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Seasteading motivations

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This topic contains 26 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Shouri Shouri 6 years, 1 month ago.

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    Profile photo of DanB

    Most of the people interested in seasteading seem to be libertarians (as I am). However, there are many other possible motivations for wishing to construct a seastead. Since the libertarian philosophy is not exactly popular, it may be a good idea to try to broaden the appeal of the seastead to a wider audience. Off the top of my head, I can come up with several alternate motivations for constructing a seastead, which could be compelling to people who have no political common ground with libertarians.

    Humanitarian Goals: Billions of people throughout the world live in terrible conditions of poverty and oppression. These conditions are caused, for the most part, by the simple fact that they live under awful governments, which steal their money and take away their rights. Thus to a very real extent, their lives could be immeasurably improved at essentially no cost, just by allowing them to live in a country with a reasonable government. So why can’t we just let them into the US? The plaque on the Statue of Liberty reads:

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

    Of course, it is impossible for the United States, or any other developed country, to live up to this shining vision. The Seastead cannot give people money, health care, education, or shelter. But it can at least allow people to live in freedom. If you have an optimistic view of humanity, then it is easy to believe that once people obtain freedom, they will easily achieve all those other important material benefits just through hard work and economic cooperation with their neighbors.

    So I think the following argument is quite plausible, and could potentially convince a wealthy non-libertarian philanthropist like Buffett or Gates to fund us:

    • Most people just need freedom to get out of poverty.
    • Historically, it’s been impossible to give people freedom, without “regime change” or other drastic measures.
    • A small amount of money invested in the construction of new sovereign territory will give the gift of freedom to many people.
    • Because freedom leads to wealth and development, this is the best type of investment possible to help the poor. It is attacking the most fundamental cause of poverty.

    Strategic Goals: A major challenge for the United States in the 21st century is the rise of China. China is getting rich quickly and no one really knows what they are going to do when they have amassed lots of money and power. So it would be beneficial to the US to attempt to slow the rise of China, if it could be done easily.

    Hong Kong and Singapore are specific models for the seastead. These are small city-states, populated primarily by ethnic Chinese, that have achieved incredible economic success through free market development. If many Seasteads are constructed in the Pacific, it is plausible that many Chinese people will come to inhabit them. It is also plausible that they will become very wealthy. The seasteads will be most attractive to young, talented, entrepreneurial people: that is, exactly the kind of people who are fueling China’s current economic boom. Thus, the seasteads can function to drain talent and wealth from China.

    So, the following argument could be plausibly pitched to someone with lots of money and an interest in American national security:

    • Seasteads built in the Pacific will entice young, talented, entrepreneurial Chinese people.
    • This will act to reduce Chinese economic growth.
    • To the extent that Seasteads have a foreign policy, they will be likely allies of the US (as opposed to unfree China).
    • Thus, constructing new sovereign territory will increase America’s sphere of influence, by increasing the number of American allies and decreasing the wealth of American rivals.
    • The brain drain will also put pressure on the Chinese government to institute democratic reforms.

    Religious Goals: Many people think that the United States is a den of vice, wickedness, pornography, etc. To some extent this is true. If you think that American culture has a profoundly negative effect on the development of spiritual and religious values, as many people do, the idea of an isolated community of religious seekers might sound very appealing.

    The following argument could be pitched to someone with a lot of money and strong religious leanings:

    • Liberal democracy is too tolerant of vice, immorality, and other general cultural failings.
    • The seastead offers you the opportunity to create a small community of people with similar beliefs, where you can decide on whatever set of rules and cultural norms you want.
    • If your community becomes successful and prosperous, it will encourage other people to adopt your beliefs and way of life.
    • You can “preach by example”.

    There are even more possibilities, but I just wanted to get people to start thinking along these lines.


    Profile photo of Eelco

    Patri did write quite a bit on this subject already, and i agree it is an important one.

    Me, or anyone else, has no reason to care why other people will come to seastead, wether it is religious, racial or whatever kind of seperatism. All anyone should care about is how more people being interested in the idea will make the required tech more affordable. Autonomy is at the core of seasteading: with whom one wishes to enter into social contracts or not once youre out on the seas is up to him. And those whom you do not wish to associate with, they might aswell be living anywhere else on the planet. It might present PR problems though: there is a risk of people figuring all those people must think alike because they live in the same sort of house.

    Not sure if the likes of gates will buy your argument though. There is a rather high barrier to entry to seasteading. Perhaps at some later stage, i can see sea-real eastate being a more realistic option for immigrants, but that will be well after the project needs the likes of gates.

    Profile photo of DanB

    To some extent, it almost doesn’t matter if we can convince other people to give us money for the above reasons. What I think is important is to emphasize different motives in the discussion and promotion of the idea. It’s a question of public perception. If the libertarian perspective is the only one that gets airtime, then when people hear the word “seasteaders” they will think:

    “Yeah, it’s those crazy guys who want to build floating cities so they can grow pot and avoid taxes.”

    I’d rather have people think something along the lines of

    “Yeah, it’s those crazy guys who want to build floating cities to save oppressed people from tyrannical governments.”

    Profile photo of Eelco

    I agree, but do you feel the tone of the pieces written by patri for the new site isnt generally in that tone? I would say he did a great job of keeping it general yet inspirational.

    Profile photo of DanB

    What pieces are you referring to?

    The FAQ has a question: “why build seasteads?” The answer points to the motivation section of the book. The answers given are basically as follows: environmentalism, pacifism, free-market libertarianism, “I want to ingest chemicals”, “I’m physiologically sensitive to weird chemicals”, and the instinct to pioneer.

    For me, the “free the world” motivation is stronger than the above, though I am a green libertarian.

    Profile photo of greyraven_r

    For the last decade or so, while designing my own fresh start grand scheme of “Neonesia” I have contemplated several start up models including, but not limited to, what you suggest. After extensive consideration, I have determined (just my opinion/concerns) that a service/tourism/industrial business model would serve a fledgling micro-nation better than this manor of “market expansion” and this is my reasoning.

    We would most likely be victimized by the “golden rule” (he who has the gold, makes the rules) on our own turf. I just don’t see evidence that disparate minorities are capable of, or interested in, setting aside their mutual loathing in order to found, finance, support, and defend such a coalition (with other minorities they view as worse than the majority) against the interest/ego/control of the powers that be. As I interpret the end goal of the TSI project, many seasteads would, built on common technology, evolve into diversified cultures to serve the needs of their individual populations…however, enticing the “big rollers” of each competitive special interest could readily relegate those with an interest in founding (us) to minority subservience under those with a founding interest (Gates/Buffet, Falwell, Farakan, U.S. State Department, Red Cross, etc.). In order to reserve our rightful place within the liberties afforded by crafting a new sovereignty while attracting High stakes investment (on the grounds of giving “them” a place), a franchise…a sort of “McTSI”…would be needed, this would be our doom. In comparison; if “McDonald’s” had solicited initial investment by encouraging each franchisee grouping to offer such distinct, and conflicting, menus…anyone dinning within 10 years after “McDonald’s” founding would not see (or remember) a set of “Golden Arches” coming to every market…any defensive cohesion would have imploded from the turmoil of so many counterintuitive mission statements, and many diverse (but mutually disdainful) fragments would be picked off by consolidated interest competition.

    Bulking up by selling freedom and sanctuary to the poor oppressed souls (through third party benefactors) who allow their own abuse would not an asset beyond offsetting start-up cost. Our sovereignty would be immediately and violently challenged by the regime(s) that had formerly oppressed our salvaged immigrants, Tyrants despise emigration (solicited emigration more so). “General Ayatollah Joseph Minh” is smart enough to let America have his poor, tired, huddled masses (a couple of concrete spar city states do not a super power make) he would hit us with “both barrels”. American colonists revolted mostly because taxes became annoyingly high, the oppressed masses of the third world won’t even revolt against state sponsored rape/torture/murder. If these people will not defend their ancestral home/dignity from a vast minority of militia/police, they certain will NOT help defend an adopted home they personally have little vested in when battle ships and bombers show up to make an example.

    A budding young micro-nation, such as TSI, Neonesia, or insert name here would be suicidal to pit itself between a super power it actively threatens with solicited attrition of high value talent and a super power it insults with rejection and abandonment. China (or whoever) would simply come in (invasion would imply sovereignty in their eyes), arrest anyone considered to have contributed to such a criminal interference (anyone still breathing), and either sink or confiscate the offending “pirate vessel” (since they would have no reason to acknowledge our sovereignty)…America, for her part would not risk trillions of dollars of trade/credit or diplomatic consternation with an economic ally/creditor over the fate of a few (or few hundred) “discredited Chinese subversives” and disgruntled former American “fringe elements” who denounced all that is the glory of the “best country in the world“. The entire Chinese “police action” (but certainly a war/invasion to us, and only us) would probably not even blip on the world media’s radar. Hong Kong and Singapore exist under the constant stress of being on the speed dial several Chinese nukes, and have only maintained their own sovereignties (which China refuses to acknowledge or accept international support of) through the grace of U.N. back door “stimulus packages” (status quo bribes) covered up with grandstand hollow threats of intervention/sanctions/actions.

    Never has a truly peaceful/non-aggressive/live and let live (as you chose to believe/act against our one true way) separatist religious sect/movement existed that survived/managed to amass the disposable treasury and security needed to create and keep a “brave and pure new world” for themselves. The absolute only way that any separatist religious sect/movement has ever survived/managed to amass the disposable treasury and security needed to create and keep a “brave and pure new world” for themselves was through aggressive/hostile conversion/assimilation/eradication of the followers of competitive (not them) beliefs…which paints them as rather non-benevolent investors who don’t like to share with heathens (again, not them). As a Neo-pagnostic “fringe” minority in a “free” America, I have enough problems with extreme religious conservatives, I would be afraid (with good reason, I am vigilent and wary of the next “Burning times”) to settle in to a new life which was sponsored in vast and controlling majority by those who are most likely to burn my heathen ass at the stake the second any glimmer of sovereignty allowed them the distance from American 911 to do so.

    Profile photo of Eelco

    Yes, that, and the introduction and press releases for the site.

    The way i read it, those are given as examples of movements that might be interested in a freeer world: that message is already there in my eyes. But it probably wouldnt hurt to explicitly summarize that sort of thinking in simple memeabizable phrases such as ‘free the world’.

    Profile photo of Eelco

    Im not sure i understand what you are trying to say. Let me rephrase again the way i see it:

    I see the seasteading institute as a reseach institute. It isnt going to build seasteads for anyone. It will just do research, order a prototype, that sort of stuff. Then the tech and knowhow is made publicly available, so anyone that wants a seastead can go to the company that built the prototype and say: i want one of those too. Not that the institute couldnt do parts of construction, if it finds it profitable, by all means. But thats not what its there for, if i read the mission statement correctly.

    If anyone donates money to the seasteading institute, he is not donating money to anyone buying a seastead. They wont owe those donors anything.

    Anyone could order a seastead, but that doesnt imply any sort of connection, present or future, other than that they live in the same sort of structure. I wasnt planning on hanging out with religious or racial seperatists for instance (unless thats interpreted as people seperating themselves from religion, i could go with that). What do i care if they live in a commune in utah or on the ocean? There is twice as much ocean as land, so sharing an ocean with them should be a win over sharing land with them. And if they choose to buy a seastead, they unintendedly make mine more affordable.

    Profile photo of greyraven_r

    I understand the TSI itself intends to act as a design firm and not as a realtor or nation itself, I refer to TSI as a micro-nation only in the generic sense. My actual concern, and it is just my personal point of reference I admit that I could be dead wrong, from a sovereignty standpoint is this;

    I order for the vast majority of potential inhabitants to feel secure in living/working on any type of seasteading facility (which is not just an offshore extention of their parent nation) any insert micro-nation name here conglomeration floating/traveling islands (of whatever design/technology) would need a reasonable level defendable (legal, as well as, physical security) sovereignty above and beyond it’s operational autonomy. If each small (10 people here, 700 there, 2000 over there, and the such) subculture group who “set sail” on their own floating island(s) their delusion of sovereignty would colapse at the first confrontaion/conflict with any established nation’s territorial/naval/economic/diplomatic interests. If each small (500 people here, 1000 there, 2000 over there, and the such) subculture group who “set sail” on their own floating island(s) their delusion of even the vaguest sense of sovereignty would colapse at the first confrontaion/conflict with any established nation’s territorial/naval/economic/diplomatic interests. Based on my opinion of actual sovereignty requiring the confederation of those who would seek to form a floating/traveling micro-nation, (safety in numbers) utilizing the masses of people mentioned to stimulate funding for our goals we would still be the ignored minority. Granted one or a few tiny groups (up to 20 or so) could just meander around on their floating island, out of sight, and stay below the radar (hopefully), but on the scale of thousands of people on hundreds of “new lands” any nation with more than a shotgun in a row boat would out hunting us. Thousands of people (on hundreds of islands) would need unity for safety, hundreds of individual micro-nations would just be a media blip ocassionaly “A barge city was boarded by XYZ’s Navy yesterday during a hostile territorial violation, X number of extremests/crackpots/pirates/etc. were arrested/killed. XYZ’s authorities believe they were responsible for pirate attacks in recent weeks.” end of story.

    Profile photo of Joep

    My understanding is that the first Seasteads will just be ships, in the legal sense. So it will fly a flag like any ship does, operating within the souvereignty of that flag. It would be very unwise not to use a flag of convenience because you really would be a pirate otherwise. Switching flags by moving from one Seastead to another is, i think, a lot easier than actually emigrating from one country to another. Seasteads will, for their own safety, not engage in hostile acts. Democracies will not start shooting at you in violation of international law if they don’t have a reason they can sell to the voters. If no one believes a Seastead is engaged in piracy or drugs trade (how about a continuous SteadCam?), the public would on our side. Also history shows (Radio Veronica, Women on Waves) that states will not use force if what you are doing is perfectly legal. When millions of people have chosen to live on the sea, probably the United Seasteads of The Atlantic ltd. will try to get recognition as a souvereignity stressing that the closest land is more than 5000 miles away. Unfortunately, to procedures how to get that recognition is not on the priority list. :)

    In the book is a http://www.seasteading.org/seastead.org/commented/paper/ocean.html#Interference paragraph that elaborates on this subject.

    Profile photo of Eelco

    I share your concern about our lack of teeth initially. But i dont think that means everybody on the sea should ally. All people with a sufficiently common cause probably would, say, all libertarian-minded people would pay their fees to fall under the protection of one armed force, they would sign mutual protection pacts, something of that nature. But i do not see any reason to believe ‘letting in’ people of other persuations will decrease the amount of people in your niche. If anything, it will increase them, because it will lower the barrier to entry.

    Profile photo of dewanand

    We all know that China is not democratic, but is fastly becoming a major superpower on our planet. This is very dangerous, as we saw with the Tibet case. Millions of people from tibet were killed and driven out. There are many refugees from Tibet living in India, but no one cares about them anymore. Nobody did anything against China while it was destroying humans in Tibet, after the occupation.

    The whole story here to tackle China with seasteads is fiction, because Chinese people do like their country. Nationalism is very strong in China. The whoie population of China is completely brainwashed by the propaganda of the government. The one China idea is very extreme and that’s why we cannot trust China anymore. The problem is that they have become too big and too strong. NOw China is a thread for India.

    The idea here to attract talented people from China to go living in seasteads is not realistic. Life on a seastead is very limited and the biggest danger is that it can sink and get lost completely. Who want to live on water? The magic of solid country below your feets is developed by evolution. Every human is instinctively afraid to live on water. How to overcome this problem?

    Should rich people want to go living on a seastead? Will seasteads become tax paradises? The legal construction of living on a seastead is still not developed completely. And who will own a seastead? Building it will cost dozens of billions dollars, so who will invest in it?

    Interesting topic.


    Profile photo of nagydani

    Working together trying to make something outstanding is always fun and this thrill of challenge and accomplishment itself is a great motivator. Think how Linux came into existence.

    Profile photo of CrosiarCM

    The question of motivation is very interesting. I don’t feel like it is necessary that everyone have the same motivation, but at the same time I would not want to be on a seastead and find that the only reason my compatriates are there is so they can do drugs and run brothels. This may sound like the great life to the emotionally immature, until you find out your girlfriend/wife is a crack addict and selling herself to every john that visits. Be very careful what you want because you might get it.

    I would hope that there would be those that are doing this because they want to improve the human condition, to explore the limits of self-government, and to set a new course for the fate of humanity. In 200 years will you be remembered as a drug toting anarchist, or as the next Thomas Jefferson who led a new fledgling nation to be a respected world power that respects the civil liberties of others and defends the rights of the innocent?

    I personally see seasteading as an opportunity to discover new and better ways for self-government by direct experimentation and exploration. Some of you may want a direct democracy, some anarchy, and some may want a dictatorship. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to know what your motives and views are before I move in with you!

    I myself am interested in what is called a liquid democracy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_voting

    I have my own variant of it, and I will publish my ideas when I have the time and am ready. I’m sure many of you have your own ideas, and I will look forward to exploring them with you.

    Always remember this: You may get what you want, but will you want what you get?

    Profile photo of

    I’ve considered an alternate form of political organization to create a more representative, direct democracy, inspired by Dunbar’s Number (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number) .

    Members each have a proxy which they can assign to another member. The proxies all carry forward (are transferable) to the top level of representatives. Members can choose to override their proxies at any time to vote directly on any legislation under consideration.

    Candidates for the party agree to two basic rules: to always vote according to the proxy and proxy-override tallies and to conduct all business in front of a web cam for total transparency. It could be pretty humorous to watch a lobbyist try to convince a representative why his client should receive some sort of special privilege or subsidy from the government in front of a live audience, especially if that audience is allowed to participate in the meeting by asking the lobbyist questions.

    The organization would be composed of groups of 50 to 150 people at each level, except at the top, which may be somewhat larger. This translates into 4 levels for total representation in the US. Members are free to form groups according to their common interests, such as extended family, church, political preference like libertarian, company, neighborhood, geographic region, and whatever else they may come up with. This arrangement takes on the aspects of the Swiss canton system.

    The net effect on political participation would be akin to a combination of C-SPAN and American Idol, and could make for quite a show at times.

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