April 26, 2008

Generic Objection Responses

I’m expanding the FAQ to answer some of the comments made on the Marginal Revolution post, and I decide to start with a couple answers I should have written up long ago, because they are so frequently needed:

Generic Response 1: "Cruise Ships"

It’s really amazing how many of people’s questions and objections are answered by these two simple words.  "Won’t it sink?"  "Where will you get power?"  "Won’t it be really expensive?" "Where will the service staff live?" "What if someone gets sick?"  The fact is that over 10 million people a year already visit a floating city, which provides water, food, power, service staff, and safety from the waves at a cost as low as $60/night, which is less than people in many first-world cities spend on the same amenities (although even in Manhattan, they get a bit more space).

This is not to say that seasteads and cruise ships are the same.  We have a different structural design, which we think will provide many advantages, such as more freedom, more space, and lower cost, at the cost of being much slower-moving and not able to pull into a port.  And our ambition is to achieve substantially more autonomy than a cruise ship, so as to facilitate innovation in political systems.

However, using this existing industry as a starting point eliminates many common worries.  Rather than thinking, in isolation, "is that really possible?", one might imagine starting with a cruise ship and then making a series of design changes that reflect our different goals and use cases.  Unless your objection or worry hinges on one of the necessary differences between seasteads and cruise ships, it will get Generic Response 1.

Generic Response 2: "Fine, you’re welcome to disagree"

While the first response comes at the beginning of an answer, this one comes at the end.  It is important to remember that seasteading is an incremental, bottom-up, doing instead of talking movement.  We don’t need to convince everyone that our ideas are practical – only enough people that we can put them into practice.

Ideas can be debated and talked about forever, but at some point, in order to see if they’re any good, you need to try them out.  Those who find ours plausible and desirable will join us, those who don’t will wait.  If the seastead pioneers succeed in creating an attractive society, that will provide evidence to sway some fence-sitters, who will start their own experiments and provide yet more data to bring more people into the movement.

Given how widely varying people’s political beliefs are, and how much dispute there is even among those with similar beliefs, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get clean theoretical answers to very many political questions.  A little empirical evidence may be just what we need to cut through these argumentative knots.

So maybe you don’t think seasteading will work out.  But isn’t it at least worth a try?

One Comment on “Generic Objection Responses

April 29, 2008 at 5:26 am


I correspond with your father sometimes.  I work as a marine engineer in the offshore oil business and know damn well that building such structures is quite possible, however they will not be either free or cheap.  The quoted investment I saw on the website ($500,000) is tiddlywinks set next to offshore projects I am working on now and even the smallest rig I have ever done design work on, that one sold for around US$ 25million in 1999 (in a bankruptcy sale).  If you are not going to be able to pony up in the ballpark of 50 to 100 million  US$ I think you need to rethink your strategy.  The problem with going much smaller is that the vessel will not survive seriously bad weather and will need to run for port in storms, and you are contemplating a slow vessel and/or no propulsion and ether a bottom supported structure or an anchored floating vessel.  That means you need a large (and so) expensive vessel.

Smaller vessels than that are used in the offshore oil business, however they are either fast enough to run for port in an emergency, or are abandoned and evacuated in bad weather.  If this is your whole investment, then you can I hope see the problem.  If you bought 50-100 million US$ in a number of vessels and spread them out so not all can get wiped out by one storm would be another strategy, as well as maritime insurance.

One of the most important things in the real world offshore business is that to be out at sea, you need to be doing something that makes beau coup money or you will go broke fast.  Operation out at sea is expensive.  However advise, providing living quarters for oilfield workers is a booming business.  Examples:

Perhps you could set up a floating pykrete shipyard that builds  pykrete floating quarters structures.  They will need some level of refrigeration, but not a hell of a lot and should work well in arctic waters.

That will require substantial investment, but if you forsee a lot of people wanting floating habitable islands, then perhaps you have a growing market.

On to generic offshore issues.

Another issue is that probably the best way to get shot at or arrested by a navy or coast guard is to not be "legal" you need to have your vessel "flagged" by a legally recognized flag state.  The good part is that you can shop around for a flag state that will go along with what you want to do for a price.

Not having a flag state is really not a very good idea, you cannot get insurance, you cannot get a classification society to classify your rig/vessel, and I am not BSing you about being shot at by either the US Navy or some funky rinky dink coast guard.  Then you need to worry about honest to god pirates. 

Word to the wise stay away from the Horn of Africa and Indonesian waters, those are serious pirate hotbeds and I am not kidding, forget about yo-ho movie BS, as in they blow you away and dump your body in a few miles of water and take everything you have including your ship, women and kids and sell them into slavery.   Those are just the worst areas, you can get hit by pirates almost anywhere, but in the waters of major western nations it is much less likley.

FYI some of the pirates have day jobs as cops or coastguardsmen in poor/corrupt nations (usually).

Oh and a lot of coast guards and Navies have this gun control fetish that is just ridiculous. So  you need to be careful about that.






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