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    Homesteading was so 19th Century

    Homesteading was so 19th Century

    A few days ago, I saw the results from the Seasteading Institute’s business plan contest. Many of you are probably asking what Seasteading is and why it has an institute. Simply put, The Seasteading Institute (TSI) led by Patri Friedman (the grandson of Milton), is a libertarian movement for “creating permanent dwellings on the ocean – homesteading the high seas. A seastead is a structure meant for permanent occupation on the ocean.” As their website explains, “the world needs a new frontier, a place where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to test out their ideas. Unfortunately, all land is already claimed. Enabling the ocean to be the next frontier, allows for startup societies to bring experimentation and innovation to political, legal, and social systems.” In other words, a true experiment in societal public choice will be made possible on the ocean. The idea sounds far off, but the group cites innovations like modern cruise ships as indication that living off the high seas is quite possible with enough planning and infrastructure. They also believe in incremental approach to every area of seasteading or “breaking [their] ambitious visions down into small steps, and taking things one step at a time.” Patri and his team are constantly solving potential problems, finding funding, and devoting time to researching sustainable business models that can survive on the ocean. Though they can cite donors like Peter Thiel, the man behind PayPal, TSI is also intent on creating a substantive group of people interested in seasteading through social events in multiple cities. Regardless of its plausibility, I like the sentiment that Seasteading strives for – competitive, as opposed to omnipotent, government.

    As for the contest, I think there were some fascinating, creative companies that could be established on the ocean. Does anyone else follow TSI? I’d like to hear your thoughts.


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    @strunked, TSI's first ideas are actually for things like "hip replacement boats" – sea-based centers for fairly uncontroversial procedures that will be much cheaper than the highly-regulated land alternatives. From there they want to move into small ocean colonies and the like. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to an uptick in competition from seasteads to improve the pricing and quality of government-monopolized industries. (I thought the arbitration idea was pretty interesting, as well as the orphanage on the sea…) I'm skeptical of the plausibility, but it's fun to think about.

    1. I liked this post. At a time when the country is being deliberately misgoverned, it's good to see examples of the possibilities implicit in a free society. It's good to see that people are working toward those possibilities despite today's troubled conditions.

    2. I suspect that some of that 19th century homesteading experience remains relevant to the issues that the seasteaders will face.

    3. Similarly, I suspect that the seasteaders' experiences may be helpful to the future generations that someday will homestead in the solar system. Maybe in your children's or grandchildren's lifetimes.

    From the POV of an old geezer, [and one not about to be outdone by whipper-snappers like strunked!]. it's a whale of an idea.

    Great timing – as gs mentioned – for what could be a very important idea.

    sort of runic rhyme | January 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Kathleen, there are all sorts of governing and commercial possibilities to conjure for an aquaterrestrial society. What first comes to mind for me is how any water surface or submerged human-friendly wilderness would almost have to be created by monied entities– wildcat billionaires, corporations, non-profits or government. Since top-down investment and development would also be required for any orbital or lunar scaping and settlement, seasteading might prove to be a good lab and model for how to survive and thrive in "hostile" environments.

    Overcoming "hostile" logistics would return mankind to his earliest beginnings in the sea. It's beyond the scope of this design exercise, but one would almost have to wonder if bio-engineering could advance our re-adapting to terra infirma and give us fins and gills. (OK, THAT brings to mind the tentacle genre of Japanese art which is pretty wild…)

    Absent human modification and on a nostalgic utopian note (or mind-altering substance), we can still all live in a yellow submarine, can't we?

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