August 26, 2012

All Aboard The Seasteading Institute’s New 275-foot Ship – August 2012 Newsletter

The Seasteading Institute August 2012 Newsletter


Dear Friend of The Seasteading Institute,Attendees of The Seasteading Conference 2012 were the first to learn of an exciting development unfolding at the Institute, and today I’d like to let you know that it is official — WE HAVE A SHIP! A generous donor has donated the Institute a seaworthy, 275-foot ship, capable of carrying 900 passengers on four decks, which we’ve fittingly named Seasteader I. Built in 1985, and appraised at $10 million dollars earlier this year, she was originally a passenger ferry and most recently a gambling ship. Because of the ship’s versatile structure, she can accommodate many different purposes. We are excited to collaborate with entrepreneurs in our community to pioneer seasteading ventures. Details on our plans, ship specs, and a request for proposals can be found below.

In other news, we are pleased to welcome nanotech industry leader and philanthropist James Von Ehr to our Board. In 2010, Von Ehr made a significant donation that funded our location study. He is passionate about creating new opportunities for freedom that cannot be found in existing nations. Also, I was also honored to be promoted to Executive Director at the last Board meeting.

I hope you will be pleased with our recent progress and inspired to seastead in the near future. Our ability to push forward toward the high seas is increasingly possible due to the contributions of people like you. As in previous years, Peter Thiel will match your donation to the Institute dollar for dollar. Please make a generous donation today and demonstrate your commitment to the seasteading movement.

Toward the future,

Randolph Hencken, Executive Director

Your support goes toward creating opportunities for experimentation and innovation in the political sphere, and for unprecedented personal freedom. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to The Seasteading Institute today.

  Table of Contents:

The Seasteading Institute Acquires Seasteader I, a 275-foot Ship

On July 13, ownership of a seaworthy, 275-foot ship was transferred to the Institute from an generous donor. The Seasteader I was built in 1985 and is rated to carry 900 people on four decks. Earlier this year she was appraised at $10 million dollars. Docked on the East Coast of Florida, she was originally a passenger ferry and more recently a gambling ship. Her solid structure and spacious interior present endless opportunities for seasteading entrepreneurs looking for a malleable space for their ocean startup.

We are now in the alpha stage of collecting proposals for her use. Our goal is to lease her out “bareboat” to a seasteading entrepreneur, meaning the lessee would take on all costs associated with the ship, such as crew, insurance, registration, etc. A ship of this size and value would lease bareboat on the open market for approximately $4,000 per day. However, for true seasteading operations and projects that fit our mission, we will lease the ship significantly below the market rate.

Essentially, we hope to provide a platform for testing both new seasteading businesses, and experimental technologies that advance long-term ocean habitation. Proposed business ventures should either be advantaged by the ocean environment (i.e., aquaculture, ocean tourism) or by jurisdictional benefits stemming from the freedom of international waters (i.e., experimental medicine, visa-free workplaces).

Hopefully, this acquisition will be just the first step toward an incredible sea-change for humanity — one thousand new nations on the high seas. As Joe Quirk said in his seasteading conference talk, “The time from the Wright Brother’s first fifteen second flight to Neil Armstrong’s happy dance on the moon is 66 years.” We believe we’ll one day look back at this ship with the same fondness as when we look back at the Wright Brother’s first “flying machine.” Or, perhaps more appropriately, we will honor this ship the way Americans honor the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

Please share the link to our Request For Proposals with anyone who might be interested in this opportunity.

Tired of Meaningless Debates? Fund the Future and Make an Impact

We’re in the heat of election season here in the United States, with the two dominant political parties ramping up their empty rhetoric, trying to convince the population of their side’s superficial solutions to systemic problems in governance. Those of us who are honest with ourselves know both parties will ratchet up the power of government, create senseless new laws, waste taxpayer money on frivolous projects, engage in violence under the auspices of peace, and so on and so forth. Neither candidate from the major parties will fundamentally change government with innovative ideas to meet its citizens needs. In the United States’ winner-takes-all voting system, a party’s main objective once in power is to stay in power, leaving them with little incentive to address the fundamental flaws of our democracy.

Consequently, the need to leverage your charity towards high-impact initiatives like seasteading is greater than ever. Fortunately, the Institute is making substantial progress toward an alternative participation outlet to the maddening farce of politics. Now is a perfect time to buck the trend and donate to the Institute — Peter Thiel will match your donation dollar for dollar, up to $250,000 for the remainder of 2012. Please double your impact and make a donation to the Institute today.

Also, note that company matches can lead to a quadrupling of your individual contributions. Last year, for example, one supporter’s $20,000 gift was matched by his employer, and then doubled again by the Thiel Foundation, resulting in a total of $80,000 going to the Institute’s research and movement-building efforts.

Just Released, Five-Year Engineering Development Plan: Engineering for the Short Term and Long Haul

Following our recent acquisition of the 275-foot Seasteader I, the pace of activity at the Institute has surged into overdrive, powered by the possibility of establishing a fledgling seastead community within the next 12 to 24 months. It’s an exciting prospect, but with daunting hurdles to overcome; identifying and developing economically viable business models, working out the legal and political obstacles, and confronting real-world engineering challenges to make it work.

As compelling as the focus on the ship might be, the Institute is equally mindful of our long-term goals and the work that must be done to make the vision a reality. Providing a ‘road map’ to the future of our engineering activities, the Institute has now published a five-year Engineering Development Plan that identifies an ambitious roster of projects to be undertaken during the 2012 to 2017 time frame, along with estimates of required resources.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the introductory chapter:

This engineering development plan is intended to look beyond the ‘first generation’ of seasteads, anticipating the needs of a second generation and beyond; a time when there will be greater confidence in the economic viability of seasteading, and less uncertainty about the important legal and political issues. It will be a time when the question is no longer “can we do it?” but rather “how can we do it the best way?” It will be a time when seasteads are designed and built for their intended purpose, where they can achieve levels of accommodation, safety, efficiency, and sustainability that are necessary for large-scale permanent communities on the high seas.

This plan addresses issues that are central to the requirements of seasteading; matters of sustainability, longevity, scalability with comfortable, affordable habitability on the open ocean for extended periods of time. In the not-too-distant future, when questions arise about “how can we do seasteading in the best way,” we hope to have some good answers.

Sections of the plan are devoted to each of the following major research areas:

  • Energy sustainability
  • Floating breakwater technology
  • Modularity and scalability
  • Life-cycle cost considerations
  • Materials and maintainability
  • Station-keeping (mooring, dynamic positioning, ‘lazy station-keeping’)

A separate chapter is devoted to utilization of the recently acquired Seasteader I.

To achieve this ambitious agenda, we are interested in expanding partnerships with academic institutions and corporate enterprises for sponsored research activities. Additionally, we are encouraging participation by interested students and volunteers.

Review the Engineering Development Plan on our website.

Visit the main research page for a summary of research opportunities.

Further inquiries should be directed to or

New Legal Research: Seastead Strategies for Preventing Litigation in the United States

This summer, The Seasteading Institute partnered with Robert Mongole, a second year law student at Louisiana State University. Robert was interested in researching how seasteads might avoid unnecessary lawsuits in the United States, and authored a series of introductory blog posts (part 1, part 2, part 3) on the subject while conducting his investigation. A summer of research has culminated in Robert’s study, “Seastead Strategies for Preventing Litigation in the United States.” The paper reveals contract-based precautionary measures for seasteads to avoid costly litigation in the United States.

The study specifically examined how seasteads can write contracts for employees, or guest passes for visitors, in a manner that allows them to choose where potential lawsuits are heard. A selection clause is a legal device allowing parties to predetermine where lawsuits arising out of the contract will take place. There is debate within the American court system over whether selection clauses are voided in claims brought under the Jones Act, which gives recourse to seamen bringing suits against their employers for injury or death suffered during the course of employment. While there is a possibility that a selection clause will be ignored by US courts under certain limited circumstances, Robert’s study suggests that selection clauses should be an effective and indispensable element within any seastead contracts.

For a layman’s description of Robert’s findings, see his fourth and final blog post, a summary of the paper.

Institute Seeking Support for Sustainable Aquaculture Project


“Place me on just about any seafront with $100 worth of rope, some used sacks and bottles, and I will build a seaweed farm that will feed five people indefinitely.”— Ricardo Radulovich, Professor of water science at the University of Costa Rica.


Since the conference, the Institute has been working closely with Ricardo Radulovich, a professor of water science at the University of Costa Rica, to establish the next phase of his ongoing sea farming research. Currently, it is hard for people in coastal regions of Africa, Asia and Central America to grow food using imported farming technology — scale is limited by lack of available land, and poor infrastructure for irrigation, transportation from farms to cities, etc. Radulovich plans to integrate a seastead pilot facility with sustainable offshore food production on coasts of developing nations. In these regions, farmers rely on rain for crop irrigation, which is becoming increasingly volatile. Farming just beyond the immediate coastal zone solves all of these issues, while simultaneously protecting against foreign invaders (both pests and humans).

Working with Radulovich, Project OASIS is currently seeking grant funding to implement the pilot facility. While the methods favor so-called “natural upwelling zones” for maximum productivity, Radulovich’s turn-key models can be deployed on nearly any coast. Because Radulovich’s systems are both replicable and cheap, the project has huge global humanitarian implications if it succeeds. These facilities will also be precursors to deep-sea, open ocean farming. Radulovich has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding for previous research, from both the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If you know of any sources that fit the next step in his research, contact We are prepared to show concrete deliverables addressing critical issues of malnutrition and drought, while simultaneously advancing seasteading.

Project OASIS: A Hub for Hi-Tech Ocean Aquaculture

Many have noted that seasteading and aquaculture appear to be a perfect match. Seasteads need to meet their community’s basic needs; aquaculture can provide them food and energy. Seasteads need income; surpluses can be cheaply shipped, without roads, to coastal markets. Seasteads seek to disrupt the status quo with bold innovation; ocean aquaculture is ripe for a “Blue Revolution,” bringing industrial and information technology into an age-old practice.

But are there really profits to be made in farming where no one’s farmed before, or have past efforts at offshore farming shown that such a project is ill-advised? The Institute’s Project OASIS, “Ocean Algae for Seastead Integrated Solutions,” was initiated to find out. Early findings from the OASIS team, spearheaded by Research & Communications Coordinator Charlie Deist and Research Intern Baoguang Zhai, give cause for optimism.

OASIS aims to become a leading light in the merger between high-tech and ocean farming. In the last few months, we’ve been working with partners and advisors in critical areas to aquaculture and ocean energy to construct a virtual platform off of which future researchers and entrepreneurs can base their own investigations. The new page is heavy on information, but we’re condensing our key findings into multimedia and an easy-to-navigate information portals.

If you want to learn what practices are most friendly to coastal regions and palatable to regulators, check out our case study of social entrepreneur Phil Cruver’s planned 1,000-acre oyster plot off the coast of Long Beach, CA. Our portals contains dozens of links to current events ranging from what President Obama, Republicans and the Navy think of algae biofuels, to risks and possibilities of synthetic biology, to the looming Phosphorus crisis. Finally, OASIS has procured the relevant academic literature, and a patent library for your education and inspiration.

Media Spotlight: Forbes, Discover Magazine

This past month, we were pleased to see our message broadcast to mainstream audiences in both politics, and popular science.

A special section of Discover’s September issue features three articles on “Future Politics,” with “new start-up nations,” aka seasteads, spanning several pages. Our favorite aspect of the article is the speculative “Breaking News” banner along the bottom of the article, displaying potential seasteading news stories from 2050:

>>>> Mexican Nationals Sleep in floating cities by night, work telejobs in L.A. by day * * * Anarchists build homeland near coast of Rio de Janeiro >>>> Pirates attack libertarian seastead off Philippines; Militia repels them easily >>>> Amphibian city rides out Hurricane Simone off coast of Bermuda * * * Corporate nations apply to U.N.

We thank Discover writer Adam Piore for his creative treatment of our subject, and for an informative article.

At, our law and policy advisor Doug Bandow began an op ed on seasteading with the observation that in recent decades, each President seems to spend far more than the last. Clearly, we’re in trouble if the trend continues beyond this November’s election, but neither party offers a credible solution. Bandow goes on to ask how things might be different if we could bypass depressingly ineffective political efforts to restore fiscal sanity. The article, titled, “Getting Around Big Government: The Seastead Revolution Begins to Take Shape,” is a must read for liberty-oriented “folk activists” who could be mobilized towards supporting seasteading, rather than complaining about the status quo. Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties.

The Return of Bay Area Seasteading Meetups

This Thursday, August 30th, at 6 PM, we will be meeting to discuss seasteading strategy, over dinner and drinks, at the home of Steve Fowkes in Cupertino, California. Fowkes is a lifelong seasteader-at-heart, but only recently connected with the Institute. He had the idea to host the meetups in his spacious backyard, generously offering both a venue, and arranging a caterer. Dinner costs $15 per plate, and will include a chicken entree and ample vegetables.

While there is no formal structure to our meetups, we plan to examine the feasibility of various business models. Steve has already begun to suggest some of his ideas on the meetup page, and we hope you’ll come prepared to learn and share your own ideas for a seastead business.

To ensure an accurate headcount for the caterer, please RSVP on the page.

Research opportunities available for Fall 2012

The Institute has an active research program geared towards highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students in fields relevant to seasteading. In exchange for a commitment to provide a quality deliverable, the Institute provides access to our knowledgeable staff and network, as well as internships in our Oakland office.

This summer volunteer researchers included Project OASIS team members Baoguang Zhai and Ryan Larsen, Cal Maritime Academy cadet and security researcher Ben Harmon, and law student Robert Mongole. This Fall, we hope to recruit a new round of interns and volunteers to investigate a new set of solutions for seasteads.

An overview of our current research focuses can be found at the main research page. Candidates should submit their resume, along with a writing sample and abstract or topic of interest to

Advisers wanted for Student Research Projects

One way to advance the mission of seasteading is to guide students in their research projects. If you have relevant background in business, law, maritime subjects, any engineering field, or another seasteading-related subject, we hope you will consider offering a small amount of your time over a few-month period to advise the problem-solvers and future entrepreneurs of the seasteading movement. The Institute will set benchmarks and deliverables with the student, and facilitate the advising relationship to ensure your time is focused on the issue at hand. Please submit your CV or a summary of your expertise to

Conference Highlights: August Edition

The Seasteading Conference 2012 condensed years of expertise and months of planning by the Institute into a single weekend of collaboration on the most pressing concerns for early seasteading businesses.

We filmed the presentations for the benefit of those who were unable to attend, and now plan to highlight a smaller selection of videos in each newsletter. This month, we bring you a broad range of topics, from third-year medical student Peter Wei’s talk on medical tourism, to Professor Ricardo Radulovich’s vision for ocean aquaculture, to Patri’s recap of the “Big Picture” of seasteading.

Peter Wei on Medical Tourism

Ricardo Radulovich on Sea Farming

Patri Friedman on The Big Picture

Lastly, one of the most popular presentations was delivered by Mike Gibson, Vice President of Grants at the Thiel Foundation and Policy Associate at Clarium Capital, who spoke on the importance of definite, optimistic visions like seasteading, and on who the real philosophers are.

Mike Gibson’s Welcome Talk

Michael Hartl: Featured Donor

“I’m an educator and entrepreneur with an interest in crazy awesome things like life extension, artificial intelligence, and seasteading.

My academic background is in physics, but during graduate school I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, so after finishing my Ph.D. I decided to become a technology entrepreneur. After getting a couple of failed startups under my belt, I founded a successful product company based on a web development tutorial I’ve produced over the last few years. Since its release in 2010, the Ruby on Rails Tutorial has become the leading introduction to web development with the Ruby on Rails web framework. I’m currently working on a new startup to make a publishing platform based on the Rails Tutorial technology and business model. I’m also involved in the Thiel Foundation’s 20 Under 20 program as a speaker and member of their mentor network.

My interest in seasteading is principally motivated by a desire to find solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing humanity. In particular, I believe that many such problems ultimately trace to bad governance. Of course, there is widespread agreement that “the system is broken,” but most attempts to fix it involve working within that system. To those who are pessimistic about this approach, seasteading offers a way to hedge our bets. Although its prospects are naturally uncertain, seasteading operates at the right level of abstraction, offering a way to get around current systemic sclerosis. (I also love the ocean, so seasteading is appealing on that level as well.)

I think I first learned about seasteading some years ago through an early online draft of Patri’s seasteading book. Later on, I met Patri through a mutual friend, just around the time that he was getting serious about starting The Seasteading Institute. A year or so later, we met for lunch at the Googleplex in Mountain View, coincidentally on the same day that Patri cashed the original $500,000 check from Peter Thiel. He showed me the deposit slip and said, “Look, I just cashed a check for half a million dollars!” That was in 2008, and it’s been exciting to see how far the Institute has come since then.

So Long, Dear Interns!

We were sad to say goodbye to our two fantastic summer interns, Baoguang Zhai and Celia Schow. Both came to our office with relentlessly positive attitudes, and produced immense value for our organization

Celia was especially critical to our team during the hectic time surrounding the conference. She was personally invested in seeing it run smoothly, and freed our staff to execute in other areas.

Zhai, who was awarded a selective grant from his school to intern with us, exceeded our already-high expectations in laying a foundation for our aquaculture agenda. This Fall, Zhai is remaining in the Bay Area, and he will continue to assist with  while covering the Silicon Valley technology beat for a Chinese newspaper.

As non-US citizens, both Zhai and Celia have a strong interest in enabling freer movement of goods, people and ideas across the globe. Celia returned to Denmark after her temporary Visa expired, but hopes to return soon. Zhai is able to stay on his student visa at least until he finishes his double major in economics and environmental science from Tufts, but after that he is uncertain.

Thanks again, Zhai and Celia!

We look forward to bringing you more news soon. In the meantime keep up with all that is happening at The Seasteading Institute by visiting our blogs, forums, YouTube page and Facebook page. We’re also on Twitter.