If you thought seasteading was crazy...

I've been catching up on the Econlib podcasts lately, and recently listened to Edward Castronova on Virtual Worlds. He makes a number of striking claims during the podcast, but in particular, Edward thinks that there is a very real possibility that virtual worlds will provide competitive pressure on governments. I know what you are thinking, doesn't the virtual world have to be hosted in meatspace where a government can get to it? Sure it does, but that doesn't mean it has to be centralized. Castronova points out that file sharing networks have to be hosted in meatspace, yet they are extremely difficult for governments to get a handle on.

I think seasteading has more promise, but this is an interesting possibility.

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Paging Neal Stephenson...

Paging Neal Stephenson...

Yes, I think seasteading is crazy

The only "successful" instance I know of is the "Seaorg" and that's a bunch of crazy Scientologists. It turned out to be a miniature totalitarian state.

That might have something to

That might have something to do with it being run by a bunch of crazy Scientologists.

There is still a lesson to

There is still a lesson to be learned: ideology matters. If you haven't learned it already anyway.

So ?

Why wouldn't seasteads be ideological, or rather necessarily have a bad ideology ?


Not aware of any plans for seasteading that are not "ideological".

The problem is seasteading is that it's damn limiting to live at sea. Even the most hellish governments on the planet haven't produced conditions where people thought the right solution was to put out to live indefinately at sea.

I'd list all the reasons but to any reasonable person they should be pretty damn obvious. Besides all the obvious hurdles for land based creature it's not even a good way to escape government control.

People who get paid under the table have a better solution to avoidance of government intrusion. You think you can escape the consequences of fiat monetary inflation by moving to sea? You can't. The countries that control the resources you need to trade for are all land based and all on fiat. Those repercussions are going to hit you anyway plus you've got the extra expense of trying to stay afloat.

Seasteading might make sense for a fisherman. Seastead dreamers should move to Alaska and catch king crabs for a living. That's about as close to seasteading that you are going to get to living at sea economically. I hear it's hard work and you still need to come to port and pay taxes. The only other option is to join a cult.

The secret is out

The only other option is to join a cult.

You may have stumbled onto something. And Texas CPS has no jurisdiction over the wide sea. Patri's enthusiasm for this is gradually becoming less mysterious.

Patri's a polygamist?

I wasn't aware of that.

Why do you think DDF keeps

Why do you think DDF keeps posting about the FLDS ? It's a vast conspiracy, that's why.

Move to Nebraska

Brian launched a giant torpedo that may sink Seasteading. Look, I live on the coast. The only reason to go to sea is to fish, to transport goods, to travel to some destination, to drill for oil, or to temporarily take leave from civilization.

The intersection between Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming is a better place to get privacy. LC">ink Charles Manson got privacy by moving out to Death Valley. Jim Jones got privacy by moving to Guyana. Ron Hubbard went to sea. In the post Civil War era, some southerners emigrated to South America, before moving back. The grass is always greener, but now we are out of grass, so the alternative is sand, salt water and outer space.

Many people who settled real unoccupied territory were not as much interested in starting new societies based on their peculiar ideology as maintaining their original culture. True you had people like the Mormons but they eventually wanted very much to be accepted by the mainstream. This is because life isolated in the dessert has its downside. Also note that life within these groups puts a premium on conformity, solidarity and discipline, not freedom.

Groups who settled the West could have formed their own peculiar cultures but instead had a strong drive to acculturate and educate their children to the mainstream. Note this interesting article showing how numerous separate groups of people spontaneously created schools for their children in rural Nebraska and Kansas. Link
There must have been some merit in what they were pursuing. It’s all here, no need to go to sea. Still having trouble with links which won't publish using link button. Try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8jSC9rf2Ho

AND [Link here. Please try to use URL tags if possible, Dave.]

Maybe restate the point of seasteading?

Or rather, the reason for libertarians to be interested?

Nebraska is different from the sea in two ways which seem relevant to recent discussion. First, Nebraska falls inside the current territory of an actually existing country. Second, the ocean provides a different support for human society than land, and may therefore encourage a different kind of colonization. For example, fixed locations may be less of a central aspect of a seasteading civilization, and the point has come up in the past that mobility can help liberty.

Merely as an enthusiast of visions of the technological future many have already envisioned the colonization of the sea, whole cities built underwater and the like. It is currently prohibitively expensive but that's what technological advances are for: with each passing decade the costs and benefits change. Humanity spread to most of the planet rather than remaining in Africa and they did so through technological innovation. Since technological advance is accelerating, it seems on the face of it entirely possible that we will sooner or later move out into the ocean.

However, I don't see any special reason to expect that "seasteaders" - meaning ideological libertarians bent on creating libertopia at sea - will be the trailblazers here. I expect that the human spread to the oceans will tend to be technology and economics driven rather than ideology driven, though the fundamental logic of living at sea, or at least the fundamental logic of colonization, may permanently or at least for a time create a "wild west" at sea, much as it was created in the American west.

Yup, Constant and Matt

Yup, Constant and Matt Simpson already gave the major correct points in response. As Constant said, and John T. Kennedy wrote a few years ago, The Revolution Will Be All Business. A proper view of the libertarian potential for change, like the proper view that Marx had as a historical materialist, is that major ideological change only comes as a result of or in response to major technological change. There is little point in trying to change people's minds with ideology if the material economic need just isn't there.

And Patri's book on Seasteading does address (although does not definitively answer) the objection Brian Macker raised regarding the economic incentives to Seastead. Rather than arguing in the abstract, philosophically, about whether or not Seasteads will become popular enough as a business venture (not purely an ideological venture) to succeed, Patri is appealing straight to empiricism and facts on the ground. Rather than persuade and convince us, Patri plans to show us by doing. To be successful, Patri doesn't need to convince the naysayers and the skeptics. He just needs to show them using the less skeptical as first-wave users.

Constant has it

The point of seasteading isn't privacy, though that may be a desireable side effect. The point is to improve political institutions through competition and probably even cultural institutions through what we might call 'Caplan effects' (increasing the cost to individuals of their own bad ideology). See Patri's essay on dynamic geography.

There's no reason they would

There's no reason they would necessarily have a bad or good ideology, but that doesn't mean the ideology of the seasteaders, or of members of any social institution, won't have some effect, positive or negative. For clarification, my comment wasn't a jab at seasteading; it was more of an observation which I hope is obvious to most of us.

I'm not so sure ideology

I'm not so sure ideology does matter. Part of the attraction of Patri's version of seasteading, to me at least, is that it's pluralistic with regard to ideology by the very nature of its modular structure of dynamic geography. The structure matters. The Seaorg structure wasn't dynamic/modular.

Imagine a seastead with all

Imagine a seastead with all libertarians vs. a seastead with all communists. The difference in social norms and desired organization would probably make a large difference in terms of how successful each seastead is, though I suppose that depends on how you define success. In the case of Seaorg, ideology seems to have had a direct effect on structure, but this isn't the only way that ideology can effect the success of a seastead or any other social institution. It may be the most important, however.

Right, the ideology of any

Right, the ideology of any given seastead community matters, but the dynamic/modular structure of seasteading in general places a different set of incentives on the sorts of communities that are likely to arise. Decreasing the transaction costs of exit makes it more likely that communities will serve the interests of their constituents and not the other way around. Otherwise, the constituents just leave for more attractive communities.

The structure certainly

The structure certainly mitigates the effect of ideology, which is one of the selling points - at least to us libertarians, but ideology still has some effect, however small. In an extreme case, if everyone on every seastead were die-hard communists, they may not use their ability to exit. In a more likely case, the loyalty that people generally feel toward collectives due to ideology (or anything else for that matter) might cause people to let things get worse than otherwise before leaving, which would hamper the effectiveness of seasteads to develop improved social institutions.