Sunday, February 19, 2012

Markets in Everything: Floating Cities


"The Seasteading Institute was founded in 2008 by activist, software engineer and political economic theorist Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, and technology entrepreneur, investor and Philanthropist Peter Thiel.

At The Seasteading Institute, we believe that experiments are the source of all progress: to find something better,you have to try something new. But right now, there is no open space for experimenting with new societies. That’s why we work to enable seasteading communities — floating cities — which will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government. The most successful communities can then inspire change in governments around the world. We’re opening this new frontier because humanity needs better ways to live together to unlock our full potential."

Reuters recently featured seasteading in the video above. 

 HT: Michael Denny

37 Comments:

At 2/19/2012 8:17 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Reminds me of the city of Rapture from the video game Bioshock

 
At 2/19/2012 9:56 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

I notice that they also mention the seasteading startup Blueseed, whose founders have been on Stossel and other shows. That particular idea always seemed marginal to me and now I realize why: there's no real need to collaborate in person with Silicon Valley engineers. First off, the bay area has become such a silly place that the value proposition is questionable at best. Second, you can always collaborate on software over the internet, through email, video-conferencing etc., so the few remaining places you might meet in person on such a ship are for physical tech. Even that case is marginal so I don't think Blueseed will succeed, which is too bad as seasteading should be a great step forward. A better use might be to incorporate businesses on the ship and evade US law in other ways.

 
At 2/19/2012 10:12 PM, Blogger kmg said...

While seasteading may succeed in the long run, and should be supported even by those who don't want to live there, as an alternative to the cartel of nation states.....

....Blue Seed will fail. It will be a sausage festival on the sea, 95% male.

People won't want to go there.

Now if prostitution were made legal on Blueseed, then we are talking.

 
At 2/20/2012 7:05 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

amusing.... cities need great gobs of energy, water and food.

look at an island like Bermuda to see where they get those 3 things.

 
At 2/20/2012 10:19 AM, Blogger bix1951 said...

cheaper than a moon colony but still sounds uneconomical
why not just arrange a purchase of some undesirable land from some reasonable nation that needs cash?

 
At 2/20/2012 10:51 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

why not just arrange a purchase of some undesirable land from some reasonable nation that needs cash?

Because that nation would still have sovereign control over that land. The idea of a floating city is taking advantage on international law that says no nation can claim right to the open ocean.

 
At 2/20/2012 12:10 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Some background that informs myself and maybe others:

Patri Friedman is a founder and writer at the Let A Thousand Nations Bloom blog. The premise of the blog seems to be that of more nation competition.

Patri is deeply libertarian and this Cato Institute Unbound commnetary, titled "Beyond Folk Activism", provides insight into why Patri would promote seasteading.

Patri has also endorsed the Free State Project in New Hampshire as a libertarian refuge in the U.S.

 
At 2/20/2012 1:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Bix: "cheaper than a moon colony but still sounds uneconomical
why not just arrange a purchase of some undesirable land from some reasonable nation that needs cash?
"

Perhaps this one.

 
At 2/20/2012 1:44 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jon M: "Because that nation would still have sovereign control over that land."

Ceding sovereignty would need to be part of the contract.

 
At 2/20/2012 5:09 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Ceding sovereignty would need to be part of the contract.

Right, but what nation would want to do that? I mean, no matter how much it sucks, the US isn't about to sell New Jersey :-P

But seriously, what sovereign would willingly give up part of his land, even if he's cash-strapped? I mean, India and Pakistan fought a war of Kashmir, and that's just a sweater! (just kidding just kidding)

 
At 2/20/2012 5:46 PM, Blogger Ian Random said...

Don't forget the Freedom Ship idea. Problem I have is with anything on the ocean, is the cost and conditions.

http://www.freedomship.com/

 
At 2/20/2012 6:33 PM, Blogger EconJive said...

Real social experimentation, cool!

 
At 2/20/2012 7:16 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"But seriously, what sovereign would willingly give up part of his land, even if he's cash-strapped?"...

Remember the Louisiana purchase?

Funny you should float that question jon murphy...

I have no idea if the following story is at all valid and only found it on the World Tribune site: Obama State Department set to cede oil-rich Alaska islands to Russia

(if this story originated at WND then its at best very sketchy)

 
At 2/20/2012 7:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Seasteading?

The new potential "in" places for monetary flight from high taxation...

 
At 2/20/2012 9:22 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

amusing.... cities need great gobs of energy, water and food.

They could use nuclear plants to provide plenty of electricity. The water can be shipped in by tanker and the food can be purchased. I could see an unregulated tax haven that could deal in financial, design, programming, and other professional services being very profitable and rich enough to be able to afford to import its food and water.

 
At 2/20/2012 10:45 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/20/2012 10:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"But seriously, what sovereign would willingly give up part of his land, even if he's cash-strapped? I mean, India and Pakistan fought a war of Kashmir, and that's just a sweater! (just kidding just kidding)"

King Richard would.

(My kingdom for a horse.)

A sovereign nation such as the US, where federal land is supposedly owned by all the people, should have no problem with the idea.

When you think about it, it's a ridiculous notion that a country can own land anyway.

It's hard to take seriously Columbus claiming the entire Western Hemisphere for Spain.

 
At 2/20/2012 10:52 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

VangelV: "They could use nuclear plants to provide plenty of electricity. The water can be shipped in by tanker and the food can be purchased. I could see an unregulated tax haven that could deal in financial, design, programming, and other professional services being very profitable and rich enough to be able to afford to import its food and water."

With plenty of electricity, water could be produced from seawater as many cruise ships and submarines do today.

 
At 2/20/2012 11:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos: "Obama State Department set to cede oil-rich Alaska islands to Russia"

Doesn't such an action constitute a treaty and require Senate ratification?

Without more info and believable sources, I think I'll file this in "grain-of-salt" drawer.

 
At 2/20/2012 11:06 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Remember the Louisiana purchase?"

Yeah, and I believe Alaska was purchased from Russia in a similar manner. It's amazing what large sums of money will do.

 
At 2/21/2012 1:07 AM, Blogger William Bruce said...

Why isn't this the solution to the dearth of organ markets?

Just bring in some Iranian transplant surgeons, some wealthy individuals in need of organs, etc...

 
At 2/21/2012 5:08 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

indeed!

what are the main differences between a giant cruise liner and a floating island in terms of it being a "city" ?

what advantages would a floating island have over a cruise liner?

and why could a cruise liner not be used as a floating hospital ship for willing seller/willing buyer no-govt-rules organ transplants?

 
At 2/21/2012 8:46 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

With plenty of electricity, water could be produced from seawater as many cruise ships and submarines do today.

I thought about that. Yes reactors could be used to produce seawater. And the system could be designed to collect rainwater in a large cistern to be used later. But it may still make a lot more sense to use a tanker to bring in the water if the costs are right. I just don't believe that the food/water/power issue is the problem that many of the critics think it is.

 
At 2/21/2012 9:03 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

what advantages would a floating island have over a cruise liner?

Design. A cruise liner is primarily designed to move from one place to another. There are certain constraints because it has to load and unload at a dock. A floating city could be a lot larger and have far fewer design constraints than a ship. You could house ten times the number of people that would normally be on a cruise liner and take advantage of scale.

That said, I would still be much more comfortable buying an island or two from a government that cedes political and economic control. I would actually look at something like the Seychelles. The weather is very nice and it would be much easier to set up the type of infrastructure needed than on a floating island.

and why could a cruise liner not be used as a floating hospital ship for willing seller/willing buyer no-govt-rules organ transplants?

It could be. Since there is a market for organs I suspect that we will see someone figure out a solution.

 
At 2/21/2012 1:37 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"what are the main differences between a giant cruise liner and a floating island in terms of it being a "city" ?"

Size.

"what advantages would a floating island have over a cruise liner?"

Size.

If you have spent any amount of time on a cruise ship, you may have noticed that it's fairly crowded, even though it's large. They're great places to visit for a short time, but not places a lot of people want to live.

"and why could a cruise liner not be used as a floating hospital ship for willing seller/willing buyer no-govt-rules organ transplants?"

The high expense. There are already plenty of places for someone willing to pay the price to get a kidney transplanted from a willing seller.

The problem isn't the available of surgery and medical treatment, but the high cost and low availability of kidneys on the black market. These are cash transactions, by the way.

Also there may not be a large number of surgeons and other necessary medical people willing to do little else besides organ transplants and willing to live full time on a cruise ship, with all the drawbacks and few of the benefits of a cruise.

 
At 2/21/2012 1:48 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I thought about that. Yes reactors could be used to produce seawater. And the system could be designed to collect rainwater in a large cistern to be used later. But it may still make a lot more sense to use a tanker to bring in the water if the costs are right. I just don't believe that the food/water/power issue is the problem that many of the critics think it is."

I doubt that many floating cities would be interested in producing seawater - but I knew what you meant. :)

A greater problem might be the availability of nuclear reactors for such use. As far as I know, there are no non-military ships with nuke reactors.

I can only assume, though, that either a nuke reactor or a very long extension cord is the planned power source for such floating cities, as none of the pictures I've seen show the forests of wind turbines and solar panels required for those sources.

 
At 2/21/2012 2:45 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Makes about as much sense as ofshore wind.

 
At 2/21/2012 2:50 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

With plenty of electricity, water could be produced from seawater as many cruise ships and submarines do today.

=================================

It is an alternative use. While this can be done, it might make more sense to ship water in than to desalinate sea water.

Like Offshore wind, it is a question of cost.

 
At 2/21/2012 3:05 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

well yeah...

if one thinks solar and wind is uneconomic.. they pale in comparison to the economics of floating islands.

electricity in Bermuda, for instance costs .40 a kilowatt hour and is produced with fuel oil.

 
At 2/21/2012 3:36 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"It is an alternative use. While this can be done, it might make more sense to ship water in than to desalinate sea water."

"More sense" must equal cheaper.

Current cruise ships powered by diesel-electric or gas turbines or a combination of both, desalinate seawater for their water supply. This, despite the fact that most cruises involve docking frequently, at which times water would be available.

Admittedly, total control of one's water supply eliminates some health risks, and might outweigh any additional cost, if there is one, but I doubt that that's always the case.

 
At 2/21/2012 3:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"if one thinks solar and wind is uneconomic.. they pale in comparison to the economics of floating islands."

It's not clear what your point is here, but the cost of power is a consideration no matter where it's needed, and the most economical and practical choice that meets requirements will be chosen, absent political interference.

That would almost certainly be nuclear, but that's not likely to be politically acceptable.

"electricity in Bermuda, for instance costs .40 a kilowatt hour and is produced with fuel oil."

Well, that's fascinating, but I'm not sure why we should care.

 
At 2/21/2012 4:01 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

well I was pointing out that power and water are big deals on real islands... that don't have water supplies or fossil fuel supplies.

Many of these places have to rely on fuel oil and cisterns.

I'm not sure at all about Nukes being cheaper or allowed.

I know this would upset some but I suspect the countries of the world consider themselves the collective owners of the oceans and anyone who operates outside of existing treaties - in "violation" and "illegal".

are there any current examples of totally unaffiliated ships other than pirates right now?

 
At 2/21/2012 4:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"It is an alternative use. While this can be done, it might make more sense to ship water in than to desalinate sea water."

"More sense" must equal less costly.

Cruise ships currently powered by diesel/electric, or gas turbines, or a combination of both produce their own water supply by desalinating seawater. This, despite the fact that most cruises I'm aware of involve frequent docking, at which time fresh water is available.

While total control of one's water supply has some obvious advantages for passenger health which would justify a higher cost, I'm not convinced that's the whole reason for the choice.

 
At 2/21/2012 4:30 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"are there any current examples of totally unaffiliated ships other than pirates right now?"

An unaffiliated ship would be unable to enter most harbors or dock. As far as I know, most countries want to know who is approaching them and why. Being unaffiliated would be fine, if you never planned to approach land anywhere.

Pirates aren't exactly unaffiliated either. Even Somali pirates don't spent their entire lives floating around in small boats.

 
At 2/21/2012 4:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"are there any current examples of totally unaffiliated ships other than pirates right now?"

An unaffiliated ship would be unable to enter most harbors or dock. As far as I know, most countries want to know who is approaching them and why. Being unaffiliated would be fine, if you never planned to approach land anywhere.

Pirates aren't exactly unaffiliated either. Even Somali pirates don't spent their entire lives floating around in small boats.

 
At 2/21/2012 4:59 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

A greater problem might be the availability of nuclear reactors for such use. As far as I know, there are no non-military ships with nuke reactors.

I don't see that as a long term problem. Look at the nukes that Terrapower wants to build in China. Low maintenance. Low waste. Safe. It should be easy to build and install such a reactor on a floating city. Given the fact that it would be encased in a huge chunk of concrete access would be very difficult.

 
At 2/21/2012 5:00 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

on Nukes... you'd think these islands that are dependent on fuel oil would have nukes but as far as I know.. not a one does.

 

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