Is seasteading on the rise?
The seasteading movement aims to build communities on floating cities which are free from the laws of the land. These so-called ‘start-up countries’ are the brainchild of the Seasteading Institute which aims to create an environment where new political ideas can be tested.
Seasteading aims to create a ‘dynamic geography’ where ideas can be freely tested by willing people and then import them back to the mainland if successful. The Seasteading Institute website describes this as “allowing the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government. The most successful can then inspire changes in governments around the world.”
These new communities would be built up out of a network of rectangular and pentagonal floating platforms which could all move independently and link however they needed to in order to satisfy residents. They would be theoretically powered by renewable energy, mainly solar and wind power, and would provide everything the inhabitants needed to live a happy life on the high seas, or in tidal lagoons or wherever else these communities decide to base themselves.
It is easy to see why seasteading appeals to people who claim to follow libertarianism – or “astrology for men” as it is otherwise known. The idea of escaping government oversight and essentially doing what you want independently of all other humans is a powerful one, though not one which escapes first contact with reality. Whereas most people grow out of libertarianism by the time they reach adulthood, it is not hard to imagine the intellectual stragglers who believe they exist outside of society enthusiastically heading out to sea on their dynamically geographic cities with the aim of testing out their political ideas.
Would it work? It’s not impossible, but it is certainly hard to image. What proponents of things like seasteading often forget, or fail to realise in the first place, is that the idea of “freedom” is not actually something physical you can hold. Total freedom doesn’t really mean anything unless you do something with it. What is freedom from the world’s governments if you literally cut yourself adrift from society? Proving a political or scientific idea on a floating community is great, but it is hardly likely to be applicable to the real world.
Indeed, if you prove that your ideal society does not work anywhere except specially made and tightly controlled situations, are you not in fact proving that it is not a realistic alternative to our current governmental systems? How could a very limited system of government pioneered by a very small number of people living in ‘geographically dynamic’ communities ever be successfully applied to very large nations with very many people who live in non-geographically dynamic places?
It is also hard to see how these seasteads would actually be independent. Unless the plan is to have floating farms to supply food it is currently unclear how the inhabitants would remain fed. Floating farms on their own platforms could also presumably be piloted away by the owner, leaving everyone else with no food.
How can political ideas be formed in isolation if the people forming them are reliant on food from the mainland? That doesn’t sound much like independence to me, and any new systems which arise would necessarily be flawed thanks to their reliance on land-dwelling producers. Even floating societies such as the Sama-Bajau in Australasia which have been on the sea for thousands of years have to return to land eventually.
Essentially, seasteading sounds like the latest idea in a long series which appeals to those who like to believe they could live ‘off grid’. Why these people, the ones who live in underground bunkers and armed compounds, think this is a mystery. Every scrap of evidence we have about our own past shows that cooperation with others on the largest scale possible is what allowed humans to thrive. No one has ever sucessfully lived in isolation, and it is more than likely that the seasteaders will find out why that is sooner rather than later.