Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by the government of any standing nation. Most proposed seasteads have been modified cruising vessels. Other proposed structures have included a refitted oil platform, a decommissioned anti-aircraft platform, and custom-built floating islands. No one has created a state on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign nation, although the Principality of Sealand is a disputed micronation formed on a discarded sea fort near Suffolk, England.
The term combines the words sea and homesteading. At least two people independently began using it: Ken Neumeyer in his book Sailing the Farm (1981) and Wayne Gramlich in his article "Seasteading – Homesteading on the High Seas" (1998).
Outside the Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km), which countries can claim according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the high seas are not subject to the laws of any sovereign state other than the flag under which a ship sails. Examples of organizations using this possibility are Women on Waves, enabling abortions for women in countries where abortions are subject to strict laws, and offshore radio stations which were anchored in international waters. Like these organizations, a seastead would take advantage of the absence of laws and regulations outside the sovereignty of nations, and choose from among a variety of alternate legal systems such as those underwritten by Las Portadas.
"When Seasteading becomes a viable alternative, switching from one government to another would be a matter of sailing to the other without even leaving your house," said Patri Friedman at the first annual Seasteading conference.
The Seasteading Institute
The Seasteading Institute (TSI), founded by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman on April 15, 2008, is an organization formed to facilitate the establishment of autonomous, mobile communities on seaborne platforms operating in international waters. Gramlich’s 1998 article "SeaSteading – Homesteading on the High Seas" outlined the notion of affordable steading, and attracted the attention of Friedman with his proposal for a small-scale project. The two began working together and posted their first collaborative book online in 2001, which explored aspects of seasteading from waste disposal to flags of convenience.
The project picked up mainstream exposure in 2008 after having been brought to the attention of PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, who contributed $500,000 to fund the creation of The Seasteading Institute and has since spoken out on behalf of its viability, as seen in his essay "The Education of a Libertarian", published online by Cato Unbound. The Seasteading Institute has received widespread media attention from sources such as CNN, Wired, Prospect, The Economist Business Insider, and BBC American journalist John Stossel wrote an article about seasteading in February 2011 and hosted Patri Friedman on his show on the Fox Business Network.
On July 31, 2011, Friedman stepped down from the role of executive director, and became chairman of the board. Friedman was replaced by Randolph Hencken. Concomitantly, the institute's directors of business strategy and legal strategy went on to start Blueseed, the first commercial seasteading venture.
Between May 31 and June 2, 2012, The Seasteading Institute held its third annual conference.
In the Spring of 2013, the Institute launched The Floating City Project, which combines principles of both seasteading and startup cities, by seeking to locate a floating city within the territorial waters of an existing nation. Historically, The Seasteading Institute has looked to international waters for the freedom to establish new nations and spur competitive governance from the outside. However, they are now seeking a host nation because they posit a) It is less expensive to engineer a seastead for relatively calm, shallow waters compared with the open ocean outside of territorial waters; b) it will be easier for residents to travel to and from the seastead, as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and c) a host nation will provide a place for a floating city within the existing international legal framework, with the associated protections and responsibilities. The Institute raised $27,082 from 291 funders in crowdfunding campaign and commissioned DeltaSync to design a floating city concept for The Floating City Project. In December 2013, the concept report was published. The Seasteading Institute has also been collecting data from potential residents through a survey housed at www.floating-city.org
Retrofitted cruise ships
The first seasteads are projected to be cruise ships adapted for semi-permanent habitation. Cruise ships are a proven technology, and they address most of the challenges of living at sea for extended periods of time. The cost of the first shipstead was estimated at $10M.
The Seasteading Institute has been working on communities floating above the sea in spar buoys, similar to oil platforms. The project would start small, using proven technology as much as possible, and try to find viable, sustainable ways of running a seastead. Innovations that enable full-time living at sea will have to be developed. The cruise ship industry's development suggests this may be possible.
A proposed design for a custom-built seastead is a floating dumbbell in which the living area is high above sea level, which minimizes the influence of waves. In 2004, research was documented in an online book that covers living on the oceans.
The Seasteading Institute focuses on three areas: building a community, doing research and building the first seastead in the San Francisco Bay. In January 2009, the Seasteading Institute patented a design for a 200-person resort seastead, ClubStead, about a city block in size, produced by consultancy firm Marine Innovation & Technology. ClubStead marked the first major development in hard engineering, from extensive analysis to simulations, of the seasteading movement.
At the Seasteading Institute Forum, an idea arose to create an island from modules. There are several different designs for the modules, with a general consensus that reinforced concrete is the most proven, sustainable and cost-effective material for seastead structures, as indicated by use in oil platforms and concrete submarines.
Many architects and firms have created designs for floating cities, including Vincent Callebaut, Paolo Soleri and companies as Shimizu and Tangram 3DS. Marshall Savage also discussed building tethered artificial islands in his book The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps, with several color plates illustrating his ideas. Some design competitions companies such as Evolo have also yielded designs.
Friedman and Gramlich had hoped to float the first prototype seastead in the San Francisco Bay by 2010 but current plans are to launch a seastead by 2014. The Seasteading Institute projects that in 2014, the seasteading population will exceed 150 individuals.
The Seasteading Institute held its first conference in Burlingame, California, October 10, 2008. 45 people from 9 countries attended. The second Seasteading conference was significantly larger, and held in San Francisco, California, September 28–30, 2009.
The first "Ephemerisle" event was held October 2–4, 2009, on the Sacramento River delta in California by The Seasteading Institute. A second Ephemerisle event scheduled for July 22–25, 2010, was canceled by organizers. TSI cited "unexpectedly high insurance costs" as the reason and stated that it would indefinitely postpone plans for a future Ephemerisle to concentrate on its research initiatives. However, many attendees still gathered in the same location on the planned date for a grassroots community weekend consisting of informal presentations, talks and socializing.
Community-run Ephemerisle events continued annually on the Sacramento River delta in 2011 and 2012, and the 5th annual event is scheduled for July 10–14, 2013. Due to event growth, 2012 and 2013 featured multiple "islands" of houseboats, sailboats, platforms, and rafts tied together, each with different themes and cultures, embodying the seasteading concept of dynamic geography.
Blueseed is a company working on launching a ship near Silicon Valley which will serve as a visa-free startup community and entrepreneurial incubator. The shipstead will be offering living and office space, high-speed Internet connectivity, and regular ferry service to the mainland. The project aims to overcome the difficulty organizations face obtaining US work visas. It will use the easier B-1/B-2 visas to travel to the mainland, while work will be done on the ship. Blueseed founders Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija met when both were employees of The Seasteading Institute.
In popular culture
Seasteading has been imagined numerous times in pop culture in recent years.
- Waterworld was a major motion picture that featured seastead communities at various points throughout the film.
- In video games, the idea of a city on the ocean to escape from any kind of government is the main plot of the games "BioShock" and "BioShock 2", while in the Metal Gear games a fictional private military company named "Militaires sans Frontieres" (Army Without Borders) maintains a base in the ocean, named Mother Base, that is independent from any government.
- The anime series, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, features a gigantic salvage vessel doubling as a live-in seastead for its residents and scavenger crews in the Pacific Ocean.
- Artificial island
- Deep sea mining
- Floating airport
- Freedom Ship
- Intentional community
- Jacque Fresco
- Kiyonori Kikutake's marine city
- Marine energy
- Mobile offshore base
- Ocean thermal energy conversion
- Operation Atlantis
- Pneumatic stabilized platform
- Republic of Minerva
- Russian floating nuclear power station
- Seawater Greenhouse
- Underwater habitat
- Very large floating structure
- Wolf Hilbertz
- Mangu-Ward, Katherine (April 28, 2008). "Homesteading on the High Seas: Floating Burning Man, "jurisdictional arbitrage," and other adventures in anarchism". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- Danny O'Brien, "Explorers in the Valley still charting new territory", Irish Times, Sep. 19, 2008.
- SeaSteading - Homesteading the High Seas. Gramlich.net (1999-08-31). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
- Baker, Chris (January 19, 2009). "Live Free or Drown: Floating Utopias on the Cheap". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
- Alexis Madrigal, "Peter Thiel Makes Down Payment on Libertarian Ocean Colonies", Wired Science, May. 19, 2009.
- "City floating on the sea could be just 3 years away". CNN. March 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Cities on the Ocean". The Economist. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Peter Thiel (April 13, 2009). "The Education of a Libertarian".
- "Seasteading: the great escape". Prospect Magazine. April 2010.
- Stossel, John (11 February 2011). "Is Seasteading the Future?".
- Friedman, Patri (31 July 2011). "The Seasteading Institute – July 2011 Newsletter". Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- "The Seasteading Conference". Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- "About Seasteading - Frequently Asked Questions". The Seasteading Institute. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- McCullagh, Declan (February 2, 2009). "Next Frontier: "Seasteading" The Oceans". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- May Young, Niki (May 22, 2008). "The Seasteading Institute established to develop permanent ocean communities.". World Architecture News. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- Gramlich, Wayne; Friedman, Patri; Houser, Andrew (2002–2004). "Seasteading". seasteading.org. Retrieved 2009-02-28.
- "ClubStead". seasteading.org. 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
- Topic: Modular Island Design. Seasteading.org. Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
- Topic: Apply Seasteading Concrete Shell Structures. Seasteading.org. Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
- Vincent Callebaut Lilypad
- "LILYPAD, A Floating Ecopolis for Ecological Refugees"
- Rose, Steve (August 25, 2008). "The man who saw the future". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Floating city designs
- Evolo 2012
- Evolo 2011
- Frucci, Adam. "Silicon Valley Nerds Plan Sea-Based Utopian Country to Call Their Own", Gizmodo, 5-20-08
- Park, Bryant. "Libertarian Island: No Rules, Just Rich Dudes", National Public Radio, 5-21-08
- "Meetup.com - October 2010 Seasteading Social at the Hyatt Regency SF". Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- "Seasteading: A Possible Timeline". Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- "Seasteading Institute 2008 Annual Report". TSI. April 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
- "Seasteading 2009 Annual Conference". TSI. August 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
- McCullagh, Declan (2009-10-11). "Seasteaders Take First Step Toward Colonizing The Oceans". CBSNews. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
- "The Seasteading Conference".
- "2009 Gallery". Ephemerisle.org. 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
- "Ephemerisle 2010 Cancellation". Ephemerisle.org. 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
- "Ephemerisle Program Update". Seasteading.org/. 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
- "UnEphemerisle 2010 Report". Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- "Ephemerisle Website". ephemerisle.org/. 2013-07-04. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
- Lee, Timothy (2011-11-29). "Startup hopes to hack the immigration system with a floating incubator". Ars Technica. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
- Donald, Brooke (16 December 2011). "Blueseed Startup Sees Entrepreneur-Ship as Visa Solution for Silicon Valley". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
-  "Otaku Identify Location of Gargantia"
- The Seasteading Institute
- Seasteading - Frequently Asked Questions
- Blueseed - for-profit seasteading venture
- Las Portadas (underwriting, arbitration, and government interface)
- Roberts, Russ (October 13, 2008). "Patri Friedman on Seasteading". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.