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Designing prizes to advance seasteading

Home Forums Community General Chat Designing prizes to advance seasteading

This topic contains 21 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of vincecate vincecate 7 years ago.

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    Profile photo of vincecate

    Prizes are an amazingly efficient use of money when trying to get something new done. You don’t pay out till the terms of the prize are satisfied, even though 20+ times the amount of money may have gone in to trying to win the prize. And the amount of human effort that can go into winning prizes can dwarf the 20+ times money spent. So the amount of research and development that gets done is much more than if the work were just paid for directly. And if some reasearch/development is just paid for a project may run out of money before finishing, while a prize lives on till someone has completed the terms of the prize.

    The trick is getting prizes that are easy to understand and achieve something meaningful. Something like the x-prize of getting a rocket to 100 km which people can get excited about. Or the lunar lander prizes of rocket flight for 90 seconds and 180 seconds (the first of which Armadillo won last week for $350,000). Can anyone think of similar possible prizes for seasteading?

    I can imagine someone building a $200,000 seastead to win a $50,000 prize because, if they win, they are getting their house for $50,000 off. It is not like they are building something they can never use again. But what would the requirements for the “seastead” be?

    The prize should be such that it can’t just be claimed by anyone with a yacht. But it needs to be very clear what it takes to claim the prize. Any ideas?

    Could be good to plan a series of prizes, working up over time. Maybe start with prizes for scale models. Perhaps I am biased, but I do think it an efficient way to explore this wide open design space.

    Prizes are also something people will donate toward. So it could help to raise more money for seasteading.

    — Vince

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    How about a prize for the first person to spend a year at sea without any supplies from land? They’d have to go aboard without any supplies (no massive stock pile) survive the year, and tell us how you did it. Did they do any fishing or farming? What about drinking water, rain or desalinization? How about power generation, solar, wind, tide?

    Profile photo of

    I think there should be two prizes: One for a real, functioning seastead and one for a scale model.


    I have to clarify some terms first:

    • platform means the part of the seastead where people can live, stand on, etc., where waves do not swash over
    • structure means the whole seastead, including possible underwater parts

    Requirements should include:

    • A seastead platform has to have the capability to connect with other platforms (without space between the platforms) to extend the “land”.
    • A seastead platform must not move (It has to be immune to waves and wind). (That implicitly allows the rest of the seastead structure to move.)

    Pros for a prize

    • Even if we do not see any contestants yet it might be a good idea to offer such prizes as it brings publicity, especially in relevant industries where engineers work in similar fields.
    • People follow the money. Give them an incentive.
    • It makes seasteading a lot more serious and signals broadly that we believe in this idea.
    • It makes seasteading more business like. It is like the X prize: The prize itself does not cover the costs, but if you have developed your project with a business idea in mind and win the prize everyone will line up. Even participating alone can help to find customers.
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    To do that you need a structure to live on. That would be either a seastead that you have to build first (problem) or you have to buy a boat, etc. The problem here is that it is clearly possible to live on a boat for a year or more as numerous circumnavigators have shown.

    The sequence should be:

    1. Build a seastead
    2. Live on it for a year
    Profile photo of vincecate

    I like the “Pros for a prize”. I am not sure we have a good definition of a seastead yet.

    >A seastead platform must not move (It has to be immune to waves and wind).

    If you are not anchored to the bottom (tension leg structure) this is really hard. Even big floating things move. The only way I can see to do this is with active controls and that would be costly. I also don’t think it is necessary. Some moderate movement is fine by me. But we probably do want to say something about having comfortable levels of stability. Maybe something like “as stable as a 300 foot boat” or maybe a limit on the Gs in certain wave conditions. Not clear yet.

    From the other post, saying stay at sea for 1 year without supplies. I like the stay at sea because it will require that the seastead be really built well enough to last at least a year. But I don’t like the “without supplies” part. It is no big deal to have a years supply of food onboard. Why not? And until we have some floating supermarkets I fully expect to stop at all kinds of ports and get supplies (and get out of the house a bit). I don’t think this should disqualify my structure from being called a “seastead”. How about just “365 days at least 200 miles from land but not necessarily contiguous”.


    But there is kind of a basic question of “how to define a seastead”. To me it is something more stable and roomy than a boat, for a given amount of money, but not as fast. But how exactly do we specify this?

    Profile photo of kiwiserg

    It’s not enough to have seasteads, we have to make them profitable. Ergo – prize for a seastead-based business, that managed to survive for 1 year.

    Profile photo of vincecate

    I like it. But instead of just having the business survive for a year, say it has to be profitable over a 1 year period. A business that started with enough money could survive 1 year without any customers.

    Profile photo of crasch

    To me, what distinguishes an (ideal) seastead from a boat:

    – sea-bound — stays out at sea indefinitely (no or rare docking)
    – longevity — 100+ year lifespan
    – semi-stationary — stays within roughly the same region of the sea
    – spacious — lots of space per passenger, relative to boats
    – wave-resistant — little wave motion under normal conditions; can survive rogue waves
    – higher passenger duty cycle — most passengers expect to live on seasteads fulltime
    – multi-purpose — designed to house all of the same businesses as exist on land (dentist office, grocery stores, etc.)
    – modular — can combine with each other to form larger structures

    Given those design goals, some of the criteria we might consider for a prize:

    * Cost – Can you build the seastead under $X dollars
    * Station keeping — Can the seastead inside a circle of x-radius for y period of time?
    * Ease of construction — Can a single person with a pickup struck and readily available tools build it?
    * Comfort — Does the seastead bob no more than X when waves are height Y?
    * Safety — Can the seastead tolerate waves of height X without excessive damage?
    * Modularity — Can the seastead be easily combined with other seasteads to form a larger structure? Does it tile?
    * Spaciousness — Does the seastead provide at least X sq feet of living space?

    Here’s one set of criteria we might set for a prize:

    Must cost no more than $50,000.00 to build.
    Must not require any tools that cannot be bought at Home Depot, nor require more than a pickup truck to transport.
    Must provide at least 6000 square feet of living space, consisting of at least three tileable modules that are connected to each other for the duration of the contest (tileable means that you could expand the structure in any direction by adding more modules)
    Each module must be of equal size (+-5%), and capable of long term flotation on its own.
    Each module must have positive buoyancy and be capable of floating even if fully flooded.
    Must not move outside a 1 mile radius during the year at sea. Station keeping must not require active human intervention.
    You must find someone __who is not the builder/designer__ to live aboard full-time for at least one year.
    After a year at sea, must sell at auction on Ebay for at least $50,000 to someone unrelated to you.

    This would require a big prize, obviously. We could also offer smaller prizes for models that meet the criteria at a smaller scale.

    [Edit, 2008-10-29: I thought of a couple more.]

    Must be located at least 24 miles from shore during the year long stay.
    Must make all it’s own water
    Must be capable of moving under its own power at least 5 mph for 100 miles without refueling

    Perhaps we should also think about explicitly what are _not_design criteria:

    – size – no max on size
    – weight – doesn’t matter how much it weighs (although individual parts must be transportable by pickup)
    – speed – does have to move more than 5 mph
    – build-speed – doesn’t matter how long it takes to build
    – does not have to be energy or food self-sufficient; food and fuel re-supplies are allowed. (Although perhaps we should make this a criteria for the prize, even though seasteads would not need to be self-sufficient).

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    Given the goals of seasteading there are probably dozens of criteria that needs to be fulfilled. Quite a complicated procedure to find out who has won in other words. Not least compared to the X-prize.

    Another way is to let a jury decide arbitrarily. Sort of like the Nobel Prize or similar awards I guess…

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    crasch wrote:

    • Ease of construction — Can a single person with a pickup struck and readily available tools build it?
    • Safety — Can the seastead tolerate waves of height X without excessive damage?

    Why should a single person be able to build a seastead? You never see someone build a house just by himself. There are always a few more people involved. Maybe we should increase the number to 10, so a small company is allowed build it, too.

    Should seasteads be capable for high-sea to win this prize? If so, I would suggest it has to withstand waves of 50m without significant damage. If the seastead is planned for calm regions, I would say 10m.

    (I think “killer waves” are much more common than known. I have to look it up, but if I remember correctly a study found at least 20 of these waves in the past years when they monitored the oceans with satellites. As these waves are unpredictable I would like to have a seastead that can withstand such a wave at least once.)

    Profile photo of vincecate

    I think tilability is a hard thing for single family seasteads. The only single family seastead design so far where I feel really comfortable about tilability is the WaterWalker.


    Would be fun to build several of them (using telephone poles and marine fenders) and connect them up. After the recent hurricane Omar there are a few used telephone poles laying around Anguilla. Probably people would be happy if I took them away. Could check. Probably ought to build a bunch of models first and tile them together.

    Profile photo of Patri
    Profile photo of Patri

    Wayne & I have talked about prizes for awhile. I like the idea of deploying some prizes in conjunction with other research that we do. We can then see whether the prizes or the direct research yield better results, and shift resources towards whichever performs better. I encourage those of you who are interested in this topic to email Wayne & I via the Engineering alias (eng-at-seasteading-dot-org), so that you can work with us to define the prize program.

    Profile photo of Patri

    I agree there would be a lot of criteria for a full seastead. But one option would be to break them down into a number of separate prizes. For example, the structure of a SFS could be defined, with cost, safety, constructability – and totally ignoring issues like propulsion, sewage, electrical system, which can be designed mostly independently.

    Profile photo of Patri

    All these suggested requirements seem like a great thing to put onto a wiki page. You can each add your requirements, and notes/discussion about the other requirements.

    Wayne & I and the board have talked about prizes and we all think it’s a great idea, so if y’all (Christian, Crasch, Vince) work to define the program with Wayne, we will fund it.

    I recommend starting with smaller / simpler prizes than a full SFS, though, both to make the goal more achievable, and because it would probably take a bigger prize than we can fund right now. Perhaps the prize proposals can include (internally) an estimate of how much we think it would take to win the prize, and we can make the prize some reasonable fraction of that amount?

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