The term comes from homesteading, which means making a home for oneself in new, uninhabited places. It generally has associations with self-sufficiency and a frontier lifestyle. Seasteading is reminiscent of that idea, but at sea.
Patri Friedman started the Institute in 2008, and Peter Thiel was an early funder. Patri has been the chairman of the Board of Directors since 2011, when Randy Hencken took over as the Executive Director. Peter’s foundation last donated to the Institute in 2014. Our supporters include over 1000 donors and numerous advisors and volunteers from all over the world with highly varied backgrounds. All are passionate about the mission and making the world a better place.
We generally refer to a seastead as a community living at sea and largely responsible for setting its own rules and culture. They will likely come in all shapes and sizes. Early seasteads are expected to be near land and have less autonomy.
The Institute’s vision is meta-political. We do not promote any particular ideology or specific policies. Rather, we provide a platform for others to try new ways of living together which they believe will make them happier. Some seasteads might want to try a universal basic income, while others might prefer free market solutions. Some might rely on electronic direct democracy, others might entrust public policy to technocrats, while others might use consumer-choice-based services, or anything in between and beyond. Since we are currently pursuing relationships with various countries to host the first seasteads in their protected waters, we expect many local laws to apply there. International laws would apply in any jurisdiction, including the open ocean.
We expect the first communities to attract mostly pioneers and innovators at first. Building on the ocean is not easy, nor is it cheap. Our first seasteads in protected waters should be affordable to the middle class of developed nations, and we hope that new materials and improvements in manufacturing will help bring costs down further so anybody can move to a seastead eventually. We are particularly excited at the possibility of offering options for resiliency to communities threatened by sea level rise.
Building for the open ocean is technically possible, yet it is extremely expensive and difficult at this time. Forging partnerships with host nations solves both problems and allows us to open seasteading to more people sooner, and to learn in preparation for more ambitious goals.
The ocean is often ill-treated by those who pass through it. We expect seasteaders will take care of their home. We are very sensitive to the environment, and our studies focus heavily on sustainable development and the protection of ecosystems. The first partnership forged with a host nation, in French Polynesia, commits seasteaders there to doing at least as well or better than current best practices. In many ways, seasteads are by necessity an exercise in sustainable development, with lessons applicable elsewhere.
We are working on designs to host critical infrastructure, offices, residences and everything threatened communities need to be resilient in areas prone to flooding and vulnerable to rising seas. Some atoll nations will need solutions very soon. We are hoping to start our pilot project before 2020 and develop the technologies to bring costs down for those who urgently need them.
We’ve made great progress recently and the very first seastead will be a partly autonomous pilot project, roughly the size of a soccer field, floating in the tranquil waters of French Polynesia and growing organically. We are currently working to adapt our design to local conditions.
We anticipate the first Seasteads to have waterfront condominiums, apartments, offices and parks in a small village atmosphere. There likely will be schools, shops, restaurants, medical facilities and other aspects of village and small town life as the population grows.
Seasteading will create unique opportunities for aquaculture, vertical farming, and scientific and engineering research into ecology, wave energy, medicine, nanotechnology, computer science, marine structures, biofuels, etc.
Modern-day piracy, while very uncommon, does exist. It tends to be concentrated off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Somalia, Yemen and recently Nigeria (more info). Seasteads will select their location to avoid pirate activity, and initial Seasteads will be hosted in the territorial waters of existing nations who patrol their own waters.
Seasteads will be located in areas of favorable wind, waves, tides, currents, storm and seabed conditions, maritime traffic, and trade and services access. Low threat of piracy is also a factor.
There are many existing technologies to make drinking water from seawater given a source of energy such as electricity or heat. Early Seasteads will get Internet access, electric grid access and some food through its host nation. Energy can be generated in a variety of ways depending on the location. A combination of biofuel, wind, solar, wave and marine current energy generation coupled with storage is already viable and cost effective at smaller scales. Seasteads can grow fresh produce in vertical farms and raise seafood using aquaculture. Excess food and energy can be traded with the host nation or even exported.
Ships are necessary to support Seasteads’ trade and transportation needs, and they can be used as housing for cruisers and ocean researchers who visit us. For the open ocean, the motion of ships is less comfortable when they’re not under way (motoring or sailing in transit). In the protected waters of a lagoon atoll, ships may be relatively comfortable compared to being in the open ocean.
Some Seasteaders will raise families, and we hope that everyone feels welcomed and safe.
Seasteads are designed to be comfortable in the expected conditions. With large, stable platforms and small waves at our chosen locations, seasickness should not be an issue for most people.
Location is one of the first and most important decisions for Seasteading. Many potential natural hazards can be minimized by carefully choosing locations. For example, French Polynesia is so far from active earthquake and volcano zones, with such an advantageous topology, that tsunamis have little effect there. It also has very low storm activity. Starting in a natural lagoon will additionally shelter us from most wave action. Open ocean Seasteads would need to develop technologies for mitigating waves, preferably while also harvesting their energy for productive use.
Initial Seasteads generally will be like living in a developed country. Perceived wave motion should be much lower than a cruise ship.
Some Seasteaders may have medical experience. As the Seasteading population expands, they may establish a medical practice similar to what is available on cruise ships. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics will be available at the host nation for early Seasteads in protected waters.
Initial Seasteads in a host nation’s waters should be relatively short travel from restaurants, shops, businesses, museums, art galleries, concert halls, hospitals, etc.
While Seasteaders are interested in new or better ways of organizing their communities, they’re also interested in peacefully sharing ideas and trading with others locally, regionally and internationally. We wish to be good neighbors to those near us. We value openness, choice and transparency as beneficial to all.
Space in buildings on Seasteads may be sold, leased, or rented, like property on land. Fees may support infrastructure needs. The actual arrangements may vary among Seasteads. Some could be collectively owned, for example. The Seasteading Institute will not be operating Seasteads itself.