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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2 thoughts on “Seasteads Saving Lives: The Story of Harrison”

  1. A good example of the potential that seasteading holds. Let’s hope that those who pioneer such efforts have the best intentions at heart. Harrison’s miracle could become a nightmare should greed lay at the core of this humanitarian story. Here’s an example:

    Unfortunately for Harrison’s family, their healthcare would not cover the costs of this procedure. Having to shoulder the burden of this cure themselves, they were horrified to see the costs for this procedure were outside of the range of affordability for all but the most affluent. Tranquility has a lack of space, making hotel rates sky high. All food and supplies need to be transported great distances, increasing the costs of the most mudane items and meals into the range that can only be thought of as extravagant. Since Tranquility is always moving, there is no established means of travel and traditional methods (like airlines) cannot land on the water, which limits quick transit to helicopters and other specialiazed craft that need to be chartered.

    Last but not least, BioCure needs to recoup the expense of developing this procedure as well as the costs they put into the creation of Tranquility. Even if Harrison’s parents mortgaged everything and maxed out their credit, they would still be far short of the price tag. Another seastead within the Innovation Zone was offering a solution… they would cover the expense of any procedure on Tranquility in exchange for a contractual period of indentured servitude working on it’s seastead. Faced with the balancing of a child’s life against the family’s way of life in a country that limited life saving techniques it seemed like a no brainer. They packed their bags and left for Tranquility.

    The nightmare begins when Harrison is one of the 10% of cases that BioCure fails to help. After his death, his family spends the next 20 years working in terrible accomodations to pay off the bill. With no oversight, BioCure can blame the complications on something else too keep their advertised numbers above 90% on the cure rate. Many of Harrison’s family pass away from dangerous working conditions before they are freed from their contract. Of course, one needs capital to secure passage back to the mainland… and those vessels are prone to ‘accidents’. Which keeps things… Tranquil… for the seasteads PR wise.

    Let’s hope we are pioneering seasteading for the right reasons. With wrong principles we could be empowering bad people to spread the kind of lifestyle we’re all trying to avoid in the first place. I for one am glad our founders are hardcore libertarians… should minimize the nightmares that could grow from this movement.


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