Home on the Water-Range: Seasteading
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Have you ever wanted to be the king of your own country? To be able to set laws as you want? Maybe to just live on an island with your own rules? Seasteading has become the newest fascination among millionaires and tycoons alike. While it is gaining a lot of traction, the process of trying out this unorthodox governing method has already been met with controversy.
Seasteading, a cross between “sea” and “homesteading,” is the idea of setting up mini-states of connected homes on international waters so that a civilization can be started that is outside of any government territory. The homes are called seasteads. Starting in 2008 in Silicon Valley, Patri Friedman started to work on a way to make seasteading happen (Ocean Builders). He soon teamed up with Peter Thiel to start designing and conceptualizing the seasteads. The seasteads often look like large luxury oil rigs, the ‘homes’ rising high above sea level to account for any potential waves. There has also been talk over seasteads becoming resorts or hotels for tycoons and billionaires. Friendman’s organization that helps coordinate and fund Seasteading projects is called “The Seasteading Institute.” It does not actually build any of these seasteads—they “empower” other organizations to put Seasteading into action. For instance, The Seasteading Institute was in talks with Ocean Builders, a venture company, about building a resort near Thailand (Reuters).
So, with all this talk about getting these lush sea-homes built, what has come of it? Seasteading has experienced plenty of leaps forward and setbacks since their conception. At first, French Polynesia was going to take up the mantle and work with the institute to implement some of these autonomous communities (Reason). However, the deal ended up falling through due to the host nation getting cold feet on the economic and political implications of hosting these seastead communities. In the mean time, off the coast of Thailand, Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, volunteered to live on one of the first seasteads (The Wall Street Journal). Ocean Builders fully funded and built the seastead, and Chad was thinking of becoming a full investor if he was satisfied with the living condition. However, their time on the seastead was cut short by the Thai Navy. Thinking that they were a cult trying to make their own micronation, the navy seized the floating ocean home and hauled it into shore by utility boat. While the seastead was technically outside of Thai borders, it was still in their exclusive economic zone where they could drill for minerals and oil, but not part of their whole territory technically. Chad and Supranee are currently in hiding. If they are caught and tried for invalidating the sovereignty of Thailand, it could mean the death penalty or life in prison. Proponents of seasteading are trying to find a new place where they can build, thinking of perhaps moving farther out into international waters.
One of the biggest trends among Silicon Valley millionaires and cryptocurrency investors is the idea of seasteading, where one can take up residence on a floating oil rig. Some have been thinking of using them as eco-friendly ocean-hotels and resorts. Others want to live out the libertarian dream of making a community unencumbered by national laws and taxes. Seasteading is unbelievably fascinating. It has an air of James Bond villain to it (I could see myself on one of these seasteads, concocting some pretty cool evil plan with a cat in my lap). While there have been plenty of political hiccups regarding finding a place to put these rigs, I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of seasteading. It’s only a matter of time until we see another crack at ocean community living.