September 2013 Newsletter
September 29, 2013 by chdeist
Dear Friend of The Seasteading Institute,
Just after our last newsletter, on the eve of summer, we took a brief, hard-earned getaway to the annual Ephemerisle Festival (details below). Since then, it has been a busy season – full of good news on several fronts.
Most notably, our Indiegogo campaign was a huge success, thanks to all 291 of our contributors who helped us smash the $20,000 goal! With matching support from the Thiel Foundation, the design and feasibility component of our Floating City Project being conducted by DeltaSync is now fully funded. The $27,082 total raised also allows us to apply donations beyond our goal toward another important component of our project – engaging diplomatically with potential host nations.
We still need all the support our community is able to contribute to make our shared dream a reality. At a time when rumors of war share the editorial page with mindless chatter about the latest youtube sensations, you would be hard-pressed to find a better cause to support than the Institute’s push to jumpstart 1,000 aquatic experiments with new kinds of government.
Beyond our successful crowdfunding campaign, our community’s engagement has helped us to identify pioneering businesses and residents through our ongoing survey housed at Floating-City.org, and to narrow down the ripest geopolitical opportunities for locating the first seastead. If you would like to live on a seastead as a full- or part-time resident in the not-too-distant-future, please take the time to let us know your preferences.
This work is laying the foundation for one of the great turning points for humanity – I’m excited to show you how it is coming together.
With anticipation of the first seastead,
Randolph Hencken, Executive Director
P.S. If you missed the opportunity to back our Indiegogo campaign, we encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation on our website, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Thiel Foundation.
Table of Contents
- Floating City Project: Crowdfunding Campaign Ends Successfully!
- Floating City Project: DeltaSync Takes the Baton
- Floating City Project: Potential Host Nations Identified
- Floating City Project: Diplomacy Component
- Floating City Project: Survey Data Paints More Detailed Picture of Potential Customers
- Featured Member – Brian Cartmell
- Seasteading in the Media: Randolph on the Interview Circuit
- Ephemerisle: Then, and Now
- Featured Ambassador – Ragnar Ahman Lifthrasir
- Featured Conference Video: Alexander Wissner-Gross
When we launched our Indiegogo campaign to raise money for DeltaSync’s novel seastead design, there were no guarantees it would be a success. We took a leap of faith, trusting our community to step up to the ambitious $20,000 goal for a simple reward: the “incredibly wondrous satisfaction of contributing to the development of the first floating city.” Even more heartening than the total of $27,083 raised – 35% more than our original goal – was the sheer number of contributors at all levels. 78 people gave between $10 and $35; 37 gave $35-$60, 38 gave $60-$100, 59 gave $100-$240, 15 gave $240-$500, and 1 gave $500. Less than one-third of the money raised came from our “Dolphin” donors, who each generously gave $1,000 or more for the effort.
Now, we look forward to following up on our end of the bargain. If you were one of the many generous donors, you can expect to receive your rewards by the end of October, with the exception of the seasteading book, which does not come out until 2014.
Here are some of our favorite comments left by donors:
Jared Miller said…
A world with seasteads will be a world where true freedom and true liberty can be achieved at long last. Keep fighting the good fight guys!
A floating city is a fantastic idea. It will be built!
Seize the Seas!
Randolph, I don’t think seasteading will succeed, but since its expected value is at least several orders of magnitude higher than voting…what the hell. Why not?
Serge Kannon said…
Very cool idea. I plan to live out at sea one day.
Those who retain some skepticism are entitled to their opinion, but we hope to assuage their concerns when we release the actual cost and feasibility report in a few months.
The people have spoken – both through our survey and with their pocketbooks – and delivered enough input for us to move forward with our floating city design, commissioned to the top-flight Dutch aquatic architects at DeltaSync. We have already begun to review a variety of attractive options as part of the preliminary phase of DeltaSync’s work. Our ongoing meetings about the design component are intended to hone in on a specific design based around practical considerations, such as geography and oceanographic conditions. Our survey has also shed light on the preferences of our most representative seastead pioneers (see survey update below).
Because of the diversity of oceanographic conditions at our potential locations, we are working incrementally – starting with the common denominators of every region, such as the presence of calm, shallow waters and proximity to the coastline. DeltaSync’s final report will be finished this Fall. We expect its publication to inspire new support, media attention, and additional interest in being part of our pioneering experiment as a business owner, resident, investor, or host nation.
With significant help from geopolitical scholars Paul Aljets and Paul Weinger, we have identified 20 countries we believe could be amenable to hosting a seastead within their territorial waters, while still granting the residents and business owners substantial autonomy. There are several reasons for seeking a host nation: a) It is less expensive to engineer a seastead for relatively calm, shallow waters compared with the open ocean outside of territorial waters; b) it will be easier for residents to travel to and from the seastead, as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and c) a host nation will provide a place for a floating city within the existing international legal framework, with the associated protections and responsibilities.
Our list of countries is being kept confidential for the time being, to prevent media and other second-hand sources from misrepresenting our intent or presuming we have secured a deal with one of the nations.
We wish to thank our geopolitical team for their help with our early research efforts in selecting potential host countries. We will detail the methodology employed by our team in the forthcoming white paper we are publishing as part of the Floating City Project.
Paul Aljets first contacted The Seasteading Institute to volunteer on a literature review of federal statutes related to medical tourism conducted aboard foreign-flagged vessels. As a research consultant with a Master of Public Policy degree, Paul was intimately familiar with this process – his preliminary investigation was so thorough that we requested his help in narrowing the more than 100 countries with coastline to a mere 20, based on criteria relevant to seasteading. While it is tempting to rely largely on intuition in such an investigation, Paul was undaunted by the task of examining hard data, aggregated in reliable indexes. Some of these indexes were well known, while others were specialized to the socio-political factors most relevant from our perspective. Paul’s weighted ranking delivered a list that challenged much of our intuition, and in doing so yielded a more refined final list of candidates.
Paul Weinger is a graduate of Vassar College in New York City, who recently enrolled in the University of Law at Moorgate, in London. He also studied law, philosophy and political theory at the University of Oxford, and held a number of research fellowships in nonprofit and academic settings prior to graduating. Paul proved himself to be an astute researcher, with knowledge of yet more indexes, and non-obvious but crucial criteria associated with various nations. His nuanced approach to weighting of factors winnowed out several seemingly strong contenders, which likely would have been revealed as a waste of our time down the road. He also brought our attention to various “diamonds in the rough,” i.e., countries we might have unfairly overlooked based on a more superficial analysis.
Every Indiegogo donation received over and above our $20,000 goal is being directed into our equally important diplomacy efforts, through which we aim to attract interest from coastal nations who might agree to grant substantial political autonomy to a floating city within their calm, shallow, territorial waters. This hybrid of seasteading and the startup cities movement represents the most pragmatic next step of our mission to eventually enable 1,000 autonomous new jurisdictions.
As we begin to reach out to government officials and influential people in select coastal nations, we will also be looking for new connections from our core community. This investigation puts a premium on getting a “foot in the door,” i.e., a personal link to relevant decision makers in our countries of interest.
While there is ample precedent for special economic zones and bilateral investment treaties between corporations and sovereigns, we are attempting something fundamentally new. Our message to existing governments is that fortune favors the bold – what better way to maintain competitiveness and signal that a country is focused on 21st-century innovation than by bringing the world’s first floating laboratory for governance to its coastline? On top of this, we will be exploring and pitching technologies for bioremediation in polluted waterways, which would create a healthy environmental symbiosis to complement the mutually beneficial social and political interdependencies between our proposed seastead and coastal nation. Lastly, we are offering potential solutions for low-lying island nations threatened by rising sea levels.
We are currently following up on various contacts to prominent people in our candidate host countries, but are still interested in obtaining additional diplomatic meetings if you have a country and contact you are willing to share. Email us at email@example.com!
Many of you are receiving our newsletter for the first time as a result of filling out our survey at floating-city.org. If so, you are among 800 people who gave us input on what you would like in a seastead community, and signaled your actual desire to live on such a seastead if it were to be built.
Fortunately, survey respondents seem to be largely on the same page – a handful of locations were perceived as most attractive, and the same basic features were repeated as being essential to quality of life (i.e., security, comfort, personal freedom, community space/greenery, and of course, reliable, high-speed internet).
It’s too early to say whether the interest expressed among those surveyed is genuine. Nonetheless, we are glad to have the database handy as we look ahead to the investment phase, when there will be the opportunity for respondents to prove their actual level of interest with deposits of earnest money. We can also infer that there are probably thousands more – if not hundreds of thousands – who will step forward once they become aware of our project. Our advertising was limited to our community, whereas a full-fledged media outreach campaign would bring much more of the potential market into focus.
Our Indiegogo supporters aren’t the only community members who have stepped up to the plate in a big way to make seasteading a reality – a few months before our campaign even began, long-time seasteading enthusiast Brian Cartmell made an incredibly generous seed contribution, which has now blossomed into the Floating City Project.
Randolph Hencken met with Brian Cartmell in New Zealand last spring, where their discussion turned to the topic of enabling actual residences on the first floating, autonomous city, in the near term. Cartmell, a successful entrepreneur and former US citizen who moved to New Zealand for the additional freedoms it offers, is highly representative of the sort of pioneers we envision making the leap to the sea. He wants to prove the concept – i.e., demonstrate that one can actually live more freely (and safely, comfortably, etc.) on a floating city, and that this can be accomplished with novel configurations of existing technology.
Cartmell has 25 years of experience in information technology systems, working as a programmer for a small telecommunications company to CEO of eNIC, the second largest domain registry company in the United States before it was acquired by Verisign Global Registry Services.
He testified before the United States Senate Commerce Committee in early 2001 regarding Internet Governance, is the inventor of five issued U.S. patents, led the successful battle against Hormel for the right to include the word “SPAM” in trademarks that relate to email services, and is a major shareholder and board member of companies ranging from bitcoin payment services to all-natural zero calorie sodas.
You can follow Brian on his twitterfeed: twitter.com/briancartmell
Humanity+, one of the leading futurist/transhumanist advocacy organizations, featured an interview with Randy Hencken in its online h+ publication. Jesse Barksdale, the interviewer, asked a number of questions to introduce h+’s audience to our mission and latest strategy for making floating cities a reality. Barksdale drew a good analogy between the entry-and-exit model of seasteading citizenship (aka “voting with your boat”) and recurring membership fees. Hencken responded with the observation that the option to withdraw one’s residence, along with its associated economic resources, would directly impact a seastead government’s bottom line, whereas traditional democratic citizenship often leaves minorities completely powerless to sway policies. The interview also contains tidbits on the early findings of our Floating City Project survey, and the most “far out” seasteading business models we’ve come across in our five years of research and movement building.
A few weeks earlier, Randy was interviewed by another online publication – FireDogLake.com – in which he was asked about a number of pertinent distinctions, to which answers add up to our current approach with the Floating City Project:
How is a ‘seastead’ different from a ship?
Why is the ocean a better bet than charter cities/startup cities on land?
What can you do on a seastead, that you can’t do in America, that is worth doing?
Finally, an interview with the business/technology publication RedHerring yielded a fruitful conversation and free advertising for our Indiegogo campaign. The author’s main takeaway?
“The Institute’s “Floating City Project” is a pipe dream made practical. Its mission may appeal to those fed up feeling voiceless in today’s political process, as seasteading gives people a fresh start.
Amen to that!
Photo credit: Matt Bell
We are pleased to report that Ephemerisle 2013, the fifth annual event and fourth since our community took on responsibility, went swimmingly as usual. The so-called “Year of the Art Boat” featured more islands and additional horsepower beneath the art projects. Some participants retrofitted powerboats with plywood to create hexagonal “dynamically positioned” platform space, while others spent the first day building and anchoring a large, stable, neon-draped dance floor at the center of the largest island. This time around, experience and planning allowed for seamless anchoring of each island, in spite of the delta’s formidable currents. While we still have more to learn before we take to the high seas, we delight in the incremental progress being made and are proud to have incubated the event under the Institute’s banner 5 years ago.
Photo credit: Matt Bell
It’s fun to take a look back at the 2009 event, through the lens of filmmaker Jasson Sussberg’s camera. We’re now “saltier” and better prepared than ever to take the next leap to permanent floating cities, but we won’t ever forget our humble roots on the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta.
Photo credit: Jim O’Neill
At nearly 70 members, our ambassador team continues to grow as rapidly as the rest of the movement, bringing valuable skills, networks and new audiences to bear on the general seasteading mission, and the Floating City Project in particular. Earlier this month we had the privilege of bringing aboard Ragnar Ahman Lifthrasir – a real estate developer from Dana Point, CA – who in just a few weeks has already meaningfully contributed to our cause.
Ragnar seeks to further the goals of The Seasteading Institute by leveraging his career in real estate development. Following the financial crisis in 2008, Ragnar worked for several years acquiring and repositioning distressed residential properties. As the market evolved, he transitioned into finding and underwriting urban infill – mixed-use developments in core southern California markets. Currently, Ragnar insures commercial real estate against defects in title. Ragnar earned a Masters in Real Estate Development from Columbia University. His international experience includes work in Costa Rica and Panama, where he sees great potential for seasteading. Ragnar also contributed generously to our Indiegogo campaign, and is preparing to assist with the diplomacy component, facilitating meetings with key people in our potential “host” nations.
In his own words: “I’m an Ambassador because I want seasteads to get built. Peace and prosperity are impossible without meaningfully controlling a piece of real estate. All terra firma is claimed, each piece chained by its own unique flavor of political system monopoly. Monopolies produce inferior products and high prices, be they cars or governments. So as mobile, autonomous real estate, seasteads will hack the land monopoly, creating peace and prosperity via terra aqua.”
In his presentation “Financial Markets and Seasteads,” Alexander Wissner-Gross suggests a novel way to make big money on the ocean without the massive infrastructure needed for an entire floating city. Wissner-Gross, whose academic credentials include a PhD in Physics from Harvard and a triple major at MIT, is currently an Institute Fellow at the Harvard University Institute for Applied Computational Science and Research Affiliate at the MIT Media Laboratory.
Noting the financial sector’s dominance in the global American economy, Wissner-Gross reasons that a small mid-ocean trading center could massively profit by entering the “financial latency arms race,” and exploiting “information arbitrage” opportunities between major financial centers such as New York City and London. With the advent of high-frequency trading, one millisecond can make the difference of millions of dollars for a given trade. The physical limits of fiber-optic cables have been reached, meaning additional profits from faster connections between hubs is basically impossible. However, Wissner-Gross explains, positioning a server at a geographically intermediate location enables a trader to coordinate information more quickly. He draws an analogy to biology, where one’s nervous system and spine might cause a flinch from touching a finger to a hot surface before the brain (a greater distance from the finger) feels the heat.
The mathematical result for the optimal locations for oceanic trading hubs was derived in a paper, Relativistic Statistical Arbitrage – published in a 2010 Physical Review. Shortly after this presentation, the concept was also featured on the Financial News website. We hope the concept can take off and plant a seed for larger communities and business enterprises in the near future!
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