of experimental “start-up governments” so that we may have real, meaningful choices when it comes to our political systems. If we don’t like the way things are done in our floating city, we can choose to try out life in the “country” next door. This freewheeling approach to citizenship gives ruling powers serious incentive to do right by the masses.
Other writers, like Vice reporter Grace Wyler, will get the general idea of our mission, but then get distracted imagining “worst case scenarios”, like a seastead where human hunting is legal (nay, encouraged), despite the odds being overwhelmingly against such models. Criticisms like Wyler’s crumble when you consider the market forces acting upon a seastead – all communities would be entered into voluntarily, and would require substantial cooperation and organizational capital to come into existence. Focusing on Wyler’s other hypotheticals, we can’t imagine much more than a one-man “white supremacist seastead,” and a child pornography ring would have to be crazy to put their nefarious activity directly on the radar of international police. The ocean, after all, is in an environment where virtually any nations’ law enforcement can and will board a vessel if there is reasonable suspicion that passengers or crew are breaking international law.
The third and rarest case of imagination-run-wild was embodied by Atossa Abrahamian, in her recent piece for n+1 Magazine. Abrahamian goes into great detail about the individuals who participated in last year’s seasteading conference and Ephemerisle festival. While Abrahamian’s depiction is colorful, it appears as a caricature to those of us inside the movement. The outside world may find it easier to indulge in stereotypes like the “anti-tax libertarian,” the “butter-loving caveman,” and the “ropey man, covered in tattoos,” but an earnest investigation would see past these cardboard cutouts to our genuine desire to improve the health, wealth and prosperity of the entire planet.
Over the coming months, several members of our ambassador team and community will be launching a new initiative called “Geeksteading,” to highlight water-related “hacking” projects around the globe. In the words of the program’s lead visionary, Faruq Hunter, “Being a part of GeekStead is a statement that the world can do better through innovation (real simple).” Geekstead.Co will feature an average of one project per month, and is eager to welcome new regional efforts and aid in their success. The Institute stands ready to promote and partner with successful regional Geeksteads, and we are fortunate to have such strong leadership in Faruq.
Faruq Hunter is the founder and President of GeniusCo and its subsidy GeniusCorps. He has travelled and worked in over 65 countries, servicing both the public and private sectors. Faruq has been featured in Black Enterprise Magazine for creating a legacy of wealth and stability for your family and was selected as one of the top 50 most important African Americans in technology. His primary focus is on using innovation as a foundation for developing systems to create, re-create, rejuvenate and sustain the concept of the rural town as efficient hubs for economic progress and global production.
Faruq has over 18 years experience in Information Technology Management and implementation and over 10 years experience in Global Business Development. A 13-year-old high school graduate, he completed his first degree at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan. He is primarily a self learner and self starter.
Faruq is also a patriarch of his family and a proud father of eight – six daughters and two sons. He is one of the oldest of 14 siblings, and uncle and Great-Uncle to 58 nieces and nephews in a rapidly growing family. His views and focus on small town and emerging market development stem from a natural responsibility to the prosperity of his own family.
We are pleased to announce the winners of our Five Year Anniversary Raffle, Anupama Jain and Jesse Adkins. Jesse chose the ASUS monitor, while Anupama received an autographed copy of Erwin S. Strauss’ *How to Start Your Own Country.* We also want to thank them for their generosity, along with everyone else who donated during April, the month of celebration. The five-year milestone marks just one of many to come on the road to full-fledged cities at sea. Our energy and enthusiasm is sustained by our core of dedicated supporters.
We couldn’t do this without you!
Ben Harmon’s presentation on seastead security stemmed from a white paper he wrote as part of the Global Studies and Maritime Affairs program at the nearby California Maritime Academy. One of our many friends at the Academy – the only California State University with a maritime focus – Harmon worked under the direction of Institute security advisor Dr. Donna Nincic to produce a preliminary survey of commercially available technologies for combating potential human predators on the ocean. Methods currently employed by the shipping industry include so-called “Long Range Acoustic Defense,” or LRAD, with employs a highly irritating sound beam focused at incoming attackers, along with high pressure water hoses, and armored “Citadel Rooms,” which protect crew and passengers in the event that all previous lines of defense are breached.
John Trepl came to our conference to present a technology for converting the ocean’s vast wave power into electricity. For Trepl and his impressive team of engineers and business executives, permanent ocean habitation represents a massive potential market. However, Trepl also sees seasteading for more than its capacity to boost his business. “I’m really amazed at what you’re doing. It’s like watching a rocket take off – you can see the contrail.” We also learn about how his experience as an inventor has demonstrated the importance of experiments to enabling progress. While testing his prototypes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the 1980s, Trepl tested and broke several models after underestimating the power of the ocean’s waves. Though these early experiments were ostensibly “failures” in one sense, they also demonstrated just how much power was available if it could be effectively harnessed.
In our last newsletter we reported on a grant application submitted to USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures. Our team worked with the University of Costa Rica’s Professor Ricardo Radulovich to adapt his innovative seafood cultivation systems – the product of previous prestigious grants – to the program’s criteria. For those wondering about the outcome of this particular funding opportunity, we regret to report that our submission was recently denied.
However, the experience taught us a great deal about what government-sponsored grant programs expect in their applicants, and we may resubmit in the future. We expect that an entrepreneurial approach will ultimately be what launches sea farming to center stage. This will become increasingly likely as the world wakes up to the growing need to diversify farming in the wake of unpredictable weather, rising population, and unsustainable land management practices.
Our thanks go out to Professor Radulovich, and to volunteer Ambassador Ryan William Nohea Garcia for their hard work on the application. Onward!
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