The concept of ‘seasteading’ isn’t new, but it has been gaining traction over the past two years or so.
Seasteading is a term used to describe man-made islands, or rather cities, built in the ocean.
These aren’t your reclaimed plastic, hippy islands, though.
They’re high tech superstructures aimed at sustainable living not dissimilar to the ones that you’ll find in Dubai, or that floating hotel in Sweden, only bigger and aimed at housing entire communities.
They’re billed as a solution to climate change and rising seas levels, but The Guardian isn’t convinced.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired fringe libertarian groups to double down on their dreams of building new, autonomous societies.
Lockdowns, increased surveillance, and complete governmental control have added fuel to their already entrenched suspicions of state control.
The sentiment lies at the core of the seasteading community, a disparate group that has grown since 2008, when the Seasteading Institute was founded in San Francisco by Patri Friedman. The self-styled anarcho-capitalist (and grandson of Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman) was working as a Google software engineer when he managed to attract funding from PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel to set up the institute.
In a founding statement, they described its goal as being “to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems”.
Thiel was nothing if not confident: “The nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level,” he proclaimed.
Seasteading is the ultimate Silicon Valley approach to governance. It imagines society as a type of technology that can be tinkered with and innovated, and indeed saved by a series of start-up societies.
Think of it as the social media of brick and mortar living spaces with unique ideologies independent of the rule of law.
Don’t like Facebook? Move to Instagram. Only this time it’s man-made islands, not social media platforms.
Seasteading company OCEANIX sees what they’re doing as a solution to rapid population growth and climate change.
The ocean is under threat from land reclamation. As coastal cities struggle to cope with rapid population growth, many simply pour sand into the ocean to create new land.
Unfettered coastal urbanization is destroying millions of hectares of the ocean and marine life; close to 50 percent of people in the world live in coastal areas. The rising sea and climate change are compounding the problem. Oceanix is taking bold steps towards a more resilient future.
Oceanix designs and builds floating cities for people to live sustainably on the ocean. We believe humanity can live in harmony with life below water. It is not a question of one versus the other. The technology exists for us to live on water, while nature continues to thrive under.
Oceanix is trailblazing a new industry with blue technologies that meet humanity’s shelter, energy, water and food needs without killing marine ecosystems.
OCEANIX CITY, their pilot project, is supposed to house 10 000 residents, with modular neighbourhoods housing up to 300 residents apiece.
This video from last year, shows the concept behind OCEANIX’s seasteading project:
These super seasteads aren’t the only projects in the works.
Back to The Guardian for a classic example of the pursuit of seasteading freedom found in the tale of Chad Elwartowsk, who recently tried his hand at his own seastead for the second time.
Here’s what happened the first time:
They had constructed what they declared to be “the first seastead” 12 nautical miles from Phuket, but the authorities decided that the six metre-wide fibreglass cabin, perched on top of a floating pole, posed a threat to Thailand’s sovereignty.
It was an offence punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty. “The couple announced on social media declaring their autonomy beyond the jurisdiction of any courts or law of any countries, including Thailand,” said Rear Admiral Vithanarat Kochaseni, adding that they had invited others to join them. “We see such action as deteriorating Thailand’s independence.”
And here it is being towed away by the Royal Thai Navy:
While seasteading might seem like a utopian and sustainable plan for the future, the reality is that the growing interest from billionaires like Peter Thiel paints a different picture.
The likelihood that your average Joe is going to be able to afford a place on the OCEANIX seastead and others like it is highly improbable.
The drive to create communities outside of the rule of law also poses obvious problems.
We’ve all read The Lord of the Flies – although what would really happen if a bunch of young boys were stranded on a remote island may differ wildly from the outcome imagined by Willam Golding.
Read the Guardian’s superb article on the real ‘Lord of the Flies’ story, when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months, here.
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