August 5, 2009

Why Ephemerisle Matters To Seasteading

Seasteading is creating permanent dwellings on the ocean – homesteading the high seas. For a brief intro to seasteading, click here.

This post is being written to supplement our [announcement of the First Annual Ephemerisle Festival]( Some people may wonder why Ephemerisle is an important initiative for seasteading, and why it is worth devoting some of our limited resources to. Since the event was my idea, I thought I’d post a bit on why this is a key strategic path. If you’d like to see a video on the subject, [here’s my 30min Ephemerisle talk at the 2009 conference](, just before the first Ephemerisle.

### Ephemerisle Is Incremental

A key part of the seasteading philosophy is [incrementalism]( breaking our huge vision into little steps. Ephemerisle is a perfect example of this strategy. In fact, I first conceived of the festival back in 2001, before even encountering Wayne’s seasteading paper. I figured that if all nation-founding attempts so far had failed, perhaps instead of trying to start a permanent country, we should start with a temporary one. And my experiences at [Burning Man](, and [Pennsic]( (a festival started by my dad 38 years ago, which draws over 10,000 people a year) showed me the power of festivals to build community and grow over time.

Ephemerisle lets us take this enormously difficult problem and make incremental steps along many axes:

* Length – start with a weekend, and grow over time.
* Regulation – start in inland waters, eventually move outside EEZs.
* Ocean conditions – start in calm waters, eventually move to the deep ocean.
* Size – grow and attract more people each year.
* Frequency/Location – hold more than one a year, in different places around the world.
* Sustainability – increase the number of local businesses, size of the internal economy.

As we solve the problems for each step along each axis, we can push farther and farther.

### Ephemerisle Is Experiental

Printed words, discussions, talks, ideas – all of these things are abstract. Powerful though they can be, direct physical experience has enormously more power to open people up to a greater sense of what is possible. When all of your life is lived under a small set of political and social systems, it is difficult to imagine other possibilities. All this is changed if you can experience, even for just a weekend, a completely different system, based on freedom of association and autonomy for small groups to live the way they want.

While there are some brave pioneers willing to leap into an uncertain future based only on the power of an idea, I believe that far more can be converted by experiences. This is a major benefit of Ephemerisle: Far more than a book, article, or even a baystead, it will give people the direct experience of political autonomy. This will grow the core part of the seasteading community who are committed to someday moving to seasteads, which is crucial to our success.

Not only is Ephemerisle experiential for the participants, but also for TSI. Throwing this festival involves actually getting out there on the water and arranging for safety, comfort, infrastructure, transportation, and the myriad of other logistics required for seasteading – not just talking about them. This direct experience is also crucial to our success.

### Ephemerisle Can Grow Into Seasteading

In some senses, Ephemerisle is an old idea. It can be thought of as a revival of medieval trade fairs, which were a major part of commerce in the Middle Ages. Back when you couldn’t order things over the internet, [trade fairs, held at major crossroads, provided a central place to gather for commerce]( Some of them even grew into permanent towns (this is the origin of [Troyes]( in the Champagne region of France, for example).

Like trade fairs (but unlike most festivals), Ephemerisle is designed to allow for an incremental path from temporary gatherings to a permanent way of life. It is not the only path to a seasteading future – designing small seasteads and launching profitable ocean-based businesses) qualify as well. But it is one of a small number, and it has the virtue of being fairly independent from the others – Ephemerisle offers its own incremental, experimental steps towards finding locations, solving the engineering challenges, and has its own, very standard business model (a festival).

Thus we can see another part of the enormous value of Ephemerisle: Even if all our other engineering and business efforts fail to gain a foothold, Ephemerisle represents a parallel, independent path which could plausibly bring about full-time ocean settlements.

### Conclusion

As you can see, Ephemerisle is a crucial event for the seasteading movement. It profoundly embodies our incremental philosophy, will give community and TSI direct experience with living on the water, and offers a realistic, independent path to our desired future. We hope you will [join us each year]( to take this important step towards a better world.


* Ephemerisle 2010 will be July 22-25, again in the Sacramento Delta. More info at []()
* I have also written about [engineering parallels between Ephemerisle and Seasteading]( and [Progress from Ephemerisle 2009 to 2010](
[Coverage of Ephemerisle 2009](, including this 9-minute documentary:

Ephemerisle Documentary by Jason Sussberg from The Seasteading Institute on Vimeo.