Who is going to move to the middle of nowhere?
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.
Posted in: Living, Economy, Business
Posted on January 20, 2012 at 2:17 am