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Paypal Founder Puts a Half Million Dollars Into Seasteading 275

Posted by timothy
from the liberation-seaology dept.
eldavojohn writes "Wired is running an informative article on Paypal Founder Peter Thiel's investment in seasteading. There's a great graphic indicating how the spar design helps platforms weather rough seas with a ballast. There's a lot more than just Thiel throwing the half million towards this and they hope to pitch this to San Fransisco for a bay pilot. Ocean colonies can be both liberating and also downright human-rights-lacking scary."
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Paypal Founder Puts a Half Million Dollars Into Seasteading

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  • by solweil (1168955) <.humungus.ayatol ... at. .gmail.com..> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#23495144)
    It is clear by now that we will not have the possibility for independent space colonization anytime soon. Seasteading is the best bet for those of us who feel that the status quo of society is not good enough.
  • no thanks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:52PM (#23495152)
    what about piracy = home invasions? and storms (hurricanes) dry land can be dangerous enough, seasteading is just over the top (over the top of an abyss that can drown you that is)...
  • Re:no thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pjt48108 (321212) <pjt48108@noSPaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:19PM (#23495496) Homepage

    My bet is that these colonies can be the next Atlantis if someone finds a cheep way to use the local resources to make sturdy building material (something like nanites that turn the sand into quartz). However that is a LONG way off.
    Once upon a time, I read a book which addressed this issue, albeit for a different seafaring concept. It involved using manganese (I seem to recall) bars in a mesh, which, when electricity was run through it, would accrete calcium carbonate to it from seawater. Eventually, this would create a shell on which the colony would float, and from which further accretions could expand it.

    The concept also involved leveraging temperature differentials in seawater to generate electricity, and using the immediate vicinity of colonies to farm algae, etc. Using these colonies as a hub of a hydrogen economy was also envisioned.

    These ideas made it into a website for the Living Universe Foundation, but I don't recall if the book had any connection to them or not.
  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:24PM (#23495570)
    Here's a crazy idea...

    Word is there exists the Great Pacific Garbage Patch [google.com] which is the accumulation of seaborne trash into a blob somewhere on par with Texas in size.
    Now work with me here ...
    That's a whole lotta floating stuff already in a relatively stable position (occupying a major ocean current vortex); surely an inventive aspiring frontiersman could turn that mass of materials into an inhabitable floating island. Material acquisition & relocation is already mostly taken care of, as there's a Texas-sized mass of it already there. Much of it is plastic, which should be easily (for the "news for nerds" crowd) reformed on-site into more suitable structures. It's already in a stable vortex, so it's not going to be unmanagably mobile, and remains well outside any nation's claimable waters. There may already be sufficiently compacted sections to stand on & start work from.

    Thoughts?
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:25PM (#23495588)
    The first thing that came to my mind was this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Peterbus_Unum [wikipedia.org]

    While he article touches on a lot of the obvious issues (piracy, sovereignty, etc), they seem to have missed this episode of Family Guy.

    For the purpose of discussion, here's a short list of other issues that don't seem that trivial to me:

    1) No natural resources. Or in other words, there's nothing there that anyone wants. You might be able to grow your own food and harvest the necessities from the sea, but you can basically forget about having any exports. This would be a deficit economy just about any way you shake it.

    2) Environment is fatal to humans. Should the platform sink, everybody dies. Few of the places on earth with this level of lethality house humans for any real length of time without some really compelling reason to be there (see above...)

    3) 'Nation problems'. Without any allies, any nation can declare war on you and sink you. You're a nation now, so you're expected to play at that level. Likewise, your neighbor on his own platform can declare war on you - he's running a nation, too. PirateBay platform, meet the RIAA platform... Do you plan to appeal to the United Nations? Can you even do that if you're not a member? What about trade agreements? There's really a LOT to consider here.

    4) 'Hot button' nations. Can Osama float a platform and no longer be considered a terrorist, rather a dictator? What about those pedo-polygamists? Can't they just float a platform and go right on forcing marriage and sex on pre-teens? And if this is possible, wouldn't others want desperately to sink them? Or, if not sink you could they not simply blockade you, or otherwise apply pressure to cut you off from the outside world?

    I guess what I'm trying to say is: Nations are nations because of where they are and what they have, not merely because of their desire to be independent.

    Peter eventually caved. He didn't even manage to get an ink-pen for his trouble...
  • by Bombula (670389) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:33PM (#23495706)
    I'm not sure seasteading is necessarily the best bet. Creating artificial islands might be more feasible than creating floating platforms. There are a vast number of seamounts just under the ocean's surface (ie: within 20 meters) that lie well outside any territorial waters of nations, particularly in the southwestern Pacific and the mid-atlantic. I'm not sure the advantages of mobility offered by seastead platforms outweigh the advantages of building up from the seafloor itself. And don't get locked into thinking this could only be done by building a tower down from the surface. For a a relatively modest cost (hundreds of millions), artificial islands make from deposited rubble just like the projects in Dubai could be undertaken in hundreds of locations worldwide.
  • Re:no thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:44PM (#23495850) Homepage
    Exactly.. storms and quakes are dangerous enough on land. And while there may not necessarily be physical assets worth plundering (because rich people never keep their valuables on hand, I guess), there are still protection rackets, hostage/ransom situations, and random violence to contend with, and as a wealthy independent nation, you'd be ripe for all of the above.

    You'd have low volume, high cost, and high reliance on imports, with little to nothing to export, except perhaps intellectual property (with no means to protect), assuming you even believe in IP as a libertarian. Satellite internet is high latency, low bandwidth, and most people would probably be dissatisfied with such limited connection to the outside world.

    Cabin fever is all but guaranteed, and an active social life is basically out of the question. You'd have to worry about mutiny, sabotage, fires, fresh water supply, leaks, maintenance, and all the other concerns of a seagoing vessel, without the convenience of being able to pull into a port if things get hairy. In short, it seems like the disadvantages seriously outweigh any advantage of pseudo-independence (pseudo, since you're still reliant on the outside world to A) play nice, and B) supply you with durable goods and consumables).

    But what do I know? I've only spent 6 years in the Navy, and 6 years living on a small island.. not like I've had any relevant experience.
  • by wdavies (163941) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:49PM (#23495916) Homepage
    Its bad enough living on small islands, where the energy cost of transportation is so inefficient compared to mainland cities.

    Where would you go if you wanted to walk on a hill? Frankly I'd rather be part of a "Red Mars" mission than this.

    It's kind of a sad reflection on the kind of society we would live in if Ayn Rand inspired techno-geeks ruled the world. Do none of them appreciate the social infrastructure than allowed them to spend their time inventing stuff, instead of living the life of a frontiersman foraging for food and dying of disease. Private 737 anyone?

    Spend the research money on tech to save the environment we have. If we were meant to live ON the sea, god would have given us gills and a taste for our urine...

  • not a new idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:08PM (#23496160) Homepage
    I think what is worse is that they are painting these spar platforms as something completely new. Oil platforms in deep water have been doing this for years. [worleyparsons.com] They're somewhat rare but are one of the best solutions in very deep water. The great downside is that to move them, you generally have to lift the topsides (living areas, oil production and working areas) off of the spar with an enormous crane and then tow the cylinder section lying down.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:14PM (#23496248) Homepage

    While he article touches on a lot of the obvious issues (piracy, sovereignty, etc)

    He touches on them, but he doesn't address them to any degree. Which isn't surprising because many of the proponents of these projects are a bit vague and handwavish on the details themselves. To take the two issues you mention:
    • Sovereignty - these colonies are no more sovereign than a condominium complex. In fact, legally speaking, (though IANAL) they appear to be little more than condominiums. There's a fairly good size body of law concerning vessels at sea, and nowhere in that body is (as proponents seem to believe) is the line "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".
       
    • Piracy - David Friedman, quoted in the article, is dead wrong on this issue. Pirates attack much more than container vessels. In recent years they've attacked cruise ships and private yachts as well. Pirates aren't something you can just handwave away.
       

    'Nation problems'. Without any allies, any nation can declare war on you and sink you. You're a nation now, so you're expected to play at that level. Likewise, your neighbor on his own platform can declare war on you - he's running a nation, too. PirateBay platform, meet the RIAA platform... Do you plan to appeal to the United Nations? Can you even do that if you're not a member? What about trade agreements? There's really a LOT to consider here.

    As much as proponents of this scheme like to pretend otherwise - they aren't nations in a legal sense. They are passengers and/or operators of a vessel at sea. They are subject to the laws of the nation who flags the vessel, the laws of the nation(s) issuing their passports, and a wide variety of laws and conventions covering behavior at sea, environmental regulations, etc... etc... (Not to mention more obscure bodies of law like banking regulations, passport agreements, postal agreements, agricultural agreements...)
     
    They can claim to be a nation - but I suspect that will be a hollow claim, little more than LARP on a grand scale.
     
     

    No natural resources. Or in other words, there's nothing there that anyone wants. You might be able to grow your own food and harvest the necessities from the sea, but you can basically forget about having any exports. This would be a deficit economy just about any way you shake it.

     
    That's going to be a bigger issue than you might think. The infrastructure costs of these platforms is going to run into the hundreds of millions, and the operating costs won't exactly be pocket change either. The folks that put up the gold are going to be very interested in protecting their investment - I suspect the desire to run a libertarian paradise is going to run sharply into the brick wall of dollars and cents.
  • by shar303 (944843) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:16PM (#23496278)
    Strictly speaking it doesn't mean nowhere - clearly the term utopia has come to mean something quite different since More wrote Utopia 400 odd years ago.

    It's certainly true that he meant "no place" at the time; the society that he envisioned was put up as a lame duck imho.

    An example up of this, and one of my favorite bits in the book is when King Utopus says that it's pointless trying to explain to people how such a society (Utopia) could work - one would have to see it at close hand. Obviously the place is fictional, and thus More is making clear his view on the notion that you can engineer a new society from scratch.

    Obviously there are completely different ways of understanding this playful book - part of the reason why it's considered one of the most important Renaissance books, and a great humanist text.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:18PM (#23496318) Journal
    Also wondering about food, waste disposal and power.

    The ocean is full of tasty critters.

    The critters dump their organic waste into the water, where it is recycled by other critters. Why shouldn't the humans? (They already do it on ocean-going vessels. Blackwater is an issue on land and enclosed waterways, not in mid ocean.)

    For non-biodegradable waste: Jetsam dumped overboard in deep water won't be an issue for geologic time. That leaves flotsam, which would have to be dealt with in more ordinary ways. (Fortunately, that's a small amount of the waste and mostly imported anyhow. So it can be shipped out to some place that can handle it.)

    At most latitudes there's lots of wind available, with no mountains, trees, and buildings to slow it down. (Sometimes there's a bit more wind than you'd like.)

    If you want to settle the "horse latitudes" (where there's rarely wind), there's plenty of solar power. And a handy way to tap it is to pump up cold water from deeper down and run a heat engine on the temperature difference between it and the upper-level water. Then you dump the nutrient-rich deep water locally and farm the resulting massive explosion of plants and critters.

    The idea that purchasing a flag of convenience will providing meaningful protection seems a bit naive..

    Flags of convenience are a protection against GOVERNMENT predation. (Which is essentially the point of this whole exercise.)

    Will every citizen be a trained firefighter? Who will provide emergency medical services?

    The same sort of people who provide such services on ocean-going vessels or in houses in very rural areas. These are already solved problems - with solutions that vary depending on the size of the community and the degree of its location's isolation.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:39PM (#23496560) Homepage
    So to create "utopia" we just have to make everyone "fair" ?

    Americans have over 20 times the average income in the world. Since you are a "fair" individual ... surely you will donate the difference, 90% of your pay, to me, right ?

    Doing otherwise "is not fair".

    It's not fair that you have freedom of speech. Only 300 million people have freedom of speech, that means 5.7 billion do not. So it's not fair that you get to post this dissenting opinion of yours. Surely you'll remove it, right ?

    Doing otherwise "is not fair".

    It's not fair that you have freedom of beliefs. You are born in a christian nation. Were you born in a muslim nation, you'd have been killed for dissenting from that religion. So we'll see you next sunday in church right ?

    That you get to choose not to go "is not fair".

    It's not fair that you have a job. Still more than 50% of people worldwide do not have a job. So you'll quit, right ?

    Doing otherwise "is not fair".

    And let's not kid ourselves : the above described "fair" situations is exactly what your utopia has to offer. No thanks. In fact I will kill you for attempting to create said utopia anywhere near me.

    Distopia is a better word. Perhaps God has a utopia. Certainly, no human does.
  • Re:no thanks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:43PM (#23496604) Homepage
    As noted by Samuel Johnson many years ago:

    No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned. ... A man in a jail has more room, better food and commonly better company. (Boswell's Life of Johnson)

    And this would be worse than a boat. At least a boat is designed to go somewhere else.

    Unless you can somehow boot strap this into some huge city sized complex ($$$, 500K isn't even earnest money), it's not going to fly.

  • Re:Sweet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:08PM (#23496956) Homepage Journal
    Pirates? Sex? Hell, the cabin boys are already trembling in fear.

    The real scary proposition represented in these platforms is the further breakdown of human society. The haves and have-nots of existing bad urban planning will be magnified. "Haves" on clean, platforms with exploited labour imported sans regulation and protection from the Philippines. "Have-nots" on the toxic-waste dumps of continental land - allowed to degrade and suffer.

    This is a vision from H.G. Wells "The Time Machine". The moral problem with "Transhumanists" is that they regard human beings as expendable - in much the same way that 19th-century industrialists viewed drayage horses.
  • Re:heh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Entropy2016 (751922) <entropy2016@yahoo . c om> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:36PM (#23497294)

    Then you dump the nutrient-rich deep water locally and farm the resulting massive explosion of plants and critters.
    You're talking about deliberate manipulation of complex ecological systems. The idea of pulling this off without significant negative ramifications leaves me quite skeptical. (If you can cite some examples of this being done successfully, I'd be interested to see it). To anyone thinking you can simply dump nutrients into the ocean, and have more fish appear, I'd say they need to study a bit more about eutrophication. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutrophication [wikipedia.org]
    More isn't better, and there is a point at which you will cause algae/cyanobacteria to kill off the stuff you plan to eat. As that stuff dies and decomposes, it causes even more harm by ruining the water's dissolved oxygen content, killing more of your fish.
    No offense intended, but any talk of just dumping nutrients into the ocean to bring edible fish sounds naive to me.

    Also wondering about food, waste disposal and power.
    The ocean is full of tasty critters.
    And other people want them too. Fish populations have been in serious decline. How long do you think it would take for a political dispute to be formed over fishing rights of regions where fish are (relatively) abundant?
    I know if I've been making a living fishing an area for all my life, and some rich tax-dodgers planted a city over it, I'd be pissed as hell. The libertarian colony would be sustaining itself at the expense of people to whom they don't ever have to answer to.

    And what happens if this libertarian colony plants itself atop of rich fishing grounds for the sole purpose of using it to sell to a nearby nation?

    Another potential problem would be what happens when a land-nation's nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus runoff from agriculture causes eutrophication in the area they use for food. It hurts the colony.

    What happens if eutrophication hurts a nation or colony, and they both try to blame eachother? In the time it takes them to sort stuff out, people are starving on the colony.

    There are potential problems posed for both sides. Simply stating that there are lots of fish in the sea (IMHO) is a gross oversimplification of an extremely important aspect of manufacturing a nation (food supply). Not to mention manufacturing a nation in a place which is inherently hostile to humans.

    Don't forget, relying exclusively upon seafood could be a health risk. The mercury content in fish isn't exactly a good thing these days, especially for women.

    Will every citizen be a trained firefighter? Who will provide emergency medical services?
    The same sort of people who provide such services on ocean-going vessels or in houses in very rural areas. These are already solved problems - with solutions that vary depending on the size of the community and the degree of its location's isolation.
    I think you underestimate the differences between performing such emergency services on land versus open-ocean. It's significantly more difficult. There's a reason why have agencies like coast-guards (as opposed to just local police departments with some boats). In terms of emergency services mitigating disaster, a small explosion on land causing a fire is one thing. A small explosion causing a house to sink is is on a whole other level of difficulty.
  • by mjh (57755) <mark@ho r n clan.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:55PM (#23497498) Homepage Journal
    From Brian Doherty's Radicals for Capitalism [amazon.com]:

    Patri Friedman, grandson of [Nobel Laureate] Milton and son of anarcho-theorist David, is even today actively planning to launch artificial sea platform communities, which he's calling seasteads, currently hoping to start one in San Francisco Bay. That's the spirit of America, as John Adams never quite said: may I advocate classical-liberal limited government, so that my son may advocate anarcho-capitalism, and that my grandson may plan to build new artificial countries in the ocean.
    HT: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/05/over_the_sea_pa.html [econlib.org]
  • Re:heh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:49PM (#23498044)
    The ocean is full of tasty critters.

    Not any more [bbc.co.uk]
  • by burndive (855848) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:55PM (#23498080) Homepage
    Your equation of egalitarianism to justice is fallacious.

    It is not "fair" to deprive someone else of his property. If someone else does better with his property than you, and as a result, he has more money (and passes that to his children), that is fair. (Notice that I said "his property"; not something he stole.)

    The Pentateuch actually proscribes a very fair society: if implemented, it would prevent the rich from exploiting the poor, and also provide the poor opportunities to advance themselves through hard work and ingenuity (not a protected minimum wage, and not through hand-outs).

    For example, land owners were not allowed to harvest their entire crop: they were forbidden from harvesting the "corners" of the field, and from going over it more than once. This enabled the poor to go through and harvest what was left. As a consequence, nothing was wasted, and anyone who was in need could put in some work and get by.

  • Re:get real (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:29PM (#23498354)
    Fortunately you, sir, are in a 17% minority. I am very happy the right to express ones opinion applies to everyone in the USA including presidential candidates. Even if that opinion is that flag lapel pins are pseudo patriotism and shouldn't be worn by politicians as a "look at me I'm patriotic" empty gesture. McCain loves his lapel pin, but wouldn't support a new GI bill because it might give troops "incentive" to return from duty. That is the most backward logic I have ever heard in my life and was extremely surprised to hear it coming from a former POW. I'm pretty sure troop recruitment will improve as soon as the average american sees we actually support our troops in the US (assuming the good GI Bill is passed). McCain should be ashamed of himself for buying into Bush's arguments against the new GI Bill and introducing his own watered down version to avoid looking like the war-mongering troop-ignoring politician he has become.
  • Re:Blatant Hypocracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by colonslash (544210) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:34PM (#23498400)

    One of my favorite scifi books, The Great Explosion [wikipedia.org], has societal rejects being sent to different planets, and they create their own societies. The book has people with ideas that are rejected by the mainstream (such as libertarianism) making societies that work based on these ideas.

    My point is that it can be the other way around - a haven for groups that are not well tolerated by society.

  • property (Score:3, Interesting)

    by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000.yahoo@com> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @04:11AM (#23502382)

    Split the property into two separate concepts and re-assess your statements.
    ...
    I think the land and natural resources need to be divvied up differently.

    Ever hear of the Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org]?

    Google Henry George for one practical and tested method of doing this.

    Wiki's article [wikipedia.org] on him says he was anti Chinese immigrant. Besides newspapers, that's some he shared with William Randolph Hearst [wikipedia.org]. During WWII besides the Japanese Hearst wanted to put the Chinese and all other Asian into internment camps. He pressed his "yellow peril" [densho.org].

    From wiki "George preferred taxing unimproved land value". That misses all the services land offers. For instance wetlands [ramsar.org] purify water [ohio-state.edu] and recharge aquifers [cdm.com]. By taxing those lands he'd encourage people to build on that land thus depriving people of fresh water.

    It is the land ownership that **created** the poverty in the first place.

    Cite please. Actually land ownership allows people to improve their economic lot in life. Even those immigrants Henry George opposed.

    Falcon
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:27PM (#23508930)
    I understand that this is your viewpoint. But you should know that it is not a tolerant one. It's more of a "either you're with us or you're against us" attitude.

    I feel like you're saying that since this is a democracy, the majority viewpoint should dictate all behaviors. While agree that some standards must be set, I don't agree that anyone should expected to submit to governmental authority. Especially not when it comes to personal issues such as drug-use or sex (ironically, I don't use drugs or have permiscuous sex)or how I spend and earn my money (I think I know how how much my time is worth and how I will spend the money I earn, thank you very much). As far as I'm concerned the government is just there to support my personal boundries (I want to be secure in my body and my possessions, and if someone infringes on that I want to be able to take them to court to get due compensation and/or justice, but only as a last resort).

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