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Settling the seas no longer science fiction, says NY Times

November 14, 2017

The New York Times has an article about seasteading:

[I]n 2017, with sea levels rising because of climate change and established political orders around the world teetering under the strains of populism, seasteading can seem not just practical, but downright appealing.

It mentions Ken Neumeyer’s “Sailing the Farm,” and gives an early history of the Institute – starting with Patri Friedman’s Burning Man talk, and  Peter Thiel’s 2009 Cato Unbound essay. The article is surprisingly optimistic about the prospects, and with good reason. It’s worth remembering that Thiel framed seasteading as the more realistic option for building the future when compared to outer space:

 In a 2009 essay, Mr. Thiel described seasteading as a long shot, but one worth taking. “Between cyberspace and outer space lies the possibility of settling the oceans,” he wrote.

The open oceans are still a desolate place. Outside of a few die-hard cruisers, we don’t really know how to safely, comfortably, and affordably inhabit them.

French Polynesia lowers the barriers to entry, by allowing certain geographic and political barriers to perfect mobility and autonomy. It makes sense to try to align the seastead’s interests with the political unit – in this case French Polynesia – to achieve something like an incubator for seasteading technology. These are the same technologies that islands will need in the event of extreme climate change: steady open-ocean platforms, next-generation transport vessels, and life-support systems for a new kind of society.

Seastead incubator

Update: Both the NY Times piece and a more recent VICE news article strike a different tone from most previous coverage. The change in major media reports on seasteading brings to mind Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the paradigm shift – the tipping point, when a new theory becomes recognized by a majority of the scientists in a field. First a theory seems crazy, but gradually, it begins to explain more and more of the anomalies of the old paradigm. Seasteading can be thought of as the ultimate counter-cyclical industry. As government/climate/the economy become less tenable in their present, a radical “reset” becomes more attractive.

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