What Bitcoin’s Rising Purchasing Power Means for Shops and Shoppers

As the monetary base of Bitcoin sharply rises past $1 billion, spending the coins on physical goods makes little sense.

People who think they are ‘late to the game’ are quick to call Bitcoins a pyramid scheme. The currency can seem ridiculous, like Farmville tokens. It becomes only more suspect as holders of Bitcoins preach their merits in the cacophonous chambers of the Internet. Those simultaneously holding and explaining Bitcoins sound nerdy at best, and unapologetically crazy at worst. “But it’s worth something because of the GPUs solving problems, really!”

On the other side of the coin, those flush with coins who invested early have their own problems, and these are more easily discussed in terms from behavioral economics. If you bought a pair of alpaca socks using Bitcoins two years ago, you spent what amounts to several hundred dollars in BTC today. In two years, could those coins buy the farm? From an outsider perspective, this rapid rise in the price is stunning. From a buyer’s perspective, this severely changes how you approach the act of spending even a tenth of a BTC in the future. Knowing with some surety that the value could increase dramatically in a matter of months causes our decision-making process to be dynamically inconsistent. This has implications for the liquidity of the currency. Let’s call this the alpaca problem.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 12.59.29 PM
The Pizza Index tracks the rising price of the first real-world purchase made with 10,000 Bitcoins in exchange for $25 of pizza.

It’s not an easy thing to anticipate. How will our future selves react to value increases in money we hold? How does an economy function amidst reliably increasing purchasing power? Buyers, sellers, traders, miners, and hoarders alike must come to terms with the behaviors of their future selves and adapt to their own predictions. Everyone in the mix needs to somehow map out their disparate approaches to this unique currency for a healthy economy to form. While the future supply of Bitcoins is predictable based on the rules built into the protocol, the psychology of actors within a deflationary virtual currency is completely unknown territory.

The $1,000 Pint of Maple Syrup

Onto a concrete example. I’ve setup a site to sell maple syrup from my girlfriend’s family’s farm in Vermont for Bitcoins. At first, I thought it would be a popular item. Maple syrup doesn’t spoil, it’s something many people buy (especially in the U.S.), and I even discounted the price by 30%. It’s the cheapest place to buy organic Vermont maple syrup, which normally sells for much more than plain old maple. However, in the 6 months the site has been up and advertised, only four pints have been sold. FOUR. I think it’s worth mentioning that my order number on Bitmit.net, the ‘Ebay of Bitcoins’ for the most recent order was #8900. Bitmit came on the scene in September of 2011, so that gives us about 16 orders a day. If people can’t expect “Bitcoin Millionares” to purchase things, what’s next?

Pricing for Deflation

Here’s how deflation affects merchants: As a ‘merchant’ (if four pints a merchant makes) I know that I can heavily discount items sold for Bitcoins due to the current trajectory of the currency. I could even put up the syrup for 50% off and expect to break even within two weeks. As long as deflation feels predictable, the merchant can confidently undercut brick and mortar fiat merchants.

If buying additional Bitcoins to offset any expenditures is part of the buyer’s plan, this can work to everyone’s benefit. Sellers can expect to earn more money when their held Bitcoins increase in value, and spenders benefit from low prices and increasing purchasing power, especially if they replace spent Bitcoins. Of course, this assumes that the merchant’s costs are low and can hold onto a portion of sales, and that one can move money into exchanges easily (this is not always the case).

The smell of lost opportunity

Not all transfers in the Bitcoin economy cause the spender to dwell on increasing purchasing power. When the transactional benefits of Bitcoin become a more central part of ‘the spend’, Bitcoins flow more freely. Here are the core situations where the alpaca problem is less of a problem:

  • Sending money across borders. Expensify is smart to make this a part of their featureset.
  • Avoiding credit card fees and chargeback risks, or helping a merchant lower their costs
  • Sending money to a family member — the recipient benefits from any increase in purchasing power, and could convert quickly to another currency to avoid risk.

These uses will continue to drive the demand for Bitcoin, but I will continue to watch the relationship/activity among merchants and consumers. Spendes of Bitcoins (and consumers of syrupy pancakes), must confront a cloudy crystal ball. “What will these 78 mBTC become in a month when I’m done with this maple syrup?”

Spending on physical items for oneself, no matter how small or large the purchase is, sets the stage for an unique case of buyer’s remorse months later. The possibility of deflation doesn’t inherently give buyers pause. The buyer feels it, sometimes months later. Holding something in your hands that had the potential for so much more value leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This taste is unique in the history of money and it’s something everyone using Bitcoin needs to come to terms with. Until the rate of increase in purchasing power slows, it’s much more psychologically palatable to purchase durable goods with old fashioned money.

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Bitcoin and Morality

Bitcoin — a currency by most measures — is consistently framed as ‘amoral.’ Let’s think about why currencies are not compatible with morality.

An unethical or amoral use for a unit of exchange says nothing about the unit, and everything about the user. Those who don’t understand Bitcoin seem to think its uses make it good or bad. Cash, silver, gold, diamonds & bitcoins: These are units of value that can be used to purchase things no matter how the larger society perceives them.

The fact that you can buy drugs, guns, and assasinations, with Bitcoins is indisputable. Bitcoin was not built for the narrow purpose to purchase ‘illicit’ things. Teddy bears, maple syrup and beef jerky are all for sale. It was built to be a secure network of exchange, secured by the computing power of its participants. Sure, Bitcoin’s creator endowed its very DNA with an offhanded critique of our current banking system, but Bitcoin is at its core lacking an ethical or moral position.

I can’t blame Gawker headlines for this persistent problem when it comes to the common man’s perception of Bitcoin. The currency is scary once you get know it. Let me introduce you to a world using Bitcoin:

Transactions can be anonymous (1). Sending money from neighbor to neighbor or Alaska to Istanbul is instantaneous and free (2). Money can be stored with a memorized passphrase, or stored on paper in a vault (3). Only complete disconnection from the Internet can stop a transaction from occurring or disrupt the network (4).

This seems pretty liberating to say the least. But of course, with all disruptive technologies, one can forsee problems.

Can you see why I want Bitcoin to be understood correctly, free of moral relativism? It is a unique unit of value built for the Internet age which has been derided since the beginning. Placing a moral judgement upon what is essentially an open source algorithm is like calling a tomato evil. Learn more about Bitcoin here.

“What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” – Protagoras

Notes:

  1. There are numerous mixing services.
  2. The double spend problem is real, but difficult to perform (read more). After 6 confirmations (usually after a few minutes) a transaction of coins from point to point can be reasonably trusted. See the comments for more discussion on this. A technical explanation.
  3. See Brainwallet. Pick a long, memorable phrase, and use that to generate a private and public key (this is printable).
  4.  The nodes, miners, and clients spread across the world make Bitcoin the largest distributed computing project ever. Ever.

Donations appreciated. Find me @danielmorgan.

Apricot Sprites, aka ‘the anthropomorphic heart wood critters’ my Dad unearthed

A week ago, my dad was pruning one of the many stone fruit trees in his yard in Los Angeles and came upon an eery woodland lady (click for full size):

My dad is coating the slices in acrylic for preservation, and keeping an unperturbed sample under lock and key in preparation for a visit from the SEG (Search for Extraterrestrial Gnomes).

Has anyone seen anything like this in tree cuts? I was pretty freaked. The first lady may resemble my mom if I squint. Perhaps her spirit animal entered the tree during a watering one afternoon. BTW: of course mum has a garden-themed blog avantgarden.org and she helped start the Santa Monica College organic garden.

From a brief search, I found a spotting of Jesus in a cabinet at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wareham, Massachusetts, but nothing like this. Post your wood creatures in the comments!

A knowledgeable plant dude writes:

The discoloration in the heartwood is caused by a systemic fungal infection called Verticillium wilt. You can read more about it here:

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r5101111.html

The “normal” colorization is from the tree’s attempt to compartmentalize the damage and grow healthy tissue within it.

I’ve also heard back from the Internet in the form of a moose posted in the comments:

Pretty spooky.

What laws did BART break or bend on August 11th when they cut cell service?

by Stephen Rhodes

UPDATE: The FCC is now soliciting comments on this event. Please read up, then submit your comment

On August 11th, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority shut off cell service at multiple underground stations to disrupt a planned protest. This tactic has become common in totalitarian regimes like Syria, Tunisia, Iran & Egypt, but until last Thursday it has never been used in the United States. BART’s police Lieut. Andy Alkire called their action a “great tool to utilize.” Swift condemnation from groups like ‘No Justice, No BART‘, the ACLU and the EFF rained down.

There is no precedent for communication disruption by a government transportation authority in U.S. history, but it’s certain that laws were broken. Specifically, the California & U.S. Constitution, and the Communications Act of 1934 which is enforced by the FCC. For a good overview of the issues and recent news (especially regarding the protest on Monday Aug 15th which shut down all downtown BART stations), there’s an excellent overview at SFAppeal.

During an interview on CNN with Brooke Baldwin, Linton Johnson (Chief of Communications for BART) referred to cell service as an “amenity” and returned time and time again to an invented “Constitutional right to safety” or the right to get from “point A to point B”, both of which do not exist:

“They made us choose between people’s ability to use their mobile phones. An amenity that we provide–and our customer’s constitutional right to be able to get from point a to point b which is what we’re in business for…. [People made us] take the very tool that we put in place … the mobile phone as a safety tool.. to turn it around and use it against our customers to try to violate their constitutional right to safety.”

What BART specifically did:

Communications shut down: James Allison, Deputy Chief of Communications (aka Spokesman), told CNET that “BART staff or contractors shut down power to the nodes and alerted the cell carriers,” … “one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.”

Tweaking the first Amendment: BART has also released a statement that effectively limits what you can say & do within the turnstiles of the system:

“No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.” via Bart.gov

The statement by BART defines where ‘Free Speech’ is and isn’t protected:

BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution (expressive activity), and has made available certain areas of its property for expressive activity.

This brings up an interesting issue: The access to realtime free speech. BART’s very time-focused disruption of communication effectively censored the realtime medium of speech, a medium that BART passengers have come to expect access to. In court cases where public safety conflicts with freedom of speech, if “imminent danger” is threatened by First Amendment activities, only then can right be violated. See “In re Hoffman [67 Cal. 2d 845]” where a disruption in a public-owned train station occurred. The case has nothing to say regarding restricting communication, only the physical location where free speech activities (which may disrupt train service) can occur. As of Aug 19th, BART requires a permit (Rules PDF) for free speech on BART property.

Since BART preemptively restricted (and restricts) First Amendment rights, we’re in a different world here, folks.

Also see “BART’s Protest Position Does Not Withstand Legal Scrutiny” by Jay Leiderman:

“BART, via Linton Johnson has accused the lawful protestors of actions that were imminently going to be lawless. Yet he fails to provide any support for this position. Most saliently, the facts of the BART protest do not come close to those raised in Brandenburg. Would he argue that the KKK, guns in hand, can advocate marching on Washington to take back their country for the white man is permissible, but standing on a platform in a Guy Fawkes mask with a protest sign is seditious and certain to create “imminent lawless action?”

Access to Emergency services: FCC best practices for wireless carriers states that users should have access to 911 and emergency calls. It is conceivable that BART would be held liable if they tampered with a carriers mandate to provide reliable 911 service. Note that BART did have on hand emergency personnel and dedicated ambulances according to a CNN interview.

As reported in the Christian Science Monitor, this has never happened before:

This may be the first time a government agency in the United States has ever deliberately disrupted cellphone service to defang planned protests, criminologist Casey Jordan told CNN. “I haven’t been able to find another incident in which this has happened,” she told CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux Friday.
Iran used cell-phone-jamming technology to hobble protests in 2009, and Britain has considered doing so to thwart the social-media-driven riots that dogged London and other locales this week.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forbids jamming cellphones (unless it is done by a Federal Agency), but BART’s move had a different legal context. Because the transit system contracts with five large telecommunications firms to provide underground and station service, BART did not use jamming technology, it simply turned off a service. From a practical standpoint, there  is no difference.

What laws were violated?

The California Constitution

From the California Constitution, the declaration of rights, Article 1, Section 2, (a) reads:

Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.

In 2011, ‘writing’ and ‘publishing’ can be expanded to Facebook and Twitter postings. BART restrained this right.

The First Amendment

Next up, The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects free speech, freedom of petition and the freedom of assembly. BART believes that ‘freedom areas’ can be created and enforced within public BART stations. Not the case. Some have wrongly argued that the U.S. Constitution also protects the right to travel or the right to safety. BART’s argument that their guarantee of safety or conveyance to passengers supersedes the first amendment right to free speech does not hold up.

Oops. One more: The Communications act of 1934, section 333

With regard to communication disruption, the FCC has begun an investigation into BART’s brilliant idea to unplug cell towers. There is clear language regarding the ‘Jamming’ of communications, and BART’s power down of cellular nodes falls under section 333:

“[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government.”

If it actually was illegal to interfere with communications, then McDonalds could be held liable if they were to turn off their free WiFi. Intent is key here: BART turned off communications in a coordinated attempt to disrupt a lawful assembly. With regard to filing suit following a disruption to communications, the Act states that:

(v) Any person adversely affected by any final action or failure to act by a State or local government or any instrumentality thereof that is inconsistent with this subparagraph may, within 30 days after such action or failure to act, commence an action in any court of competent jurisdiction. The court shall hear and decide such action on an expedited basis.


The BART board: Who knew?

As the Austin chapter of EFF has uncovered, a meeting agenda containing the discussion item “THREAT TO PUBLIC SERVICES OR FACILITIES” was sent out on August 5th for an August 11th meeting.  A closed session on 9am of the 11th (the morning of the disruption) was likely when the board discussed — if they discussed it at all — any potential cellular service shutdown. BART board member Lynette Sweet said during an interview that in fact it was never discussed in a formal meeting:

“The BART board was alerted just a few hours before they planned to do this without having it as an agenda item. We really couldn’t talk much about it.”

So why was the board not involved? Or if it was, why did they let it happen? Did the Communications Director think it was a trivial decision?

What I expect to happen

Since both the ACLU and the EFF have determined that they will not file suit against BART, my only hope is that the FCC slaps a ‘don’t do that again’ judgement on BART to make clear that this won’t stand. Perhaps then (and I’m not holding my breath..) BART will fire some bad decision makers, retrain their trigger happy police force, and straighten up before they are hacked to pieces by Anonymous.

TakeApart.com has a good takeaway: “Possible Alternative Policy to Phone Jamming: BART might best serve itself, and the community, by instituting a policy against shooting people to death.” Stay tuned.

 

Please submit corrections to this email address. You should follow me on Twitter.

The ‘Assembly’ art project, a choreographed ‘mass visitation’ to disable a website

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have recently become a mainstream term: A large number of computers overload a server with traffic in the attempt to disable it. A DDoS event can also be coordinated in the vein of Internet art. During the middle of October, jstchilln.org, for a project by Brad Troemel, proposed

“to drain the maximum amount of bandwidth or potentially freeze the website to a standstill […] On November 1st we encourage you to open as many tabs of Jstchillin.org as possible and leave them open all day. In doing so, participants may group together to temporarily remove this website’s existence on the Internet, putting a halt to its undesired effects on our community and the world at large.

A vote was taken to decide what website to ‘visit.’ What happened?

I had been following thejogging after discovering ‘Perfo Rmanceart‘, a Facebook user who conducted interesting and obnoxious online experiments like spamming the Guggenheim Museum’s Facebook page with links. thejogging was a stream of interesting experiments so when I saw the above page I went into my RSS reader and recorded the site’s final moments:

[iframe http://player.vimeo.com/video/18349005?byline=0&portrait=0&color=ffffff 563 422]

This kind of experiment interests me because it pushes the boundaries of Internet freedom and Internet art in a very public and well-documented way. In light of the DDoS attacks between Tumblr & 4chan and the more politically-motivated attacks against Paypal & Mastercard in response to their stance towards Wikileaks, this project is extremely interesting. Below is a bit more about this work:

  1. The artist’s statement at the beginning of the project
  2. A chronology of events and an essay written post-project: ‘Notes on Assembly’
  3. Brief interview with the artist, Brad Troemel, 12/2010.

Continue reading “The ‘Assembly’ art project, a choreographed ‘mass visitation’ to disable a website”

Year-long depravity: Groupon’s Contest — Art, Commerce, and Sacrifice

Live%20Off%20Groupon!%20%E2%80%93%20Live%20of%20Groupons%20for%20an%20entire%20year%20and%20Groupon%20will%20give%20you%20$100,000!

The new Groupon promotion “Live off Groupon for a full year and win $100,000″ smells exactly like a Japanese “Live off contest winnings” contest previously covered here where a poor Japanese man had to survive for a year off prize winnings.

The Groupon contest description:

Nearly all human survival needs are covered by Groupon. You can get your daily nutritional content with a restaurant Groupon, and then immediately have a Groupon-accepting dentist floss that meal’s remains from your teeth. You can fortify your aortas with a Pilates deal, and protect yourself against rampaging hamburglars with a self-defense class.

In a recent interview in SF Weekly Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon answers some questions:

Why did you start this contest?

Since we started Groupon we joked around about the idea of could someone survive off of nothing but Groupon, and after about 30 seconds of rational thought leads one to the conclusion – No, of course you can’t, but we still think it would be fun to try. It will be an interesting social experiment. It means you are eating a lot of sushi, you’re going to do a lot of yoga, you will have beautiful fingernails and it should be an interesting life for someone. They are going to have freakishly white teeth, their teeth are going to reflect all light by the time this is over.

And now a description of Nasubi’s situation after beginning his contest (it’s bad):

When he arrived at the apartment, he was shown a stand full of magazines, a huge pile of postcards, and told to strip naked. The room was empty except for a cushion, a table, a small radio, a telephone, some notebooks, and a few pens.  There was not a crumb of food, a square of toilet paper, or any form of entertainment.  Whatever he needed, he was to win by sending thousands of postcards into contests.  The producers left and Nasubi was on his own in his unique survival challenge.  Imagine what was going through his mind:  How am I going to eat?  Why are they doing this to me?  How long will it take to get out of here?  He must have thought he was in a bad episode of The Prisoner. (via)

Poor Nasubi was stuck in a small room with a nothing but a waste paper basket to crap in. Our Groupon hero will be unleashed into the world but also recorded and lifecasted much like Nasubi (who became a celebrity). The CEO of Groupon continues:

…Whoever wins is going to get a cell phone, a computer, and they will be blogging about their experience. Plus we will give them a GPS so people in the community will be able to locate this person and go out and share Groupon experiences. This person will travel around the country. This will be a bottomless Groupon wallet.

… like a PR company on wheels that only costs $100,000 a year. I think we can assume for legal purposes that the Groupon contest will not be such a stickler on the details. Nonetheless, both situations remind me of Tehching Hsieh’s work (Chinese, this time): “Cage Piece” where he remained locked in a cage for an entire year. [nytimes piece + pictured below].

Both Groupon and Hsieh remind us that we choose to participate in a economic system.

skitchedFlickr%20Photo%20Download:%20Tehching%20Hsieh

Engineered depravity is an interesting concept for both art and promotion, but Hsieh’s does more to help us think than any live-streamed fool grasping a hair salon coupon, twittering during a spa treatment. In the end, Groupon will get the word out and perhaps we’ll pity/envy the new economic structure the poor/lucky winner enters into.

More reading:

From the Archive: “Open source revolution means more Internet” [4/8/2005]

I wrote the following article in 2005 after finding that there were few articles in my college newspaper that had anything remotely to do with the Internet. I was going to go through and edit it to fit my sensibilities of grammar and correctness, but I’ll let it stand. In April of 2005 the internet was a different place… people were just getting used to the idea of ‘Wikipedia’ and ‘Youtube’. Newspapers were churning along and the Interwebplace was at least a world where all established companies knew they needed a ‘footing’ in. Today, the Internet has upset so many old ways of interacting with content and brands that old-media corporations without a comprehensive Internet strategy simply fade away. Though only four years away, 2005 was a entirely different world. In this article I tried to get a handle on what elements of the new web would be disruptive and beneficial: (and please keep in mind this article really needs an edit)

When the Internet began to really grow in the late 90s, the public understood it as a useful parallel to the more tangible content delivery systems already in place. It was believed that magazines, newspapers, and television would exert their presence primarily in the realm of non-Internet space, but each would have a presence on the net to offer extras like an archive of their content or a place for last week’s crossword puzzle answers. Against the wishes of the big media, software, and information-delivery corporations, the online community began to make its own content, sell products, tell the world’s news, and entertain the masses. The net’s producers are not only making this global content more cheaply, but its quality and integrity far surpasses the more corporate producers. This shift in authorship has implications in every aspect of visible media and software.

Continue reading “From the Archive: “Open source revolution means more Internet” [4/8/2005]”

The Balad Burn Pit: All-purpose toxic materials disposal in Iraq [iraq, vet health]

Update Feb 20, 2010: The anger is rising: read this LAtimes piece.

080310-F-5957S-113.jpg%20(JPEG%20Image,%201820x1209%20pixels)
Something made me mad today. So I’m posting about it.

After reading an article on Wikileaks regarding the Balad Burn Pit, where toxic chemicals such as

“…acetaldehyde, Acrolien, Arsenic, Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Ethylbenzene, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Phosgene, Sulfur Dioxide, Sulfuric Acid, Toluene, Trichloroethane and Xylene…”

are burnt, I became very angry. Continue reading “The Balad Burn Pit: All-purpose toxic materials disposal in Iraq [iraq, vet health]”

Graffiti in Caltech’s Catacombs

Half Life in the caves

Caltech%20Interactive%20Map

Last week I had the opportunity to explore the massive network of inaccessible basement passageways of the California institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. I love exploring caves and dark places–but this location contains a long ethnographic record of a most fascinating segment of the population: the top tier science student. I entered through Guggenheim Laboratory’s room 27, and snapped anything I found interesting.

Continue reading “Graffiti in Caltech’s Catacombs”

Seasteading, and the Ivory Tower [alternative societies]

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.