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November 27, 2010

Seasteads Saving Lives: The Story of Harrison

One of our current projects is working on how to communicate seasteading to a broader audience in a more emotionally compelling way. As an experiment, we tried writing stories from the future about the positive impact of seasteading. Here is Patri’s contribution:


It’s January, 2020, the city is San Francisco, and we’re in a doctor’s office where 7-year old Harrison has just been diagnosed with a rare type of childhood cancer. He has only a year or two to live. While his age is unusual, his plight is not. The United States, despite the most advanced medical research in the world and tens of billions of dollars of cancer research by the government, has been losing the war on cancer for decades.

Harrison and his parents return home, wracked with grief. While Harrison and his mother talk, his dad sits on the couch and turns on the TV, looking for anything to distract him from his misery. His jaw drops as he sees CNN Breaking News inform that a private biotech company, BioCure, has just announced a cure for cancer based on using the patient’s stem cells, effective in over 90% of cases. Unlike the numerous shady foreign companies which had made similar claims in the past, BioCure’s lead researcher is a Nobel Laureate in medicine, it’s based in Silicon Valley, and it is funded by the investors who in the previous decade had created PayPal, Facebook, Skype, and other revolutionary technologies.

He yells for his wife as a surge of relief washes over him. After telling her the great news, she grabs the phone and calls the doctor, asking whether he thinks this breakthrough is real. “Definitely”, replies the doctor, “it’s incredible. They’re going to revolutionize cancer treatment!” “Wonderful!”, says Harrison’s mom, “Where do we sign up?”

The doctor’s voice softens, as he realizes her mistake. “I’m so sorry, but it’s not available to the public. They’re just starting FDA trials – even with the fast-track procedure for something so promising, it will be at least 5 years until they’re allowed to treat patients, maybe more.”

“Can we get into the trials?”

“I’m sorry, but so many people have cancer that the trials are already full with people who heard about them earlier, and have huge waiting lists. It’ll be at least 5 years.”

Harrison’s mother sobs: “5 years! But Harrison doesn’t have that long. And how many other people are going to die while those bureaucrats who couldn’t cure cancer hold back the people who finally did?”

Their doctor doesn’t have any answers, any justification for this cruel twist of fate, and Harrison’s family returns to their misery. Hours later, through the grey haze of depression, a memory nags at Harrison’s father. Hadn’t the same investors behind BioCure also funded research into floating cities, cities meant to provide cutting-edge medical treatments? What if…he didn’t dare to hope, but he found BioCure’s number and called them.

“I understand that you’re just starting FDA trials in the US, and the’re full, but are you offering your treatment anywhere else?”

The receptionist clears her throat, and replies carefully: “As a U.S.-based company, BioCure is compliant with all U.S. laws. This means not only that we cannot offer unapproved procedures, but we can’t advertise or promote them in any way. Even telling someone about such a commercial treatment would be a violation of the law. So we can’t tell you whether a FOREIGN PARTNER might be delivering this treatment in an INNOVATIVE LOCATION. I can say, just speaking personally, that the Internet can be a great tool to find what you’re looking for. I hope that helps.”

With growing hope, Harrison’s father hung up the phone and turned to his terminal. Seconds later, his face began to curl into the first smile of the day as he found Tranquility – the world’s first floating city – whose website announced that its grand opening was just a few months away. Created by top entrepreneurs, Tranquility was to be a new Innovation Zone, with medical care its largest industry. With growing relief, he read that one of Tranquility’s initial partners was BioCure Delivery Services, Ltd, whose tagline was “Saving Lives Today – _Wherever It Takes_”. His last doubt – “What if they’re full?” was quickly allayed. In Tranquility, saving lives was literally the law, and BioCure Delivery Services was required to prioritize patients based on their individual disease timelines. If he signed Harrison up now, they would guarantee that he got a treatment slot before his cancer became fatal.

Tears of joy ran down his face in relief that Harrison would be saved. And deep inside, a frustration he hadn’t even consciously noticed began to ease with another kind of relief – relief that there was somewhere in the world where the rules actually made sense. Where lives were more important than bureaucracy, where individuals were free to choose – especially on the most critical decisions. An unfamiliar feeling of peace crept over him, as he saw that his family’s path led to…Tranquility.


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