Seasteading, and the Ivory Tower [alternative societies]

by Daniel

Now that I have buckets of free time to explore in my post-college life, I’ve become fascinated with the Seasteading institute. Their mission is to establish offshore communities as a sort of nation-less [read groundless] society. The trouble is, all they have is ideas and money–no willing groups or appropriately disgruntled and motivated libertarians to join up.

seasteadingThe last blip on the seasteading radar was The Piratebay’s attempt to purchase Sealand (failed) for the purposes of establishing offshore web servers for hosting torrent trackers for copyrighted content. In the U.S. the most successful project to attempt a secession from our ‘union’ was the Free State Project in New Hampshire (ongoing) which bills itself as

an agreement among 20,000 pro-liberty activists to move to New Hampshire, where they will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property. The success of the Project would likely entail reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms at all levels of government, to expand individual rights and free markets, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world. (VIA)

The Seasteading institute claims that their greatest difficulty is social, not technical.  The group has clearly educated itself on the history of prior attempts of Seasteading, or ‘utopia’-forming. Most ‘pirate’ or ‘stateless’ floating societies formed in response to unfair laws: ‘Women on Waves’–which provided women abortions in Northern Europe, and floating Pirate Radio stations that broadcast off the coast of France. It seems the only thing the libertarian seasteaders need to get off the ground is a social reason, or problem, for their own existence.

The technical needs of the Seasteaders range from methods of power generation, waste disposal, and desalinization. Tapping into research on offshore engineering, and oceonography, the group demands a high degree of technically skilled individuals to establish and maintain a structure (if it were ever to happen). These problems remind me of the community of Gaviotas in Columbia where the demands of Appropriate Technology (in the face of financial and material shortages) successfully formed a sustainable and economically feasible community. Gaviotas (if you haven’t heard) is

a village of about 200 people in Colombia, South America. For three decades, Gaviotans – peasants, scientists, artists, and former street kids – have struggled to build an oasis of imagination and sustainability in the remote, barren savannas of eastern Colombia, an area ravaged by political terror. They have planted millions of trees, thus regenerating an indigenous rainforest. They farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals, and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor.

The United Nations named the village a model of sustainable development. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has called Paolo Lugari the “inventor of the world.”(via)

Gaviotas is relevant in the context of Seasteading because it only survived due to its highly skilled workforce. The community is a sort of Ivory Tower: the community attracts professors, their families, and students. Members unable to contribute to the community (by their engineering or research abilities)–or inability to ‘intern/work’ in return for housing and experience are of no use. That’s not to suggest Gaviotas is a bad place. Among the accomplishments of Gaviotas are the reinvention of the water pump, a solar powered kitchen (utilizing a new form of heat collecting substrate and conventional cooking oil) and a method of turning dry savannah into a dense pine forest.

skitched

[image: the Gaviotas Sleeve Pump]

gaviotas

[image: gaviota’s headquarters and research center]

The userbase of the seasteaders has grown sharply following a load of press, but without some sort of collaboration with a university (I’m thinking Denmark) The project will fail like all before it. Which brings us to the title of this post: Seasteading, like all revolutionary projects, needs to redress some societal harm before it can be of any use. A mission statement sounds great, but the Seasteader’s need a Paolo Lugeri to provide some sense of purpose or vision.

So what does this project need? Disgruntled wealthy libertarians from the engineering sciences, preferably fans of Kevin Costner.