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Let a Million Nations Bloom

September 23, 2009

Once upon a time, American liberals were inspired by an idealistic “can do” attitude, based on the extraordinary achievements of science, technology, and enterprise. One of the most repulsive aspects of contemporary American liberalism is the extent to which it tends to be dour and negative, despite the alleged “Hope” represented by Obama. In part this is due to the fact that the Leftist academics are still depressed by the fact that communism collapsed (See, for example, this explicit dirge). More immediately, of course, it is due to the fact that after all of the other initiatives of the left had failed, they rallied around environmentalism as their last attempt to rally support for the hatred of capitalism.

As a healthy antidote to this species of hostility to progress, I recently ran across this paper by one C. Marchetti that argues for a carrying capacity on earth of one trillion human beings, primarily by means of extensive ocean colonies. Marchetti makes the Seasteading folks seem modest in their current ambitions. He makes the case for creating ever more perfect nature preserves on land (which environmentalists want) not by forcibly eliminating human reproductive freedom (John Holdren is the most prominent advocate of that approach), but by colonizing the sea in a BIG way. While I haven’t gone through Marchetti’s calculations, it is helpful to have a concrete analysis in the spirit of Julian Simon that includes Seasteading as a major part of the solution. See also John McCarthy’s pages on “Sustainability” which, while not as out there as Marchetti, definitely expand the notion of sustainability beyond mainstream discourse. Marchetti’s analysis is inspired in part by the work of John Craven, profiled by Wired here, whose work also seems highly relevant to Seasteading. A trillion people living in a million cities with a million people each, most of which are floating on the ocean? Let’s think big.

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11 Comments
  1. September 24, 2009 12:40 pm

    …And all those millions of seasteading cities, dumping their garbage into the ocean beneath them.

    This is hardly an ecologically sound decision. There’s already rumour (and documentation, actually) of enormous, gelatinous masses of plastic congesting the oceans…Can you imagine the outcome if we started placing cities upon them? How will all those seasteaders be fed when the water they need to use is gunked up with garbage, and the fish they eat are full of chunks of plastic?

    Here’s a link to an article on the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” on everyone’s favourite information source:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

    • September 24, 2009 6:08 pm

      FYI, the garbage patch is very thin – it’s not a pile of trash, but rather a very large area where there is a lot of visible trash scattered here and there. Disposing of trash is not a serious problem. Plastic can be recycled into floating islands via the technology of a company called Floating Islands International.

      The trash is there because the ocean is a commons that no one owns and cares about keeping clean. If people live there, they will care.

  2. Kol. Klink permalink
    September 24, 2009 12:45 pm

    “flowidealism” is obviously as nuts as Holdren.

  3. September 24, 2009 2:33 pm

    The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is obviously dreadful. Does the fact that it exists somehow imply that floating garbage is a permanent technology?

    The lack of imaginative capacity for solutions is truly striking. The only way that a Simonesque future makes sense is by means of technological innovation, radical technological innovation, but that innovation can and will include directions that are, well, new. High quality, biodegradable packaging already exists, and will become orders of magnitude better if the incentives are aligned correctly.

    Clearly we need to develop far more sophisticated institutions based on property rights to solve global environmental problems. But again, new legal institutions that create property rights solutions to tragedy of the commons problems are a known technology that will be developed and improved in the decades to come.

    The lives we live in 2009 would have been regarded as “nuts” in 1909, and even more so in 1809, and so forth, at least by many people. On the other hand, I directly credit visionaries such as Bacon, on the one hand, and Jules Verne and the classic science fiction tradition, on the other hand, for helping guide the way to the achievements we have today. The death of vision leads to the death of possibility leads to the death of progress.

  4. Mike Gibson permalink*
    September 24, 2009 7:15 pm

    To follow up what Michael says, I recommend Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being, a Study of the History of an Idea. I’d say it’s one of the first works in the study of cognitive biases. Lovejoy explores this incorrigible human tendency to assume everything’s already been created–that all that could be created, has been created.

    According to Lovejoy, all of philosophy is a footnote to Plato, but not as you’d expect. We assume “ideas” are static, whole, independent of mind, there to be found, hidden, but not created. And this holds not only for ideas but for objects and goods. In fact, that’s all wrong.

    If we admit new things can happen, that there are many things that could exist that do not yet exist, a new dawn breaks. Open your mind, check your premises. Let yourself be seduced!

  5. anthony innes permalink
    September 26, 2009 4:15 am

    The state of the Oceans/seas/and coastal fringes around this planet have escaped the notice of flowidealism.We are in way worse shape than most realise.The anthropocentric hubris of this discussion is a result of the infantile narcissism and ecocidal “breed til it breaks ” trajectory of a species that really has got some shocks in store.No arguement with those who see the water issue as a crisis of the commons but further colonizing is the mentality that got us here.The destruction of the mediteranean and its surrounds and the Chinese/India experience is all the proof necessary that population has to drop.This carrying capacity is like the angels on a pinhead discussion.Nothing but more uninformed poor and so called educated moronic imbeciles failing to realise that this was heaven and we have made it hell.

    • September 26, 2009 10:01 am

      Okay. Sure. You first though.

      Be an hero; save the human race.

  6. kurt9 permalink
    September 26, 2009 10:46 pm

    Mike Gibson,

    The responses you are receiving here are a perfect example of why seasteading is so necessary. I have found that both the liberal-left, especially the luddite greens, as well as the Christian right simply cannot be reasoned with. It is pointless to argue with such people (as it is pointless to argue with “political” people). They must be escaped from.

    This is simply reason #234 why seasteading (and eventually space colonization) is necessary.

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