The coronavirus pandemic managed to resurrect one of the most famous legends – the myth of Atlantis. The idea of a fertile island with wise rulers and decent citizens got a second chance thanks to Seasteading. This is what they call living in autonomous floating cities, where their own laws apply.
According to representatives of this movement, communities drifting in the open sea are almost the only chance to save the planet from death. A Floating salvation from all troubles
The regime of self-isolation affected not only ordinary people, but also the rich, who were also forced to wait out quarantine somewhere. Then realtors recorded an unprecedented demand for luxury real estate: luxurious mansions, Scottish castles, uninhabited islands in the Caribbean and even bunkers. Interest in private jets and yachts has also grown : you still need to get to your real estate somehow.
Even inside impregnable bomb shelters, the rich provided for themselves huge pools, gyms and cinemas. Most of these facilities are located in the United States or Europe at the site of abandoned military bases. However, billionaires from Silicon Valley chose New Zealand as their location – a quiet place away from any shocks and external threats.
“She is not an enemy to anyone. This is not a target for a nuclear strike. This is not a goal for war. This is a place where people seek refuge,” explains Gary Lynch, director of bunker manufacturing company.
Former Prime Minister John Key also echoes him:
“I know many people who told me that they would like to have housing in New Zealand if the world went to hell.”
The founder of the PayPal payment system and the first investor of Facebook, Peter Thiel, have already acquired a bunker in the country. However, back in 2008, he invested in an organization called The Seasteading Institute, which is now the main company on the market promoting the concept of cities in the middle of the ocean.
Sail away from the problems
In general, the very idea of a floating island is not fundamentally new – it exists in nature and is found. Very often, a strong wind rips out coastal plants in a pond, cattail or reed, knocks them into a heap and “sends them on a trip.” It happens that a large piece of peat floats to the surface of the swamp. Sometimes such a moving part of the land can stop in place, grow and become a full-fledged island.
People often populated this land or used it for economic activities (they grew rice or wheat). So, it is known about the tribe of Uru Indians living on the shores of Lake Titicaca. They hid on the floating islands from their warlike Inca neighbors, who could make them slaves. On a piece of land, where the whole village was easily located, the Uru tribe completely created the entire infrastructure. The Indians even had a watchtower.
Subsequently, designers and architects repeatedly beat decisions like “house + water”. Private residences were built near the water, in the water, above the water on the supports, they even simply rafted someone’s mansion along the river. However, all these findings are still integrated into the urban environment and have nothing to do with independence and the Seasteading philosophy. His ideologist was American partner Thiel Patri Friedman.
He has a remarkable pedigree. His father is David Friedman , the libertarian economist , the author of the original model of anarcho-capitalism, where everything, including the law, is created solely thanks to the free market. Grandfather – Nobel Prize winner in economics Milton Friedman , who received an award for research in the field of consumer economics. His theory was at the heart of the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) action plan during the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.
Patri, an engineer and former employee at Google, left the corporation on his birthday to devote his time to developing Seasteading-building. The term comes from English homesteading , which can be translated as “creating a home for yourself in new, uninhabited places.” When replacing home with the sea , it turns out that you need to look for housing somewhere in the vast expanses of the ocean. As they say in the organization, experiments are the engine of progress: to find something better, you must try something new.
Quarantine and work on a remote site showed that it is not necessary to constantly be in the office to be effective. Just during the lockdown, it was reported that billionaires from Silicon Valley considered floating cities to be promising and wanted to reserve a place there. The same is true for the seasteading – they are convinced that independent communities on the high seas will become the dwelling of a new generation.
Autonomous communities are positioned as a way to solve many problems, and not just as a refuge for the rich who want to hide from infection. Firstly, the system tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible. The island’s life is based on the concept of sustainable development, which provides for the principle of zero waste. As for energy consumption, at the initial stages of the development of the project, when life is just getting better, a certain part of the resources will be received by mariners from the country in whose territorial waters they are located.
In the future, it is planned to use biofuels, solar, wind and wave energy. On vertical farms they will grow fresh products, and receive seafood – doing aquaculture. Surplus food and energy can be sold to the host country or even exported.
Another problem that floating cities come in handy for is raising the world’s oceans, which is due to global warming. Some island countries will need solutions very soon, say the Institute of Seasteading. They are already preparing a plan to save important infrastructure facilities of different states in the event of a threat of flooding.
Also, according to the creators of the floating cities, they will help with the overpopulation of megacities, the safety of citizens and a poor management system in the country (people will independently manage what is happening around, and not through intermediary officials). The threat of tsunamis or pirates is not frightening for seasteading- objects will be built from reliable materials and in quiet areas.
It would seem that becoming a resident of a floating city is like enrolling in space tourists. However, future sailors do not have any special requirements. Nevertheless, it is important to be a responsible and sociable person – on the territory of the island, if he is in neutral waters, only those rules apply that the participants of the trip will develop on their own. The seasteading rules are still subject to international law, but the internal charter will carry weight.
“We expect that the first communities will primarily attract adventurers, innovators and pioneers by nature. Building on the ocean is not easy and not cheap. Our first inland settlements should be accessible to the middle class of developed countries, and we hope that new materials and technologies will help lower prices so that in the end everyone can become a seasteader,” the authors of the project say.
The functioning of the first floating cities will be run off the coast, and after all the checks, the community will go further into the sea. “Building for the open ocean is technically possible, but at present it is extremely expensive and complicated. Establishing partnerships with host countries solves both of these problems and allows us to quickly open the sea space to more people,” the Institute explains.
The life of the seasteading-manager, as planned, will not be different from the life of any developed country. On the territory there will be all the usual types of real estate: condominiums, apartments, offices. Housing can be rented, sold and bought. It will not do without schools, shops, restaurants and medical facilities. There are opportunities for work in the field of agriculture, aquaculture, as well as ecology, wave energy, nanotechnology and computer science. The inhabitants of the island do not pay taxes, but periodic fees for maintaining the infrastructure are possible (depends on the internal charter).
At the same time, the seasteading managers do not consider themselves crazy hermits and say that they are “interested in a peaceful exchange of ideas and trade with other countries at the local, regional and international levels. We want to be good neighbors for those around us. We value openness, choice and transparency as a blessing to all. ”
Agree on the shore
Such stories really sound promising, although in practice it is much more difficult to implement. But any projects of the Institute of Seasteading are carried out taking into account the Eight Great Moral Imperatives – the internal code of ethics. It sounds like this: enrich the poor, cure the sick, feed the hungry, clean the air, restore the oceans, live in harmony with nature, restore stability to the world and stop fighting. This is what the representatives of the movement are trying to achieve with the help of independent communities on the water.
The organization’s first project, Ocean Builders, is deployed in Panama. It represents the production of “ocean mushrooms” – double modules in shallow water with all amenities, called SeaPod. Such housing impresses with its compactness, chamberness and gorgeous ocean view. However, so far this model is only being developed.
Ventive Floathouse in California, specializes in modular capsule dwellings. Thanks to the special design, it can be either a single house-float, or an entire community, united in a “snowflake”. Several of these communities can be turned into a whole city. Information on the value of the property is disclosed upon request.
The company Blue Frontiers, is currently negotiating the creation of a special economic zone for Seasteading, but so far they have not led to any results. It was with this company that in 2017 was associated both a major success, and at the same time a serious failure in the creation of floating islands. Then the government of French Polynesia (controlled by France, located in the South Pacific) gave the green light to the project, but because of the tense political situation in the country, it had to be curtailed.
No less ambitious undertaking is the Blueseed cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco. A business incubator was supposed to appear here. To take part in the project, beginning entrepreneurs would not even have to apply for a work visa. It was planned that successful startups “descend” from the ship to the shore and are implemented directly in the Silicon Valley, located nearby. But in 2014, after repeated attempts to attract financing, the project had to be curtailed.
At the moment, not a single seasteading-project has been fully implemented. Basically, everything depends on financing. In order to build even a single module on the ocean, a significant investment is required. Not every “representative of the middle class of a developed country” can pay such an amount. This whole story, in spite of convincing arguments and good goals, for the time being remains a utopian and beautiful fairy tale.