Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. 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 state. The Principality of Sealand is a disputed micronation formed on a discarded sea fort near Suffolk, England. The closest things to a seastead that have been built so far are large ocean-going ships sometimes called "floating cities", and smaller floating islands.
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 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, rather than the open ocean. The institute argued that it would be easier to engineer a seastead in relatively calm, shallow waters; that the location would make it easier for residents to reach as well as to acquire goods and services from existing supply chains; and that a host nation would place a floating city within the international legal framework.
The Institute raised $27,082 from 291 funders in a 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.
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. The company AT Design Office recently made another design using the modular island method.
Many architects and firms have created designs for floating cities, including Vincent Callebaut, Paolo Soleri and companies such 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 have also yielded designs, such as those produced by Evolo and other companies.
In 2008, Friedman and Gramlich had hoped to float the first prototype seastead in the San Francisco Bay by 2010 but 2010 plans were to launch a seastead by 2014. The Seasteading Institute projected in 2010 that the seasteading population would exceed 150 individuals in 2015.
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 third Seasteading conference took place on May 31 - June 2, 2012.
As of 2011[update], Blueseed was a company working on launching a ship near Silicon Valley which was to serve as a visa-free startup community and entrepreneurial incubator. The shipstead planned to offer living and office space, high-speed Internet connectivity, and regular ferry service to the mainland. The project aims included overcoming the difficulty organizations face obtaining US work visas, intending to use the easier B-1/B-2 visas to travel to the mainland, while work will be done on the ship.[needs update] 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, Brink, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, 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.
- Transhumania is a seasteading city in the novel The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan.
- The book Snow Crash in part takes place on Rife's Raft, a floating refuge camp consisting of boats, rafts and anything that floats tied together.
- L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, engaged in a similar practice, for similar reasons (namely, avoid established governmental authority). An entire branch of the organization, including Hubbard himself and his executive leadership, became a maritime based community named the Sea Organization (Sea Org). Beginning in 1967 with a complement of four ships the Sea Org spent most of its existence on the high sea, visiting ports around the world for refueling and resupply. In 1975 much of these operations were shifted to land based locations around the world, especially in the USA (e.g. Clearwater, FL) and the UK (Saint Hill Manor).
- Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is a Japanese anime that primary takes place on a traveling city made of an interconnected fleet of ships in the 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
- Republic of Rose Island
- Russian floating nuclear power station
- Seawater Greenhouse
- Underwater habitat
- Very large floating structure
- Wolf Hilbertz
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- "Libertarian Island: No Rules, Just Rich Dudes". NPR.org. 21 May 2008.
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- 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.