Monday, December 26, 2016

Seasteaders negotiating with French Polynesia

Seasteaders Plan to Build a Libertarian Utopia on the High Seas | Big Think - Philip Perry:

December 22, 2016 - "Looking at the world today ... one might easily dream of escaping to their own small, well-designed utopia.... Usually, religious persecution was the push factor. For a group of modern day libertarians, it's government overreach. But today, with almost all the land on Earth accounted for, this group has set their eyes on a different kind of real estate, the high seas.

"The idea is to build a floating city at least 200 miles off of a country’s coastline. This is international waters by UN treaty, out of the reach of the world’s governments. But creating a seafaring utopia isn’t so simple. The Seasteading Institute is now in friendly talks with French Polynesia. Among the movements bigwigs is PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who is currently helping the Trump campaign in their transition into the White House. Jim O’Neil, who worked for the second Bush administration and is a possible Trump FDA appointee, is another.

"Thiel is a co-founder of the Seasteading Institute, along with Patri Friedman, a former Google software engineer and grandson of famed economist Milton Freedman. Thiel and Friedman announced their plan in 2008. Should the president of the French territory sign off, the project could begin as early as 2017. It is slated for completion in 2020. Thiel, who invested $1.7 million in the project, has spoken of the settlement as a libertarian utopia. Though no longer on the board, he continues to support the project financially.

"Originally, the plan was to be completely independent. But the estimated cost of such a project was $225 million, with an annual operating cost of $8 million. Soon, seasteaders were starting to see the benefits of having a nation to partner up with. French Polynesia was chosen because it has a fiber cable run from Hawaii which allows for the same kind of bandwidth would-be residents are used to, and it’s only an eight hour flight from Los Angeles. For French Polynesians, whose land is being threatened from sea level rise due to global warming, the idea of a floating city has tremendous appeal. Though for a period there, it looked as if the project may never see fruition, the plans are now awaiting the signature of the French Polynesian president....

"The plan entails building two or three platforms off the island chain, each about half a football field long. These will have on their surface communities housing around 30 people each. One model displays streamlined buildings reminiscent of a tech campus, along with a beachfront area, and a full size swimming pool....

"As it stands now, construction alone is projected at $30 million. Each platform will cost $15 million. A small group of anonymous investors are said to be footing the bill, all of whom will become residents. In 2013, the project raised $27,000 via a crowdfunding campaign. But according to the institute’s director, those funds have already been paid to Norwegian design company DeltaSync, seemingly to engineer models for the platforms....

"It was former software engineer Wayne Gramlich’s 1998 book, SeaSteading: Homesteading on the High Seas, that inspired this current venture. Gramlich and Friedman together developed the initiative, which Thiel initially funded. Though a long and strenuous process awaits, one with an unknown outcome, seasteaders are in it for the long haul."

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