[From the Desk of Executive Director Randolph Hencken]
The future is the Blue Frontier, and we are edging closer everyday. Many of you reading this message have been following and supporting the activities of the Institute since our inception; others of you are new to the movement. I urge you to read this end-of-year State-of-Seasteading Address, in which I give a comprehensive 6-year view of where we’ve been and where we are going.
Presuming you appreciate our strategy and work, I ask you to join us by making an end-of-year donation. The Institute is entirely funded through the generous contributions of our community. Your support now will ensure that we can continue to grow our collaborative work into flourishing floating cities with unprecedented freedoms and innovative governments.
The Seasteading Institute 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0
The Institute was co-founded by Patri Friedman and Peter Thiel in 2008, when Patri was invited to share his seasteading vision with Peter, and in turn the Thiel Foundation wrote the first check of $500K to launch our nonprofit think-tank. Let’s consider the beginning as Seasteading Institute 1.0.
Seasteading Institute 1.0 – (2008-2009) The Research Accelerator
Patri and the original staffers strategized how best to enable seasteading. Among the nearly infinite paths forward, they delineated four areas of research: 1) engineering
, 2) law and policy
, 3) business
, and 4) community. These areas of research remain as pillars of our work to this day.
Highlights of major endeavors during the first generation of the Institute:
1. Researched and created designs for Clubstead, a proposed offshore, semi-submersible resort.
2. Created the Ephemerisle event in the Sacramento Delta east of the San Francisco Bay area, a multi-day floating gathering to inspire people to get “seasteading legs”; the event is now entirely community run. Ephemerisle 2015 is scheduled for July 20 -26, and will attract 400-500 people.
3. Wrote an online book full of reasons, resources, and techniques to seastead.
4. Hosted two conferences, 2008 and 2009.
5. Conducted a seastead design contest, which collected numerous submissions and scored international media coverage, sharing the seasteading vision and gaining support around the world.
Seasteading Institute 2.0 – (2010 – 2012) The Entrepreneur Hub
I consider the era from 2010 through most of 2012 as Seasteading Institute 2.0. During this era, we ramped up our in-house staff and increased our emphasis on encouraging entrepreneurs to develop seasteading-related businesses that would pave a path to politically independent seasteads. Our goal is to foster a financial incentive to develop and maintain seasteads.
We viewed seasteading as a technology that would grow organically if entrepreneurs would first start single-purpose businesses on ships. We envisioned an evolution that began with ships, then progressed to platforms, then cities. Highlights of our work from Seasteading Institute 2.0:
1. Researched business opportunities related to jurisdictional arbitrage at sea.
2. Created the Magellan Network, an exclusive network of business people who could fund, advise and inspire seasteading entrepreneurs.
3. Held the Sink or Swim Business Plan Contest, which collected dozens of submissions and informed our strategy.
4. Drafted legal papers (1, 2) to guide entrepreneurial pursuits in international waters.
5. Investigated locations to station “shipsteads” and eventually “metropolis-steads.”
6. Hired a seasoned naval engineer to analyze different seastead configurations – ships, barges, and semi-submersible platforms.
7. Investigated the feasibility of using semi-submersibles as seasteads.
8. Created the Ambassadors program, which boasts more than 100 ambassadors to date, whose contributions to the movement have been incalculable.
9. Hosted the 2012 Seasteading Conference, which brought together business people, engineers, legal experts, and aspiring seasteaders.
Toward the end of this generation of the Institute, Patri and our former Senior Director James Hogan left the Institute to pursue a free-city opportunity in Honduras. They handed over the reigns to Michael Keenan and myself.
In late 2011, we were pleased to see the launching of Blueseed, a company headed by our former Business Director and Legal Director that sought to place a tech incubator on a converted cruise ship off the coast of California. The team raised funding in their seed round, but to date have not raised enough to purchase and retrofit a cruise ship.
In 2012, a former casino ship was donated to the Institute. We anticipated partnering with members of our community for proto-seasteading business purposes. After several attempts to start businesses with different partners, we had to cut our losses and sell the ship. These lessons led us to reevaluate the practicality of ship-steading as the genesis of seasteading.
The Seasteading Institute 3.0 – (2012 to present) The Floating City Project
In late-2012, I went back the whiteboard and reevaluated our strategy and concluded that we had conducted plenty of research and were ready to concentrate our efforts on developing the first floating city. I decided to ask the seasteading community what they needed to move out to sea. Thus began the Floating City Project
and Seasteading Institute 3.0. This generation has seen a reduction in paid staff and an increase in community involvement. Michael Keenan resigned his role as President, and I became the Executive Director. For the past couple of years, we’ve had no more than three persons on payroll at a time, accepting tremendous input from volunteers.
Floating City Project
Recognizing the exorbitant expenses of engineering and stationing a seastead far out in international waters, we made the strategic choice to focus on near-shore platforms in the territorial waters of a host nation. The Floating City Project combines principles of both seasteading and free-cities/startup cities.
In the beginning I conducted in-depth interviews with dozens of people in our community, asking them what would it take for them to invest in, and move to, a floating city. Since then, we’ve collected data through our online survey, which nearly 2000 people have filled out so far. Over the last two years, I’ve also spoken to hundreds of people interested in the Floating City Project, taking their insights into account as we’ve honed our current strategy.
Historically, the Institute looked to international waters for the freedom to establish new city-states and spur a market of competitive governance. There are several reasons we are now seeking to station a floating city in the territorial seas of a host nation:
a) It is less expensive to engineer a seastead for relatively calm, shallow waters, compared with the open ocean;
b) it will be easier for residents to travel to and from the seastead, as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and
c) a host nation will provide a place for a floating city within the existing international legal framework, with the associated protections and responsibilities.At the end of 2013 we produced a report in collaboration with our colleagues at DeltaSync
in the Netherlands, largely funded through a crowdfunding campaign
, which provides the engineering foundation for the floating city we we will build when we secure an agreement with a host country.
In April we released our full report from Phase 1
of the Floating City Project, which includes data from the interviews and surveys mentioned above.
The Floating City Project is the primary endeavor we are currently focused on, but we continue to pursue other opportunities so long as they don’t distract from our primary goal. A couple weeks ago we told you about our side project to instigate a ship-based medical tourism business that operated outside of U.S. jurisdiction by traveling in and out of U.S. ports.
A Big Splash
Author Joe Quirk – acting as our “Seavangelist” – has done a phenomenal job spreading the seasteading vision through a variety of media. He’s finished the Seasteading Book which is now in the hands of the editors at Simon & Schuster; he’s spoken at a handful of conferences and other events, including Voice & Exit, and Libertopia; he’s been on major podcasts like the Adam Carolla Show, The Joe Rogan Experience, and most recently Bill Frazier’s Real Clear Radio Hour. Joe has even launched our own podcast: “Seasteading Today with Joe Quirk.” If you peruse Press Mentions on our web site, you’ll find that seasteading has emerged as a formidable force in the public eye in 2014, attracting thousands of potential seasteaders who would not have heard of us otherwise.
Lastly, I want to extend a huge thank you to all of our supporters, volunteers and staff throughout the years who have made all of this extraordinary progress possible.
Randolph Hencken, Executive Director
P.S. Please make an end-of-year donation today
. With your support, we will launch the first floating city in the coming years. Together, we can show the world what is possible with seasteading.