Vision, Mission, and Goals
Over thirty million people a year already visit floating cities in the form of cruise ships. These ships provide water, food, power, service staff and safety from the waves at a cost as low as $60 per night. There are also 1,500 oil and gas platforms in US waters alone. So, while it is easy to imagine disaster scenarios for a floating city, floating cities are not actually a new engineering concept. Spending in related industries totals more than $150 billion per year.
None of this is meant to equate seasteads with cruise ships or oil platforms. We have different goals dictating different designs that create new challenges. However, the basic problems have been solved for a long time. Our task is to adapt existing technology to a much more exciting goal than vacationing or extracting resources: permanently settling the ocean. The biggest uncertainties do not lie in questions about whether safe, comfortable seasteads can be built, but whether they can be built at a low enough cost to attract permanent residents.
One of the virtues of seasteading is that it is an incremental, bottom-up, doing-instead-of-talking movement. We do not need to win any elections, we just need to find a core group of committed pioneers—people who may not be sure that seasteading will work either, but believe that it is worth a try. These kinds of people would rather convince through demonstration than through lengthy argument. If these individuals succeed, that is our answer. If they fail, we will either modify our approach or do something else. No matter what, we will all learn something.
Our goal is to enable experimentation with startup sovereign governments. Since there is no land unclaimed by existing governments, seasteading is the only realistic method for creating new nations. Even unoccupied islands are the territory of various countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones, in which countries exercise valuable rights over fishing and mineral resources.
It is extremely difficult and costly to significantly impact political outcomes. Brand new political systems are generally the result of violent revolutions or coups, which are undesirable for obvious reasons. Alternatively, we are employing peaceful methods of creating new structures of governance, and are making it easier to test out new socio-economic systems by enabling people to “vote with their boats.”
We believe that greater competition among seastead-based governments will actually serve to reform existing political systems over time. Competition from new nations will incentivize old nations to adapt and evolve—or lose out to these new nations. Also, our ecosystem of experimental societies will provide new data about better (or worse) ways to organize a society. Right now, government is like a company with no R&D department and very little competition. Seasteads will be the world’s first political R&D department—a kind of incubator for governments.
The Seasteading Institute wishes to enable the creation of ocean city-states in order to advance humanity through innovative startup governments. We believe that competition in government will lead to better government for the whole planet. Governments are ultimately the stewards of institutions, which are more or less the “rules of the game.” Looking around the world, it is easy to see that some countries have better rules than others. Good or bad, however, rules can become entrenched in the absence of competition from new market entrants. Currently no new governments can peacefully enter the “governance market,” but with seasteading, experimentation with new rules is possible.
Our legal team has not found any examples or precedent that would lead us to believe that international law will pose a significant threat to permanent ocean-city states.
No. While it is true that both founders of The Seasteading Institute have libertarian beliefs, our vision is open to anyone who desires to improve government through experimentation. The Seasteading Institute acts as an umbrella organization advocating on behalf of seasteading as a whole, not just one political disposition. We are eager to see seasteads experiment with a wide variety of political ideas in order to find out which are most desirable to their residents. As long as residents have the freedom to leave a seastead, we are not opposed to any political doctrines people on seasteads attempt to implement.
The seasteading community is diverse and will only become broader over time. We don’t believe that wealth accumulation is the primary motive for seasteading, although we do recognize that profitable industries will be a key ingredient to the success of seasteading. People who venture to seasteads will do so for a variety of reasons. Some may do so to achieve a lower tax burden, but others will be desperately poor people searching for opportunities and an escape from government oppression. Still others will be entrepreneurs with valuable ideas.
Most of our libertarian supporters do not expect to create a perfect libertarian paradise where they can do whatever they want without any interference. They are simply looking for a significant improvement over the territorial status quo. To see how large a gain this might be, try to imagine how a libertarian might handpick the best available policies from among existing states to create a new, single set of institutions.
For example, there are countries in Europe (Switzerland, The Netherlands and Portugal) with relatively more social freedom. There are economic havens (Luxembourg, Bahamas) with relatively high economic freedom. None are perfect from a libertarian perspective. The socially free countries tend to be left-leaning states with higher taxes. The tax havens tend to be more right-wing and socially restrictive. Libertarians feel the combination of these two types of freedoms is worth striving for, even if either is restricted to the maximum level currently tolerated by any of the powers that be. Such a government would be far more libertarian than any currently in existence without pushing the legal envelope or creating any radically new policies.
There are certainly some limitations on what seasteads can do. Actions seen as a serious threat to the security of other nations ought not be tolerated aboard seasteads, such as letting terrorists launder money, exporting drugs to countries where they are illegal, or researching or building weapons of mass destruction, particularly with nuclear capabilities.
Won’t the first seastead that conducts activity that results in interference from other nations ruin it for all seasteads?
We say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: There is no “correct” way to do seasteading. Every subgroup is welcome to try different rules. Some rules will annoy existing countries enough that they will do something about it. Others will not. There may be severe consequences to certain individuals, which is unfortunate, but the system as a whole can adapt and move on.
While it is worth discussing how much freedom we can reasonably expect to get, we do not all have to make the same choices about how much risk of interference to run. The movement will not live or die based on whether any one seastead gets invaded. This is a decentralized movement, which makes it robust, nimble and inherently adaptable.
Ideally, seasteads will be mobile and modular—meaning that they can float on the ocean and join together and separate from one another. This is a key factor in enabling people to vote for governments by entry and exit (dynamic geography). That is, if people are happy with the governing body of a seastead conglomerate then they will stay and attract other seasteaders. If they are unhappy with their government, they will float their module to another seastead. However, we do not want to presume too much, and stationary seasteads may have benefits as well.
The Seasteading Institute does not plan on building a seastead itself. Instead, our purpose is to facilitate the creation of seasteads through research and movement building. As a nonprofit organization, The Seasteading Institute is not best suited to build or operate a seastead. The Institute is a resource to assist entrepreneurs and commercial entities in developing successful seasteads that achieve their particular commercial interests.
In all likelihood, the first seasteads will actually be retrofitted ships.
Our longer term vision requires larger, less mobile designs. Ultimately boats go places, while seasteads are living spaces. Boats are more suited to a nomadic lifestyle, whereas our designs will hopefully evolve into cities.
Existing technologies in the cruise ships and oil platforms industries have proven to be safe. As with anything, of course, there are risks, but seasteads will employ much of the same safety technology, such as storm warning systems, that are currently used in the ocean industry. We also expect early seasteads to be mobile and/or modular and able to move to avoid storms. Later seasteads will likely employ artificial breakwaters to protect them from rogue waves. Of course, as we continue to gather information about safe designs, risks lessen.
Our approach to hurricanes and other severe weather is threefold: 1) Avoid being in an area where severe weather hits, if possible; 2) Build structures that can withstand the worst storms expected in a seasteading area; 3) Design platforms, modules or adjunctive seacraft that can move out of the path of storms or other severe weather—whether seasonally or immediately (i.e., within a few days of advanced warning).
Can a floating platform weather typhoons and so-called “rogue waves” that can swell to more than eight stories tall?
Modern semi-submersibles are built to withstand once-in-a-hundred-years waves by locating the platform significantly higher than the water and by building a strong, resilience-engineered structure. Simulations have shown that semi-submersible platforms can survive rogue waves, but a sturdy mooring system is important. This is an important area of research The Seasteading Institute will engage in over time. We believe our research will mitigate those risks.
As for wave motion, seastead structures will be designed to reduce coupling with the surrounding waves. One way to accomplish this is by keeping the structure’s center of gravity below the waves. Wave motion can also be reduced by locating seasteads in calm areas of the ocean. As seasteads grow in size, that too will reduce wave motion. Just as passengers on large cruise ships often can’t feel the waves beneath them, neither will the residents of large seasteads. With time people will earn their “sea legs,” and become acclimated to the remaining wave motion.
Although piracy receives a lot of press, it is a relatively rare phenomenon. Pirates typically lurk off the shores of unstable regions, such as the southern coast of Africa. Seasteads can avoid most piracy risk by locating far away from these regions. Also, relative to other targets such as container ships, seasteads represent a poor risk/reward ratio to would-be pirates. Container ships carry mostly cargo and small crews. Seasteads carry relatively little valuable cargo and large (likely armed) populations. Seastead residents are likely to fight much harder than container ship crews, as they are defending their own homes and businesses, not a corporation’s insured property. Therefore, it will be wise for pirates to avoid seasteads in favor of easier prey.
Much piracy is small-scale theft—for example, of the 335 attacks reported in 2001, only 73 involved guns. Sixteen ships were hijacked, and 21 people killed (all but one in Asian waters). A sea-city will be much too large for this kind of crime. Even an individual seastead—a concrete tower—will be a much tougher target than a luxury yacht. Piracy against yachts is mainly notable for being vivid and exciting, and is rare enough that the ocean is still full of private pleasure craft. Still, we recommend that small seasteads avoid the pirate hot spots such as Southeast Asia and Somalia.
There are larger organized criminal groups involved in piracy that capture entire ships and their goods (often worth tens of millions of dollars). These groups have even been known to use forged documents to obtain a new load of cargo from legitimate shippers, and then steal it. It is worth noting that these groups specifically target container ships. This is not at all surprising, given that container ships only have a few crew and vast amounts of nicely boxed cargo. A cruise ship has fewer marketable goods, and many more people to handle. A cruise ship might have 100 times more passengers and crew per dollar of movable cargo than a container ship. A simple cost/benefit analysis suggests why pirates tend to focus on the latter.
While it is possible to escape the full force of an ocean storm by submerging beneath the waves, it is not simple or cheap. To completely escape the sub-surface pressure variations from severe waves, one would have to be more than 500 feet below the surface. A small submersible would likely be tumbled about severely at depths less than 100 feet. Even larger vessels like military submarines have to dive deeper than 100 feet to ride comfortably in stormy seas. Moreover, these pressure variations can increase the structural loads on the hull, and are particularly worrisome because of the additional loads imposed on windows and doorways that are often envisioned for submerged seasteads.
Submersible seasteads are certainly possible, but are not cheap relative to floating seasteads. Submerged vessels must have sufficiently sophisticated and reliable ballast systems that will allow them to accurately maintain their target depth. For a vessel on the surface, floating is relatively easy, because there is ‘reserve’ buoyancy in the hull; if weight is added or buoyancy is lost (due to a leak), the hull can continue to float, albeit at a deeper waterline. But for a vessel below the surface, there is no ‘reserve’ buoyancy; if it springs a leak or simply wants to return to the surface, it must eject water from its ballast tanks or otherwise increase its buoyancy.
The Institute neither encourages nor endorses the idea of building submersible seasteads for the purpose of avoiding weather hazards at sea.
See this blog post by Director of Engineering George Petrie for a longer discussion of submersible seasteads.
Autonomy and Sustainability
In short, yes. However, we do not expect this to happen for several decades. In the interim, seasteads will first operate using so-called “flags of convenience” from countries with open flag registries. Eventually seasteads will create alliances and negotiate treaties with other nations. When there are enough seasteaders—as well as mutual respect among the various seasteads and major world powers—seasteads are likely to seek recognition from the United Nations, and ultimately recognized sovereignty.
Seasteads will be autonomous mainly by setting their own rules. We don’t believe achieving material self-sufficiency is desirable or necessary. Diesel fuel is still the cheapest way to operate electrical power generators, but our team is investigating renewable energies such as wind, solar, wave, and OTEC as an alternative to fossil fuels. Importing meat will cost less than raising cattle on a seastead. Instead of producing everything themselves, we expect seasteads to specialize in industries where they have a competitive advantage (such as fish farming, or “aquaculture”) and trade for goods and services that can be produced more efficiently elsewhere.
Eventually a seastead could be designed which can be completely self-sustaining, but early seasteads will rely on trade for most of their goods. It will be more efficient to import foods and fuel than it will be using today’s technologies to try to farm and create one’s own power sources.
The first seasteads will operate under the same maritime laws as existing ships, which already have considerable legal autonomy. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships fly flags from Panama and the Bahamas, and Royal Caribbean International cruise lines fly flags from Liberia. Although these companies have major operations within the United States’ territorial waters, the U.S. does not interfere very much with their operations. This is due in part to the fact that cruise lines provide jobs and revenue to the U.S. economy. If the U.S. tried to interfere too much, cruise lines would likely move their operations elsewhere. Similarly, seasteads will trade extensively with land-based businesses. People who profit from trade with seasteads will encourage their government not to interfere and drive away the seastead’s business.
Since we are not initially seeking de jure sovereignty, early seasteads will not issue passports. This will not be a problem for most people, as most governments do not regulate or tax citizens living abroad. Americans are an exception. They get $95K in wages tax-free, while investment income, capital gains, and earned income above the $95K threshold is subject to US taxes. Americans may therefore wish to obtain a second citizenship, which will allow them to renounce their US citizenship (paying a one-time exit tax on unrealized capital gains over $600K). They can do this using the existing international market for citizenship, which costs $100K-$250K. So those earning less than $95K can retain their US citizenship without penalty, while those earning significantly more will be able to buy a new citizenship. For those earning a bit over the threshold, buying a new citizenship will be expensive and paying taxes may be the best option.
Overpopulation occurs when there are too many people struggling for too few resources. Seasteads allow us to use more of the space we have, and harvest more of the renewable energy resources. This means that while they add population, they also add capacity. Also, the main factors in world population are education, birth control, and economic development. Growth is decelerating and the UN expects world population to peak this century and then decline.
Living, Economy, Business
Cruise ships will make excellent shipsteads in the near future, because they are already equipped with the technology that makes living at sea for extended periods comfortable. However, cruise ships are not modular, meaning it would be difficult to combine multiple cruise ships together to make larger cities. We are collaborating on engineering plans for novel seastead designs that will be modular, allowing cities to expand and residents to sail their sections elsewhere if they are dissatisfied with an enclave.
Early seastead residents will be entrepreneurs, sailors, engineers, aquaculture farmers, resort employees and members of other professions related to the economy of seasteading. They will also be trailblazers and pioneers. Most early-adopters will live at sea part time, basing either their business life or vacation life there, but frequently returning to shore. As seasteading technology improves and the costs come down, living on a seastead will appeal to a wider audience. Some people might move to escape oppressive governments. Others may move to live in a community of like-minded individuals committed to values such as environmentalism and equality. Still others may move to take advantage of economic opportunities.
Most of the technologies seasteaders use will be much less polluting than those used on land. Resources will be more expensive, which means seasteaders will have to use less of them. Most of the industries emerging from seasteads will be knowledge- or service-oriented, so the net result is likely to be a reduction in externalities relative to territorial nations.
Seasteads will need to be accountable and their residents will need to behave like good world citizens. Gross pollution would likely provoke interference from traditional nations, so it will be in a seastead’s interest to be environmentally conscious. In the future, when sea-surface resources and property rights become delineated, legal mechanisms for resolving pollution disputes are likely to emerge. For example, if you want to dump sludge into your neighbor’s waters, you’ll be liable to pay damages. Currently the ocean is a classic “tragedy of the commons,” as evidenced by existing pollution and overfishing problems, but the solution is better laws and institutions, not staying off oceans all together.
Seastead populations will vary across seasteads and, more significantly, over time. In the near future, seasteads may only have a few dozen people living on them. Over time, as the barriers to entry decrease and technology advances, populations will grow exponentially, just like we’ve seen in humanity’s spread across territories. Keep in mind that—like in cities on land—people tend to cluster together. So, while you may find the occasional “rural” outpost, you are more likely to find lively clusters with their own economic gravity.
The Seasteading Institute’s vision is two-fold:
- In the short run, the most practical way to launch a seastead is to adapt a cruise ship for permanent or semi-permanent habitation. Cruise ships have already answered most of the challenges relating to seasteading (negotiating bad weather, avoiding interference from governments or pirates, providing accommodations, etc.) The cost of an existing cruise ship manufactured in 2000 and capable of hosting 400 people is under $7M. Factoring in retrofitting, the cost should be under $10M.
- In the long run, platforms are more suitable than ships (see “Why not just buy a boat?”). The Seasteading Institute commissioned the marine engineering firm Marine Innovation & Technology to design Clubstead, a prototype seastead design. Clubstead has 368,200 ft2 of room space for 200 guests and staff quarters that can accommodate an additional 70 people. Clubstead’s total estimated price tag is $114,333,000. Their estimates suggest that Clubstead could be built at a cost of $311/ft2 of usable space, roughly comparable to real estate costs in places like San Francisco and New York City. With that said, the cost of platforms is likely to go down in the future as the technology improves and as economies of scale start to kick in.
There are two broad categories of jobs on seasteads: external-facing jobs which produce goods and services for export, and internal jobs which provide goods and services primarily to the onboard seastead population. Among the external-facing jobs, the most likely to flourish in the near term will be those that can be done remotely via the Internet or phone (software development, e-learning, consulting etc.). Some companies will also take advantage of a seastead’s greater legal flexibility and location on the water to produce goods and services for export, such as medical tourism, aquaculture, and ocean-based theme parks. Other businesses—such as hair dressers, dentists, and machinists—will provide services to residents just like any land based city. (Also see ‘How can you make money on a seastead?’)
Current seastead designs will have amenities similar to those aboard cruise ships, having everything from gyms to gardens. Additionally, since seasteads will be optimized for space and comfort rather than travel, residential and service-crew quarters will likely be larger than on cruise ships.
Early seasteads will also likely be located near the shore. This will allow residents to maintain proximity to their friends and family, as well as jobs, restaurants, and other amenities one can find in a coastal city. As more people start moving to seasteads, the amenities available on board will gradually improve to the point that they match, or even exceed, the amenities found on land.
Seastead residents can earn money in a variety of ways. Just as in any land-based city, there will be demand for internal services—plumbers and hairdressers, schoolteachers and doctors. Other seasteaders will market goods to external markets. Here are just three examples of ways people could earn a living aboard a seastead:
Resorts—Many people go to Club Med and cruise ships with no real intention of ever leaving the facilities. A luxury seastead resort could be tailored to meet the needs of these people. Floating luxury resorts have been profitable for decades, as evidenced by the cruise ship industry. These ships produce nothing, import all their food, water, and fuel, and still turn a profit. About 10 million people a year take cruises, resulting in about $17B in revenue for the industry. This gives us good reason to expect that a floating resort could be a profitable business model as well. Although the number of people willing to spend a few weeks each year on a seastead is far greater than the number willing to drop everything and devote their lives to it, these seasonal opportunities may still open doors to more permanent industries and occupations.
Aquaculture—Farming fish in giant nets near a seastead holds considerable promise. Currently, aquaculture is more feasible nearer to shore. But with the advent of seastead platforms and associated technologies, many fish can be raised in the open ocean – which may more closely resemble their natural habitats.
Medical tourism—Government bureaucracy is a major barrier to medical and biotechnological advancement. The FDA has historically been slow to approve new medical treatments, and promising improvements in areas such as stem-cell research have been retarded by government policy. Seasteads would provide an excellent place for cutting-edge medical research and treatment.
As you can see, there are a variety of business possibilities for seasteads. These are just a few of the potential industries that are likely to form. As seasteads flourish, the number of industries and job opportunities will increase.
We think this is a great question. We’ve often asked it ourselves. We believe two key answers are: incrementalism and timesharing.
Incrementalism – It is not necessary that we find 10,000 people willing to take the initial plunge. We only need to find the core of enthusiasts to start, say 10 people. Next come the 40 people who are willing to move now that there are 10 people. Then, we find the 100 people that will move because there are 40, and so on. Along with people, commercial opportunities will accumulate. The seastead begins to have its own gravity. It’s not that there is no one willing to be the first. It’s just that there aren’t very many. Thankfully, bootstrapping doesn’t require many.
Timesharing – Many early residents may be time-sharers or hotel guests. Letting people participate part-time will help the movement advance. Many more will be willing to visit at the onset, as there is a huge difference in the levels of commitment. This is especially valuable in converting skeptics who will have reasonable doubts about such an ambitious move. While there are 52 weeks in a year, one of early our anecdotal surveys suggested that the ratio of people willing to live in a new country full-time versus one week a year is at least 1,000:1, possibly even higher. Hence many initial residents will either be guests or support staff.
One version of the question points out the importance of network effects as a threat to the incremental approach. (A network effect is when something is valuable based on the number of interconnections–value that goes up as the square of the number of participants. In communications networks this is sometimes referred to as Metcalfe’s Law.) If network effects were truly incompatible with incrementalism, there networks in existence would have been able to start small. However, almost everything cited as an example of the importance of network effects started small (e.g., big cities, the Internet, land and cell-phone networks, and websites like Google), with network nodes connecting as they are added—like fungal spores that burgeon into a colony of mushrooms over time. The big, successful networks have both incremental properties, which allowed them to grow, and network properties, which make them increasingly useful as they grow. Like any new venture, however, seasteads will need to start out by appealing to niche under-served markets.
This is a great question. Though it’s difficult to answer because it is unclear exactly how seasteading development will proceed. Here, we provide some general advice.
First, save money. It is going to be difficult to get a loan to build something as novel and unproven as a seastead, which means we’ll need to pay up front for our real estate. And while it would be nice if someone rich built a huge seastead and rented out rooms, it is much more likely that early founders will have to scrape to provide their own space, and won’t be able to afford much extra. This has the extra advantage that if you don’t end up going the seasteading route, your nest egg will still be useful.
Second, be active in the seasteading community, which is rapidly growing. To get more involved, you can join The Seasteading Institute’s membership program, conduct volunteer research, join our volunteer ambassador’s program, attend our international conference, meetups and other events, provide feedback on our ideas, read our blogs and our newsletters, and spread the vision of seasteading to people who might be interested. This is a grassroots movement–it’s up to you to spread the word!
Third, develop ideas for generating income aboard a seastead by providing local or exportable value. Examples of local value would be food production, mechanical expertise, massage, or entrepreneurship experience and ideas for seastead businesses. Exportable value might be marine research (and the ability to score grants), coaching or therapy by phone, or telecommuting work like freelance programming or web design. One of the toughest things about any small economy is finding ways to make money, and being able to work online seems like the most general solution.
Finally, become a seasteading entrepreneur. Any business that increases the economic incentives to be on the ocean will be very useful for seasteading in the long-run.
Seasteaders will probably return to land and refresh their senses from time to time. However, the kinds of people who seastead initially will likely be comfortable in close quarters, and will seastead with like-minded people with whom they enjoy spending time.
Seasteads will be manufactured in shipyards around the world, just like ocean liners are today.
The first seastead may have as few as 50 transitional residents. This will likely be a proof-of-concept shipstead that demonstrates seasteading is a practical and viable lifestyle.
Pioneers have traded comfort for freedom many times in the past. Those who find this trade-off unattractive won’t participate, which is fine since we don’t need to appeal to everyone. Over time, comfort will increase as the market broadens. Providing a life of rugged individualism is not our goal, but we see it as the necessary first step. Focusing on luxurious cities at this stage would be like the early settlers of Manhattan trying to design the Empire State Building. Eventually, progress will be rapid, but it will still take some time to get over the initial humps.
There are a number of reasons:
The ocean is a brutal environment—this is why ships have been described as “A hole in the water you pour money into.” And we are not just creating ships or buildings; we are creating real estate, which must be durable.
We are aiming to spark the first-generation of seasteads. Just like with any other product, earlier runs are more expensive since they must be built by hand and do not benefit from economies of scale or mass production. Eventually, as volume increases, costs come down, and more people can participate. Seasteads are no different. The early adopters help pay the research costs—but stand to gain handsomely in the longer term if they are successful.
The costs we are talking about (say $300 – $400 / ft2 final cost to residents) are not out of line with first-world house prices in metropolitan areas. It’s not as cheap as Costa Rica, but it isn’t as expensive as Silicon Valley either. If these estimates are realistic, we can build brand-new sovereign territory for a cost similar to that of the housing of many upper-class Americans. To us, this seems incredibly encouraging! As a caveat, the cost to residents will be higher than a house of the same price, because seastead real estate will be harder to finance with low-interest bank mortgages like houses. But this stems from the unique nature of the project and will be impossible to avoid until seasteading is more firmly established.
We are not ignoring those with less money. We believe poor people will benefit from seasteading in the long run, like they have from cell phones. As with any technology, it takes a large initial investment to get the ball rolling, meaning the first seasteaders may be wealthier. For those looking to start more cheaply, Boatsteading or shipsteading is a viable option.
Futhermore, we think that effective breakwater technology will bring the prices down precipitously in the long run. Locating where there are fewer waves, such as the equator in the equatorial doldrums means fewer waves and lower cost (but reduced access to first world customers). Alternately, a sea like the Mediterranean or Baltic may offer smaller waves (thus low cost) and access to multiple first-world jurisdictions.
Seasteads would offer tourists a wholly unique experience they won’t be able to find at resorts. We imagine all manner of things seastead operators will offer—to reproduce a “beach” environment, to get tourists nearer to marine life, or to offer a unique vacation experience that may not be feasible on land.
Our first response to this question is “the same things anyone else does,” but maybe we don’t get out enough. As long as seasteads have an Internet connection, it might take us a while to notice that we are on a small, isolated platform in the middle of the ocean. To be fair, not everyone plugs in this way.
Our the next-simplest response is to point out lifestyles similar to those found on land that would be compatible with life aboard a seastead. For example, vacationers will be able to do pretty much anything they can do on a cruise ship in addition to whatever unique activities might be offered aboard the seastead. Resort employees on a seastead will find it much like working on a cruise ship.
In terms of permanent residents, the seasteading experience will be more like that of people who live in isolated, rural areas, or live-aboard boaters. While such a life does not appeal to everyone, the people who like it rarely seem to be bored. Furthermore, permanent residents can always take a vacation on land if they crave a setting with more people. The closer a seastead is to land, the easier it becomes to visit to a nearby major city for a day or weekend. This opportunity makes seasteading even more like just living in the outback, and is one of many reasons a “coaststead” seems like a good place to start.
The key to success will be to leverage the uniqueness of seasteads. If that only appeals to a tiny fraction of the world, that’s still plenty of people. Seasteads and islands will each have their own kind of romance. Each will appeal to a different set of people–as long as we can find enough people who think seasteads are romantic, it doesn’t matter if some prefer islands. Niche markets are not necessarily a bad thing in business, particularly if they aren’t served well by other options have a large enough customer base.
Also, since modular seasteads will be able to float and move, “dynamic geography” will be possible. Our central thesis about why societies on the ocean will work better than those on land is that freedom of movement of individual modules allows for the separation and merging of seasteading clusters, creating a process of continual improvement.
Finally, political and social institutions matter. There is a reason that most people who can afford it choose to live in the first world, even though oceanfront property in the third world, where institutions suffer many problems, is both cheaper and more beautiful. If we can provide an innovative society with efficient government services, productive people will flock to it as a place to live and work.
In the early years of seasteading, most food will be imported, although some items may be harvested or farmed from the ocean. Over time, as seasteads grow, they may become more independent and begin to develop and refine onboard farming techniques. Still, limited space will dictate the amount and kinds of food seasteaders will be able to grow. In order to satisfy the tastes of a complicated palette, most will still want to import foods, just like other nations do from regions all around the world.
Many similar ventures failed because they expected billions of dollars to materialize out of thin air. Our ideas for seastead financing are far more realistic. The basic idea is to proceed in self-financing, incremental steps, beginning with small shipsteading businesses relatively close to shore, which then scale up to larger businesses as the profit opportunities increase. Eventually, communities will sprout up around the businesses and turn into full-fledged cities.