Wed: Yale – good. Had dinner w/ ~12 students beforehand, ~25 came to talk (during midterms week, not bad). Seemed to like it. Several enthusiasts who want to come to Ephemerisle. New parts of talk (what does TSI do, ranting about libertarianism) went over pretty well. Should have an MP3 up sometime.
Thu: NYC. Met w/ book agent, I got the feeling she gets pitched at a lot. She had some good advice – the wider the potential audience, the more publishers will be interested, and pioneering will sell better than politics. Suggests framing the story as “we need a new frontier, the ocean is it”, and let the political stuff be an implication as opposed to stated as the main motivation. This is a good idea, and well worth considering. We talked about what indicators of the movement’s popularity would appeal to publishers, she said standard website metrics like visitors/month to website/blog, as well as major media mentions, mailing list subscribers, stuff like that would all help make the case. I think tying it to pioneering and to federalism to pitch it as the next logical extension of these same trends could be a good idea.
Also, talked to her about self-publishing, which some people have said publishers like (to show sales), and some have said publishers don’t like (they want to be first), leaving us unsure whether to use it as part of our strategy. She said: “Self-publishing a non-fiction book isn’t a bad idea, and you already have a solid platform and followship to start from. Most publishers will pick up a self-published book if it has good numbers (think at least 10,000-15,000 copies sold).”, which is good to know.
NYC Social: Good, got about 25 people, including many I’d interacted w/ online but hadn’t met in person yet.
Fri: Made my way to the NH Liberty Forum, where I will be speaking tomorrow morning.
Trip has been going pretty well so far, although I have been sick and felt low-energy. Fortunately I think low-energy for me is high-energy for a normal person so it has not been a big problem :).
Some of the ideas that have come up during this week’s discussions / questions. I’m terrible with names, so apologies for not being able to cite the originator of each of these – unless otherwise stated, none are my ideas.
James Wetterau: The technology of government can go through phase transitions, where a new model rapidly takes over. Broad-based representative democracy is a great example – after the radically democratic American experiment succeeded, the rest of the first-world followed. The greatest impact of seasteads may not be for their residents, it may be for the rest of the world, by pioneering better political systems which get copied on land. Even if this is low-probability, it is a huge win, so should get some weight.
We talked about alternative currencies, and I suggested a trade-weighted basket of commodities, and someone mentioned using marijuana. After all, it is a significant global commodity. It was pointed out that it is not dense or long-lasting (goes stale, unlike gold), so I suggested sealed bricks of hash oil as a currency. Now that would make Fort Knox a lot more fun.
A Yale student of economics and psychology pointed out the psychological evidence about the downside to choice and importance of commitment. When people know that they can change their minds, they are less happy with the options. Once they have committed, they selectively interpret the evidence in favor of their choice. This is bad when forming opinions, but good for marriages. It may be bad for seasteads – if people have the option to leave, they may not form a group identity, be happy with the local government etc. Sure, one can argue that those are good things for efficiency/rationality, but they are bad for happiness, and happiness is important. A couple options to address this: build seasteads in tribe-sized units (50-150 people) which move together. Have term contracts in cities, 1/2/5/10 years, pay a termination fee if you leave early. So you are at least temporarily committed.
James also suggested that multiple seasteads with very different governments (like theocratic) appealing to different constituencies locate near each other, so that no major power would bomb them as it would risk pissing off some set of voters. “Don’t just be one group of crackpots, be a vibrant community of crackpots!”
We need to add a section to the book/FAQ about good arguments against seasteading. I hear a lot more bad arguments, and it is way more fun to make/write counterarguments to erroneous criticisms. But it is also important to acknowledge an idea’s shortcomings, and at this point a decent number of them have come up. I will try to track these and do a post in the future about them. Some examples:
- Social ties will either reduce mobility or make people unhappy.
- To not get squashed by existing countries, we will have to make major compromises. We may get squashed anyway (bombed, embargoed…)
- People value political stability enormously, as do businesses. We will not be able to offer it for awhile.
- Too expensive!
- Even people who value freedom highly often live in high-tax/regulation places like NYC or CA, because they are nice places to live. If those people aren’t willing to move to, say, NH or NV for more freedom, will any of them really move to the goddamned ocean?
In talking about bad business models, I mentioned the euthanasia ship idea, and someone joked “Call the business: Sleep With The Fishes!”.