Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have something in common; Malta raises the price of citizenship – Coda Story

Hello, and welcome to Oligarchy. We are tracking how Covid-19 and the worlds response to it is affecting the super-rich and what that means for power and politics.

There has always been a cliffhanger built into Maltas Individual Investor Program the scheme it created in 2014 to sell European Union passports to anyone who passes the checks it says it imposes. The cliffhanger was this: only 1,800 golden passports could be sold. It was an exclusive club, when all of those 1,800 lucky families had signed up, applications would be closed. Forever.

This raised an interesting philosophical question: the investor program is basically free money. Malta has been earning money from selling successful applicants the right to live almost invariably somewhere else in the EU. All of the benefits accrued to the Mediterranean island country, and yet it had to face none of the potential downsides caused when very wealthy oligarchs start moving into a neighborhood.

When the programs built-in cap was reached, would Malta walk away from all of this free money, amounting to some 50 million euros a year? Decision time is now upon us. At the end of this month, the program will close. If you want to grab one of the handful of places remaining, you have 28 days left.

Or, you could just wait.

The program will be replaced by a new scheme, also super-exclusive, which will have a cap of its own: 1,500 applicants. Surprise! Malta isnt turning away free money.

Its the same with me. I dont sell copies of my books. I just provide an opportunity for exceptionally discerning people to invest in my literary output.

It may seem a bit harsh to compare Maltese citizenship to a limited edition chocolate bar that goes on sale around Halloween, and then becomes widespread if it proves popular, but that is what it increasingly resembles. So how will the new scheme be different from the old one?

The Individual Investor Program is dead, long live the Individual investor Program.

Regular readers of this newsletter will know I have a bit of a thing about the EU saying its taking action against tax havens, when its actually only targeting places too weak, too poor and too irrelevant to matter. In case you havent read the newsletter before, the problem with the EUs approach is that it penalizes places like Vanuatu, while ignoring countries like the United States, while giving the impression that its doing something valuable.

We now have a new data point, thanks to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developments Global Forum the premier global body for ending bank secrecy and tax evasion which has published a new assessment of nine of its members.

Among the countries assessed was Malta, now rated as partially compliant. That is only one step up from the Global Forums worst rating of non-compliant, and is worse than the British Virgin and Cayman Islands (largely compliant), and worse than Jersey and Guernsey (compliant). Malta now ranks even lower than both St Kitts and Nevis, and the Marshall Islands.

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Will the EU recommend blocking Maltese companies from receiving state aid in the EU? I very much doubt it. Will it continue to pretend to be doing something substantive by bullying places too small to fight back? I fear so.

Excitingly, we have gained another human being with a net worth greater than $100 billion, thanks to the astonishing increase in the Tesla share price this year, and Elon Musks 21 percent stake in the company. He is not just duelling with Jeff Bezos up at the top of the global income distribution, however, he is also duelling with him in space.

Musk is known for his ambition to reach Mars, while Bezos is pushing for a mission to the moon, with the goal of having a full time base there by 2028. I am beginning to wonder if this is the new iteration of seasteading, the libertarian tax-dodging ambition to live out on the ocean to avoid rules created by governments. To date, seasteading schemes have always failed because the weather is so extreme away from land that existence is untenable. In space, perhaps things could be more controllable.

If they are indeed hoping to abandon the planet, then they may prove disappointed in the service Branson will provide, however. He plans to return them to earth just 90 minutes after take-off, and charge them $250,000 for the privilege.

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Its a big week for klepto-literature, with the publication of Bradley Hope and Justin Schecks Blood and Oil, a superb portrait of Saudi Arabias Mohammed bin Salman; and Tom Burgis long-awaited Kleptopia. Im going to be busy.

See you next Wednesday,


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Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have something in common; Malta raises the price of citizenship - Coda Story

Silicon Valley, the start-up incarnation 2/5. Peter Thiel, the person who needed to finish loss of life and democracy – Pledge Times

The man who will live 1,000 years is surely not born. But if he is, it will probably be Peter Thiel. In any case, he made all arrangements for. It funds the Sens Foundation, which wants to cultivate brand new organs born from stem cells, to be transplanted into the bodies of the rich. He is close to Ambrosia, a biotechnology start-up which, for 8,000 dollars, transfuses you with a liter of young peoples blood from 16 to 25 years old.

Then he placed funds in Calico, a start-up founded by the creators of Google, which intends to stop aging through genetic manipulation. He is also interested in the possibility of transferring his consciousness into a virtual avatar. And if nothing is ready at the twilight of its life, all arrangements are made to cryogenize it. In the meantime, Peter Thiel follows a strict paleo diet, consisting exclusively of lean meats, nuts and berries, and gorges himself on growth hormones.

It is because he is already 52 years old, this pioneer of Silicon Valley. He is not an engineer or a computer scientist, but a business angel. Yet he is considered by many to be the political soul of the San Francisco Bay Area. He was in his thirties when he financed the launch of PayPal, with a certain Elon Musk. They are the fathers of what was later called the PayPal Mafia. The future creators of YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp, Tesla, Space X have gone there When Ebay bought the company, Peter Thiel reinvested his earnings in their projects. His biggest blow remains to have loaned 500,000 dollars to Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, who was about to launch Facebook. His stake was multiplied by 3,000. His fortune was made.

His first political publication dates from his law studies in the 1980s at Stanford. The universities were debating positive discrimination at the time. Thiel publishes a charge explaining that only excellence matters and that opening the university up to ethnic minorities and women and their obvious biological differences in his view will bring the standards down irreparably. Ideas that led him to become Donald Trumps digital adviser in the 2016 election, in which he declared: I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are still compatible. Because what dominates today in his political thought is above all an elitism coupled with a radical libertarianism.

For him, any public institution is a constraint that must be removed. Above all, he wants to abolish all these laws which limit experiments on living things and their quest for immortality. We are in a race to the death between politics and technology, he explained in his book The Education of a Libertarian. The fate of our world depends on a single individual, a person, who will be able to build and disseminate technological tools promoting freedom and allowing a more secure world for the development of capitalism.

Peter Thiel also invests his fortune in this program. He founded the Seasteading Institute, at the head of which he placed Patri Friedman, Miltons grandson. The goal is to create floating cities on the international waters of the oceans, free from any state and any regulation, where creativity, science and certainly eugenics will have free rein. Forget about start-up companies, assures Thiel, the next frontier is start-up countries. Despite everything, some fears inhabit the billionaire. What if, because of artificial intelligence, there were no more jobs and the poor revolted? What if the worst scenarios of global warming materialize? So Peter Thiel bought a large farm in the heights of New Zealand, which he transformed into a self-sufficient fortress. The PayPal Mafia has reserved rooms there. All thats missing are stocks of liquid nitrogen to cryogenize this new aristocracy, just in case.

Tomorrow William Cannon and Dallis Perry, two shrinks with male origins

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Silicon Valley, the start-up incarnation 2/5. Peter Thiel, the person who needed to finish loss of life and democracy - Pledge Times

Seasteading a vanity project for the rich or the future …

A white steel pole rises out of the sea off the Caribbean coast of Panama, poking above the waves like the funnel of a sunken steamship. Launched into the water last month, this is no shipwreck, but the base of what will soon become a floating home and, in the eyes of its makers, the first step towards building a brave new post-Covid-19 society, out on the open ocean.

Coronavirus is an opportunity to show the world that what were building is actually going to be very useful in the future, says Chad Elwartowski, in a recent video post from his beachside base in Panama. The Michigan-born software engineer turned bitcoin trader is a leading figure in the seasteading movement, a libertarian group dedicated to building independent floating cities on the high seas. Along with the bunker builders and survivalist preppers, their long-held ambitions have been bolstered by the current global pandemic. No matter if youre scared of the virus or the reaction to the virus, he adds, living out on the ocean will be helpful for these situations.

It is not the first time Elwartowski has attempted to realise his dream of a floating future. In April last year, he and his Thai partner Supranee Thepdet (aka Nadia Summergirl), were forced to flee their first floating home off the coast of Thailand, just moments before it was raided by the Thai navy. They had constructed what they declared to be the first seastead 12 nautical miles from Phuket, but the authorities decided that the six metre-wide fibreglass cabin, perched on top of a floating pole, posed a threat to Thailands sovereignty. It was an offence punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The couple announced on social media declaring their autonomy beyond the jurisdiction of any courts or law of any countries, including Thailand, said Rear Admiral Vithanarat Kochaseni, adding that they had invited others to join them. We see such action as deteriorating Thailands independence.

After a few weeks on the run, dodging Thai patrol boats and eventually making their way to Singapore, the couple moved to Panama to relaunch their company, Ocean Builders with the financial backer of the project, Rdiger Koch, a retired German aerospace engineer. This event has doubled down our efforts, the group said in a statement, following the Thai ordeal. We can all clearly see that seasteading needs to happen now as tyranny creeps ever more deeply into our governments to the point that they are willing to hunt down a couple of residents residing in a floating house in middle of nowhere.

The coronavirus pandemic has given fringe libertarian groups around the world renewed vigour to pursue their dreams of building autonomous new societies. Government-enforced lockdowns and increased digital surveillance have added fuel to their suspicions of state control, while the suspension of day-to-day norms and the spectre of an economic meltdown have amplified their calls to rethink society. When youre not sure which virus is more contagious, says the slogan of a recent meme made by Americans for Liberty, shared on Elwartowskis Facebook page. Covid-19, or those fine with complete government control.

The sentiment lies at the core of the seasteading community, a disparate group that has grown since 2008, when the Seasteading Institute was founded in San Francisco by Patri Friedman. The self-styled anarcho-capitalist (and grandson of Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman) was working as a Google software engineer when he managed to attract funding from PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel to set up the institute. In a founding statement, they described its goal as being to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems. Thiel was nothing if not confident: The nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level, he proclaimed.

A new kind of government arises, born in Earths last free places, fated to advance the human frontier

Seasteading represents the ultimate Silicon Valley approach to governance, conceiving society as a technology that can be hacked and innovated upon as simply as an operating system. It is predicated on the idea that government regulation stifles innovation, and therefore the route to a better world can only be found by unleashing a new generation of start-up societies that are forced to compete for citizens in a free market of ideologies. Dont like the rules of your current micro-nation? Simply move to another one. We will give people the freedom to choose the government they want, said Friedman, instead of being stuck with the government they get. Its boosters see it as the route to salvation; its critics say it would lead to an apartheid of the worst kind.

Progress has been bumpy. Thiels donations soon dried up, and Friedmans plans never got much further than launching Ephemerisle a waterborne version of the Burning Man festival, staged in the Sacramento River delta near San Francisco, where rival floating pontoons compete for the attention of soggy partygoers. He has since moved his focus away from the water, recently launching a company to develop experimental cities on dry land instead. But the Seasteading Institute continues without him, headed by author and self-appointed seavangelist, Joe Quirk.

Nearly half of the worlds surface is unclaimed, says Quirk, who published a book on seasteading in 2017, with the ambitious subtitle: How floating nations will restore the environment, enrich the poor, cure the sick, and liberate humanity from politicians. In an introductory video, he describes the planets oceans as a sort of research and development zone where we could discover better means of governance, and says that seasteading could provide the technology for thousands of people to start their own nano-nation on the high seas, giving people opportunities to peacefully test new ideas about living together. The most successful seasteads, he says, will become thriving new societies, inspiring change around the world.

So far, his own attempts dont bode particularly well for the future of floating utopias. In January 2017, after years of technical feasibility studies and political negotiations, the Seasteading Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of French Polynesia to build the first seasteads in its territorial waters. The designs, developed by Dutch architects Blue21, looked like a high-end resort in the Maldives, depicting a series of villas linked by an undulating green landscape. It was all to be magicked from the waters by an initial coin offering, a form of crowdfunding through selling tokens of a new cryptocurrency, all the rage among the tech community in 2017. Were going to draw a new map of the world with French Polynesia at the centre of the aquatic age, Quirk declared.

The choice of location was strategic. Comprised of almost 120 dispersed low-lying islands and atolls, French Polynesia is at severe risk of suffering devastating consequences from even the slightest rise in sea level. It also happens to boast the worlds largest exclusive economic zone, an area of sea that can stretch for 200 nautical miles from a territorys coastline, over which it can claim exclusive economic rights. At five million square kilometres, French Polynesian waters span an area as large as the landmass of the entire European Union, making it an ideal place to experiment with novel forms of aquatic jurisdiction. In theory.

We explained to the Polynesians how having a quasi-autonomous area nearby was a good thing, says Tom W Bell, professor of law at Chapman University in Orange County, California, who drew up the legal agreement for the project. Look at Monaco, or Hong Kong or Singapore special jurisdictions create a lot of growth outside their borders. In his book, Your Next Government? From the Nation State to Stateless Nations, Bell traces the projected evolution of a seastead. It would begin like a coral polyp, he writes, protected by a countrys territorial waters, where it would start to generate economic activity, enriching its environment and attracting still more life, before breaking free to start a new autonomous life on the open ocean. Ultimately, he imagines seasteads nurtured by different host nations congregating in mid-ocean gyres, sheltered within floating breakwaters. A new kind of government arises, he writes, born in Earths last free places, fated to advance the human frontier.

The reality didnt quite pan out that way in the South Pacific. There wasnt a perfect alignment of interests, says Marc Collins Chen, former minister of tourism of French Polynesia, who co-founded the company Blue Frontiers with Quirk to realise the project. The government was looking for something to address sea level rise and environmental degradation, whereas the Seasteading Institute was more about autonomy. He says that the prospect of a tax-free enclave held little appeal for the locals, given that Polynesians dont pay income tax anyway. One Tahitian TV host compared the situation to the evil Galactic Empire in Star Wars imposing on the innocent Ewoks, while secretly building the Death Star. The libertarian position didnt help either. As Collins Chen puts it: Its very difficult to ask for government support when your narrative is that you want to get rid of politicians. In retrospect, Bell agrees: They already had a beautiful paradise in French Polynesia. The local community wasnt very enthusiastic about the project, and I get it. They didnt need strangers coming in and ruining their view.

Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230bn square metres in new construction. This could be a way to accommodate that growth

Collins Chen has since moved to New York, where he has established a new company to develop further plans for floating cities, this time stripped of any libertarian tax-dodging ideology. I realised that the real future for these sorts of projects has to be closer to cities, he says. They have to be an extension of an existing citys infrastructure, they need to be run by the mayor, and they have to pay their taxes as opposed to being enclaves for the wealthy.

His plan, titled Oceanix City, has been designed in slick Ted Talk style by Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect beloved of Silicon Valley tech companies. His twinkling animations depict a floating world of interlocking hexagonal islands, where power is harvested from waves and the sun, where residents live on a diet of seaweed and fish, and where marine life is regenerated by artificial reefs. If this floating city flourishes, said Ingels in a presentation, it can then grow like a culture in a petri dish. On a screen behind him, the floating hexagons multiplied until they took up an area more than three times the size of Manhattan, a vision of low-density suburbia sprawling virulently across the sea.

Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230bn square metres in new construction, says Collins Chen, the equivalent of adding one New York City every month. This could be a way to accommodate that growth, without the devastating effects of land reclamation or deforestation. He says part of the appeal is the ability to reconfigure the urban form according to changing needs, in a process of drag-and-drop city building. You could literally float one a city block away and put a different one in its place, when the need for a new school, hospital or university arose.

Remarkably, their sci-fi scheme has won the support of the United Nations sustainable development arm, UN-Habitat, which hosted a round table discussion for the project in April 2019. As global heating accelerates, sea levels rise and more people crowd into urban slums, floating cities is one of the possible solutions, said UN-Habitats executive director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

Back in Panama, the notion that floating habitats could be an inclusive solution to global housing need seems a long way off, to put it mildly. Despite the countrys coronavirus lockdown, the Ocean Builders team has been at work throughout, laying the foundations for a factory that will soon house the largest 3D printer in Central America, ready to produce what their website touts as the worlds first 3D-printed, smart floating home with an underwater room wrapped in an eco restorative 3D-printed coral reef yours for between $200,000 to $800,000 (160,000 to 640,000).

In light of the global pandemic, were really focusing on making the homes feel like a kind of lifeboat, says the companys CEO, Grant Romundt, who worked on the Freedom Ship project in Florida in the 1990s, an aborted plan to build a mile-long cruise ship for 40,000 people, topped with a runway. They should be a safe place to escape to and be totally energy independent, with solar panels on the roof, water desalination on board, waste collection by drone, and aeroponic systems to grow your own food.

Designed by Koen Olthuis of Dutch architecture practice Waterstudio, the plans for the luxury SeaPods look like a row of gigantic motorbike helmets on poles, sticking up out of the sea in pearlescent shades of blue, green and grey. We wanted to have something that was very futuristic looking, very clean and flowing, says Romundt. I didnt want to have a 90-degree corner anywhere in the house. I think thats bad feng shui. The interiors recall supersized sanitaryware, envisaged as white, wipe-clean worlds of free-flowing surfaces, echoing retro-futuristic visions of streamlined space capsules. The similarity is no accident: for company founder, Rdiger Koch, seasteading is merely a stepping stone for trialling exploits in space. He has long harboured plans to build a cable launch loop to propel payloads into space without rockets, and he sees the ocean as the perfect launchpad. There are almost only large open spaces at sea, he told German regional newspaper, Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, and you need them to make sure that nothing goes wrong and nobody is hit by possible flying parts.

Romundt insists that the company is merely building floating holiday homes, which will be registered as boats under the Panama flag for legal purposes, and likely operate on a timeshare basis. That would give you the slow adjustment period, he says, then more of an economy would start to build as more people come requiring more services, and it would start to self-perpetuate and grow.

For Bell, the ultimate goal is to see such floating communities raise their own flags in the open ocean. Right now, a self-flagged seastead would have effectively no status at all in international law, he says. The coast guard would show up, assume you were either a pirate or a floating meth lab, and tow you right back in to shore. But if seasteaders can say they have enough people and a big enough territory, and start flagging themselves, thats when things will start to get interesting.

And if they fail? Thats the marvellous thing about seasteads, says Quirk. If a government fails, theres nothing much the people who live there can do about it, but if seasteads fail, they simply disassemble and go away seeing all those bitcoin dollars sink into the sea just as quickly as they were conjured.

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Seasteading a vanity project for the rich or the future ...

Seasteading 101: How to Build the Worlds First Floating …

In 2017, 40 percent of entrepreneurs were female, representing a 58 percent uptick in female-owned businesses from a decade prior. Fifty-six percent of college students are female, a complete reversal from fifty years prior, when 58 percent of men filled university halls. Yet in 2017, only 2.2 percent of venture capital (VC) money went to women-founded companies. Society has changed, yet the worlds of start-ups and venture capital are still predominantly run by white men.

Big Think was founded in 2007 by Victoria Montgomery Brown and Peter Hopkins. As with many start-ups, the fundraising process provides quite a story, one that Brown has now decided to tell. Her forthcoming book, Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur (HarperCollins Leadership), reveals how this website came to beand how women can overcome barriers in a male-dominated business world.

Below are six lessons from Brown's chapter on raising capital when you have no money or product. Brown writes that there are essential qualities for starting a business that help you navigate the terrain, such as a having a strong vision and maintaining unflinching tenacity. While some of these came naturally to Brown, others were hard-fought lessons that changed her for the better. The chapterand the bookis a reminder that with perseverance and dedication to learning, anything is possible.

Use whatever will get you in the door

The greatest challenge every start-up faces is "first money in." Many investors are willing to back a good idea only when someone else has already committedand they like to know who that someone else is.

In some ways, being a female founder has its advantages. As Brown writes, a Boston Consulting Group study shows that female-run start-ups outperform male-run start-ups, generating 78 cents in revenue per dollar invested compared to men at 31 cents. That's solid data, but you still need to get in the door.

Brown leaned heavily on her master's degree from Harvard Business School. This helped tremendously for her first investor meeting with Founder Collective co-founder David Frankel. He was enthusiastic, but he wanted to know who else was interested. Brown turned to former Harvard University president, Larry Summers. His buy-in increased Frankel's interest; he became the lead investor.

Meeting with such heavyweights is no easy matter for entrepreneurs with no product or history in founding a company. As Brown writes, "Study after study confirms that people tend to equate confidence with competence." Presenting Big Think confidently made the impression needed to secure funding.

With two investors in, landing Nantucket Nectars founder Tom Scott and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel was not as challenging as one might assume. Brown writes, "Getting the first investor feels impossible, but if you can pull it off, getting the second is sometimes surprisingly easy."

Quit your day job

This is one of the hardest aspects of being an entrepreneur. Not only do founders not have the capital needed to launch their company, they sometimes work for years without paying themselves. If investors are going to put money into your project, they have to know you're serious about success.

"People don't like to fund things if the entrepreneur and CEO don't have their entire skin in the game. You better have something big to lose, or how are people going to believe you are all in?"

With no income or savings, Brown quit her day job in order to devote her every waking hour to Big Think. Self-imposed deadlines made sure she hit her targets. Founding a company isn't comfortable; waiting for relief will only distract you from the work that needs to get done.

"If you truly want to start somethingwhatever it may bewaiting won't helpput yourself in a position where you must do it."

Three months after quitting her day job, money showed up in Big Think's bank account.

Build momentum

If you're trying to convince investors to believe in youand it is you that they're investing in, more than your productshow them traction, even when you don't have it. Go out and make it happen.

"Our investors needed to be intrigued by the idea and see its potential to succeed and to scale, but they also needed to see that I was actually in a place of discomfort if it didn't work out."

Securing funding before showing a minimal viable product (MVP) is no easy task. Brown knew that she had to show something. Big Think started as a video platform; she needed experts to appear on video. Through their networks, Brown and Hopkins contacted Richard Branson, Moby, the Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, and famed architect Lee Mindel. They wanted them to be anchors.

Convincing high-profile business leaders, artists, and academics to partake in a new project is as daunting as landing VCs. When these figures inevitably asked about precedent for such an initiative, Brown turned a potential negative into a positive. "No one. We are reaching out to a very select, initial group of experts to kick-start it."

Making people feel critical to a project's success is a powerful way to get their endorsement, Brown writes. More importantly, it worked. A risky play between content generators and financial backers worked out. Big Think had momentum.

Do your research

As mentioned, investors are often more interested you than your product. As Brown writes, fundraising is "about creating a situation where investors get a real glimpse of who you are and why they should invest in you."

It's not a one-way street. You should also be interested in them.

"Be truly interested in the person you are meeting or don't bother meeting."

Brown advises looking beyond LinkedIn profiles and superficial bullet points. Investigate their interests, such as their passions and philanthropic pursuits. Understand why they might be interested in your venture and where it intersects with their business. Discuss topics outside of the investment opportunity. Engage them as people, not bank accounts.

"Helping others feel attractive and specialnot in a sexual way but in a human wayhelps them see you as a more attractive person, too. But you have to mean it."

Learn to say yes

The discomfort of being a founder includes stretching your boundaries. PayPal famously iterated numerous times before finding success. Flexibility is key if you want to survive. Sometimes that means admitting your limitations.

"Here's something major that HBS [Harvard Business School] taught me. You don't need to know how to do things, you need to know how to ask people to do things for you."

Finding the right people is one aspect of saying yes. By admitting your limitations, you say yes to help. But there's also saying yes to projects you're not entirely capable of pulling off.

After scoring a sponsorship with Pfizer, the second Big Think project was with MSNBC. The media company had a deal to provide expert-driven content with GE and SAP. They just didn't have a team to produce it. Being nimble, Big Think could turn it around quickly.

"Smaller companies with greater agility can take advantage of this situation if they just have the courage to step up and offer."

Instead of focusing on the negatives, such as not having a website or even equipment, Brown and Hopkins saw the opportunity. They said yes, and completed the project without a hitch, because they had the foresight to say yes.

Learn to say no

Not everything demands a yes, however. Discernment matters in the frenetic world of start-ups.

There are investors, there are people that connect you with investors, and there are charlatans. As the latter often suck up oxygen in any room they enter, it's easy to confuse bluster with their capabilities.

And so we meet "Jake," who in the early days of Big Think promised a lot, demanded more, and delivered nothing.

"He hadn't brought us any investors, he hadn't booked any experts, he hadn't helped us put together the deck, so what were we doing spending time with him? He felt sort of sleazy, like a smooth talker but not a doer."

Brown told Jake he was not getting equity without deliverables during their final meeting. This news did not go over well. Jake yelled and stormed out. Such momentary discomfort is a low price for not giving up even a piece of your business. Calling our charlatans demands that you say no. Thankfully, for the future of Big Think, one bad evening paid off in the long run.

Credit: Harper Collins


Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

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Seasteading 101: How to Build the Worlds First Floating ...

The Gospel According to Peter Thiel – City Journal

Michael Gibson still remembers his first day working for Peter Thiel. Like many of Thiels hires, hed met the contrarian investor through several of the PayPal founders variously eccentric political ventures. A onetime self-described unemployed writer in L.A., whod left a doctoral program in philosophy at Oxford, Gibson had met Thiel through his work at the Seasteading Institute, a Thiel-funded attempt to create a libertarian floating city in international waters. Then Thiel asked him to help teach a class at Stanford Law School on philosophy, technology, and politics. And then Thiel asked him to work for his hedge fund. Gibson had no intention of working in finance, or any experience in doing so, but he and Thiel had, he felt, gelled philosophically, sharing an interest in social thinkers and scholars of religion like mile Durkheim and Ren Girard, as well as a commitment to what Gibson called liberating people from socially conditioned ideas.

Some opportunities you just dont pass up. I show up to work my first day, Gibson says: September 27, 2010. Its a hedge fund, just as you might imagine on TVtheres a ticker tape going around the room, a trading desk, lots of screens with Bloomberg Terminals. And Im sitting there and Im thinkinghow did I end up here?

It took only a few hours for Gibsons life to change. A colleague, he remembers, showed up at his desk and told him: Oh, on the plane ride back from New York last night we came up with this idea. Were going to call it the anti-Rhodes Scholarship, a reference to the prestigious 118-year-old scholarship program that brings young scholars from across the former British Empire to study for free at the University of Oxford. Were going to pay people to leave school and work on things.

There was no time to waste. The annual TechCrunch Disrupt conference was starting that day. Thiel was scheduled to speak. Thiels staff was keen to burnish his imageAaron Sorkins blockbuster account of the creation of Facebook, The Social Network, was slated to be released soon; early leaked copies of the script had suggested that Thiel, a major early investor in the company, wasnt particularly sympathetically portrayed. He wanted to get a jump on that with some good news, Gibson explained. So we went to his house, we got into a car, and we went to this conference. And on the fly, were coming up withokay, well, what do we call this thing? How much money? How many years?

By the time Thiel was backstage, Gibson recalls, they were still discussing specifics. Then Peters on stage, being interviewed and talking about this program as if it already exists, in the present tense. The Thiel Fellowshipwould be a kind of 20 under 20 for the tech industrys incipient disrupters. Twenty entrepreneurs under 20 would get $100,000 to drop out of college and work full-time on their startup ideas. There was no indication, during his interview with TechCrunchs Sarah Lacey, that the idea had been developed only that day.

Thus is life in the orbit of Peter Thiel. With a net worth of approximately $2.3 billion, Thiel is far from the wealthiest person in Silicon Valley (Googles Larry Pages net worth is an estimated $66 billion, for instance). He may, however, be the most influential. Alongside his investments in high-profile companies like Airbnb, LinkedIn, Elon Musks SpaceX, and health-insurance company Oscar, Thiels more esoteric pet projects and funding recipients include some of the Bay Areas most out-of-the-box libertarian-utopian ventures: the Seasteading Institute, the Eliezer Yudkowskyhelmed Machine Intelligence Research Center, which researches how to counter the threat of an intelligent Artificial Intelligence; the Center for Applied Rationality, a de facto headquarters for the Silicon Valley rationalist community; the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which funds antiaging research under the aegis of controversial gerontologist Aubrey de Grey. Thiels foundations have funded gleefully contrarian events like Hereticon, originally scheduled for May 2020 in New Orleans but since postponed, due to the coronavirus. It is billed as a safe space for people who dont feel safe in safe spaces. And theyve founded, too, novel medical apps like Carbyne, an Israeli self-surveillance 911 tool now used in New Orleans as part of the citys Covid-19 public-health effort. Add the spectacular collapse of Gawker Mediabankrupted after a Thiel-funded lawsuit by former wrestling star Hulk Hogan, whose private sex tapes the site had posted in 2012and the election of Donald Trump, to whose 2016 campaign he donated $1.25 million, and a pattern emerges. Wherever theres a major shift in the American landscape in the past half-decadebe it political or culturalthere, somewhere on the donor list of the political campaign, or among the investors in the controversial technology, is Peter Thiel.

At first glance, the Thiel Fellowship is hardly as contrarian as, say, trying to end death. Since its first class was announced in 2011, the fellowship has funded between 20 and 30 promising young entrepreneurs annually. Past Thiel Fellows have created smash hits like Workflowa productivity tool that, following its 2014 launch, was the Apple Stores most downloaded appand successful startups like Ethereum, the cyrpto-currency started by Thiel fellow Vitalik Buterin, and Figma, a design tool built by Dylan Field. Gibson and former fellowship director Danielle Strachman have since left the initiative to start the Thiel-backed 1517 Fund: a seed-stage venture-capital firm that backs the companies of several former Thiel Fellows. The relationship goes both ways: plenty of 1517 funding recipients have later become Thiel Fellows.

Yet the Thiel Fellowship is, on closer inspection, radically subversiveas much an attempt at delegitimizing the contemporary American educational landscape as it is about rewarding young would-be founders. The American collegiate system, Thiel, his staff, and his fellows unanimously affirm, has become a giant scam, transforming potential innovators into subservient drones; indoctrinating the disrupters of tomorrow into Marxist myths of resentment; and using the social-justice buzzwords of class privilege and structural oppression to crush the spirit. Like American progressivism, they say, the university is rotten from the inside out, on this viewand it needs to be burned to the ground, figuratively speaking, so that something new and better can be built from the ashes.

The American collegiate system, Thiel, his staff, and his fellows affirm, has become a giant scam.

The college-to-workplace model is also expensive and time-consuming, and it doesnt reflect the dramatic changes in educational technology that make information accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Strachman compares the current state of such technology to earlier advances in transportation. If you were gonna walk across the states, that would take a long period of time, she observes. But then with the invention of high-speed rail, lets say, you can move orders of magnitude faster. So now, likewise, if Im a young person today and I have a laptop, I can move so much faster than I could even when I was going to school, you know, 20 years ago. The opportunity cost for young people is that much higher. If they have this burning desire to do something right now and they can get started on it, why would you wait four years of a long slow process when you can just start in your dorm room right now?

The very skills and values that Gibson and Strachman see college as currently rewardingdiligently completing assignments, checking off requirements, and producing work to a narrow set of specificationsrun counter to those that the Thiel Foundation emphasizes. One of the biggest early predictors of failure in selecting Thiel Fellows, notes Strachman, was whether a candidate had received an Intel Science Awarda prize for high schoolers often considered catnip to prestigious colleges. Anyone we met who won that did not seem to fare well in the wild, she says. Theres a difference between striving to gain accomplishments within an existing institution where all the parameters are set and transparent and known, where people are giving you commands about what to study and testing you on it, and building companies from scratch, which requires a whole different type of character and set of skills.

When youre in a university, Gibson and Strachman tell me, you usually learn to think in a conformist way. The medium is a message, says Gibson. No matter what you do, if you have people acting obediently and taking orders over 16-plus years, thats going to produce a certain type of person no matter what you teach. Further, he adds, its striking just how biased and far-left universities have become. Universities talk about diversity as a value, Gibson says, but in practice, he believes, they reinforce a strikingly uniform worldview, in which all of us are to some degree the victims of forces beyond our control, individual initiative is overrated, and history is a long list of grievances [and] of moral atrocities.

The Thiel Fellowships politics may not have trickled down to its recipients, but its fundamental ethos of what you might call Thielismthe idea that human progress is driven by the creativity and bravery of a few and stymied by ossified ways of doing thingsis ubiquitous among current and former fellows and permeates many of their startups.

Take Stacey Ferreira, a 2015 fellow. The fellowship was hardly Ferreiras entre into the world of techlike many fellows, shed been successful on the startup circuit long before filling out her application. Shed started her first company, a password-storing site called MySocialCloud, while still in high school, and sold it to Reputation.com in 2013. By 2015, when she started the Thiel program, shed already coauthored a book on the future of work, 2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing the World, with fellow entrepreneur Jared Kleinert (Thiel right-hand-man Blake Masters wrote the foreword). Her current project, founded during her fellowship, is an app called Forge that enables firms to schedule shift workers, bringing the flexibility and location independence of laptop workers to what she calls blue-collar space.

The original version of Forge, Ferreira admits, was probably too idealistic: trying to pair workers with companies where they hadnt yet received any formal training. I learned very, very quickly that [people] like you and me might be super-capable people, but were not going to be able to walk back behind a Starbucks counter and know how to make a caramel macchiato for someone right now. Companies like Starbucks can still use the app to schedule trained workers. Ferreiras ultimate goal, though, is to automate trainingallowing workers to prepare for jobs without excessive bureaucracy intruding. I still would love to live in a world where I could maybe download an app, watch some training videos, and then go do it, she muses. But I think were still a little bit further away from a content perspective. She wants to change the mentalities of businesses, telling them: Hey, the future is coming and its time that we do something about it.

A Beirut-born former fellow, also from the class of 2015, James Kawas is the founder and CEO of a startup called Saily, which has developed a marketplace app letting people buy and sell items locally. Like Ferreira, Kawas was makingand sellingcompanies long before the Thiel Fellowship. And, again like Ferreira, he envisions the startup model as an integral part of human flourishing and freedom. People learn, he insists, by doingnot simply by listening to proponents of disembodied knowledge, or by accepting the authority of people with no skin in the game, such as professors disconnected from reality. After all, he says, he learned to code on his own in high school, utilizing online resources.

He tells me about a friends tech firm, Touch Surgery, through which would-be doctors can hone their skills virtually. You run surgeries, and youll learn how to do surgery. You can play through a surgery 1,520 times, and youll know how to operate. Sure, he caveats, you wont be as good with medical scissors as you would be if you trained in-person at a medical school. But people will be shocked by how much you can understand supposedly complex things just by looking at them.

Kawas, too, lauds the Thiel Fellowship as a mechanism for countering the dirty game of the American educational establishment. Colleges force their thoughts on you, he saystheyre breeding grounds for advocacy. They ruin you as a person. And, worst of all, they teach you that life isnt something that you can control. Accepting yourself as you are is not improving yourself, Kawas insists. He characterizes the extreme leftism of the university as a form of fatalism: assuming that the world cannot change in substantive, even miraculous-seeming ways, through the efforts of a few brilliant, even miraculous-seeming, people.

For the most part, the fellows deny that Thielwhom most refer to just as Peterhas any formal influence on their thinking. They characterize him as a kind of nebulously supportive benefactor: someone who will have breakfast with them a few times, and give them feedback on their latest startup ideas, but who gives them the space and time to develop their own practicaland ideologicalcommitments. But the specific brand of utopianism that the Thiel Fellowships staff and recipients espouse is indebted, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, to Thiels writings, and particularly to his idiosyncratictheologians might say hereticalvision of Christianity, mediated by the work of French philosopher Ren Girard: a distinct fusion of techno-utopianism that characterizes its successes as Christian miracles.

Unlike, say, Ayn Rand, Ren Nol Thophile Girard (19232015) is not an obvious choice to be a philosophical titan of the tech world. A historian and literary critic with a fervent commitment to Christianity and to Christian ethics, Girard was, until recently, a relatively esoteric figure, his works more often referenced on postgraduate philosophy syllabi than in TED Talks. But for Thiel, who studied under Girard at Stanford, the philosopher provides the key to understanding not just Christian metaphysics but also how human beings interact.

Girards theory of the scapegoat and his related notion of mimesis are at the core of Thiels interest. Simply put, Girard holds that human desire is rooted in an obsessive form of imitation. We want not what we should want, but what we see others as having, and thus deem worthy. Human relations are fundamentally predicated on this mimetic desire, which can lead us to harm one another in rivalrous conflict. We resent those who have what we think we wantbut we want what we do because those whom we resent have it.

Societies deal with these inherently chaotic impulses by creating mythic and sacred narratives of legitimate violence, which identify a scapegoat: a chosen, if actually innocent, target for this complex system of violence and desire. The scapegoat is ceremonially purged from the community, often through literal violence, allowing the community to think of itself as blameless, and to expunge its violent desires. Christ, in Girards view, is the ultimate scapegoat, whose blameless sacrifice functions as revelation, exposing the truth of the scapegoat mechanism: that its victim is innocent and that communal sacrifice is a lie.

Thiel and what you might call Thielismthe implicit worldview that pervades both the fellowship and the investors wider political projectsmap mimetic desire onto modern identity politics. Those who view the world as an oppressive system of privilege and oppression are driven by rivalrous resentment.

Thiels best-selling business book Zero to One (coauthored with Blake Masters) is suffused with Girardian themes, though the philosopher is never mentioned by name. Indeed, the authors identify a major cause of business failure as the inability to see beyond the conflicts of mimetic desire. Inside a firm, they write, people become obsessed with their competitors for career advancement. Then the firms themselves become obsessed with their competitors in the marketplace. Amid all the human drama, people lose sight of what matters and focus on their rivals instead. . . . Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.

This view, the authors suggest, should be understood in contraposition to a Marxist account of history, in which, according to Marx, people fight because they are different. Wrong, Thiel and Masters suggest: people are all the same. Or, at least, if they are not the same, it is because certain people are more capable of harnessing their intellectual potential. (That some people lack the natural intelligence or affinity for harnessing such potential goes unaddressed.)

The creation of a remarkable, cutting-edge company, for Thiel and Masters, shouldnt just be about amassing personal wealth for its founders. It should also be about remaking the worldtransforming personal potential into a technological reimagining of human life. By contrast, the stasis of mimesis, driven by human resentment, leads to political mediocrity and technological anhedonia. To disrupt, insofar as it means to disrupt the mimetic system, is thus a liberating act.

And when radical human potential is unleashed upon the world, it demandsand deservesproliferation. Thiel and Masters justify monopolies, so long as the company is creating genuinely new, life-improving technologies to earn its outsize profits. Monopolies deserve their bad reputationbut only in a world where nothing changes, the authors observe. In a static world, a monopolist is just a rent collector. If you corner the market for something you can jack up the price . . . but the world we live in is dynamic: its possible to invent new and better things. Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world. Creative monopolies arent just good for the rest of society; theyre powerful engines for making it better.

In a 2007 essay published in an otherwise obscure Michigan State University Press anthology titled Politics and Apocalypse, Thiel characterizes contemporary Western civilization as experiencing a permanent crisis, since the illusion of the scapegoat has been exposed. The center cannot, and will not, hold. The unveiling of the mythical past, Thiel writes, opens towards a future in which we no longer believe in any of the myths. . . . [T]heir unraveling may deprive humanity of the efficacious functioning of the limited and sacred violence it needed to protect itself from unlimited and desacralized violence.

The creation of a cutting-edge company, for Thiel and Masters, should be about remaking the world.

In such a context, according to the tenets of Thielism, creativity means thinking outside the bounds and strictures of failed institutions, including academic credentials, freeing us from resentment, and opening new paths of progress, technology, and positive change. (Thiels own contribution to the anthology falls well within Thielist antiestablishment principles. He is the only contributor without a substantial academic background; he did, however, fund the 2004 conference on Girard from which the books essays are drawn.)

For Kawas, Thiels economic and social vision borders on the mystic. The real meaning of zero to one, Kawas says, is to make something new . . . the idea that were not stuck in the past. We can make something new from nothing . . . [and] that changes the nature of reality. When resentful people see the world as a zero-sum place, they start redistributing assets, assigning guilt and blame to scapegoats. Instead, Kawas explains, You can do magic. You can do tech. This is, he insists, a deeply Christian idea. (Thiel himself has frequently publicly identified as Christian, though its worth noting that there is no Christian tradition in which the provenance of creating out of nothingex nihilois not understood as the specific and unique prerogative of God, rather than a right afforded to human beings.) It rejects the blame that comes from the erroneous belief that theres no way to change the reality.

Thus, techno-capitalism-as-miracle: the notion that a few brilliant individuals can radically reshape the limits of human reality, which are revealed to be in part the product of intellectual sluggishness and moral fear. Thielism is the belief that a human being canon his way, say, to a San Francisco speakers panelconjure an idea for reshaping prestigious education in America. Old things must pass away, one way or another.

Kawas asks me if I know the biblical versea loose paraphrase of Matthew 5:23about how the kingdom of God falls on both the good and the evil. Truly, when you do the right thing, everybody benefits. Which is very similar. Sure, Kawas says, the social-justice warriors, the leftists, may carp. They may call Thiel an evil genius, a puppet master for modern illiberalism. After all, he points out, Thiel had to leave San Francisco back in 2018 for Los Angeles, to get away from all the progressives who want to blame him for their problems.

Peter, Kawas concludes, is one of the very few humanist people in the world. He believes that we can do a lot. We can afford not to die. We can go to other planets. We can make new countries. We can cure cancer. We can fix violence. And hes not a romantic about it. . . . The guy is reallyif you look at his actions, his beliefs, theyre just so insane. But hes extremely intentional about everything he ever does. Most [people] dont understand. Which does him a good servicebecause hes always running conspiracies to change the world. And the best thing you can get for someone running conspiracies is for people not to understand what hes doing.

He sighs. But you have to be scapegoated, he says.

Tara Isabella Burtons 2018 debut novel, Social Creature, was named a book of the year by the New York Times.Her new book,Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, will be published this month.

Top Illustration by Garry Brown

See the rest here:

The Gospel According to Peter Thiel - City Journal

Ephemerisle is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta – San Francisco Chronicle

Id just finished chopping up a watermelon with a dull hatchet on the wing of a floating platform called Siren Island when a party boat named The Entanglement motored over to offload a group of half-naked passengers.

Guests of Siren Island, a two-tiered wooden isle affixed with four spindly maple tree branches, were relaxing in the late-afternoon sun on the calm waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They took turns plunging their hands into a steel basin of black lagoon mud then spreading it on one anothers skin limbs, torsos and faces. The dozen or so passengers aboard The Entanglement had spotted the action from across the channel and were eager to indulge themselves.

Permission to come aboard? one hollered.

It was about 5 p.m. on a cloudless day at the height of summer one of the last days of the annual weeklong floating festival known as Ephemerisle. The event, which just concluded its tenth year, draws a menagerie of watercraft and makeshift rafts to a remote corner of the delta for what is, depending on whom you ask, a weeklong art party, a spiritual retreat from earthbound society, a social experiment in self-governance or all of the above.

One longtime Ephemerisle-goer, Adam Katz, described it in an email: The gathering is all of the inconvenience of Burning Man, plus the risk of drowning.

At the center of Ephemerisle (pronounced eh-FEM-er-ile) was a one-of-a-kind craft, planned on land then assembled on the water and housing dozens of grungy delta campers. It was the multilevel island called Elysium, a compendium of barges, docks, platforms and pontoons all anchored and lashed together into a 3,000-square-foot Frankenmarvel of aquatic engineering. Among its amenities were an outdoor kitchen with gas grills and running water, a living room area replete with fireplace and antler mount, sleeping platforms loaded with camping tents and, to one side in a neat row, four orange portable toilets.

Off one end of Elysium, across a 20-yard floating plywood track, was a massive black tugboat covered in camping tents, the sides of its hull draped with tractor-size rubber tires. Another short dock led to a row of boats tethered in a solid floating block. There were smaller, independent islands of various forms with fun names like the Washed Up Yacht Club, DIYsland and Siren. But Elysium was the event hub, the sun around which the Ephemerisle solar system orbited.

There is no central leadership at Ephemerisle, no entry fee or sign-up sheet, and no admission tickets.

Theres this roll-up-your-sleeves, were-just-gonna-build-it attitude that shines through here, said Tom W. Bell, a law professor at Chapman University in Orange County and author who attended Ephemerisle the past two years. Its a very Silicon Valley ethos: Were just gonna do this. Its everywhere here.

The people who put together the islands arent just building a temporary respite. Many Ephemerisle participants view the event as an evolving experiment in competitive governments that could serve as proof of concept for a future in which human civilization migrates into the ocean. To them, each gathering represents an opportunity to inch toward a new vision of society.

The island of Elysium at Ephemerisle in 2019.

Early on, I was informed that the founding principles of Ephemerisle were long lost, and the only surviving rule from the events first years is the most important: No Dying.

The area of the delta where the event takes place is overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and San Joaquin County Sheriffs Office and patrolled by local police boats. For several years including this year authorities have been called to respond to medical emergencies (in my reporting, I didnt hear about any deaths at the event), but by and large, the floating colony has maintained a strong measure of self-reliance, a trait hardcoded into the events DNA.

Ephemerisle was founded in 2009, the brainchild of an ex-Google engineer named Patri Friedman (grandson of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman), as a small-scale trial run of a concept called seasteading. A year earlier, with funding from tech mogul Peter Thiel, Friedman had founded the Seasteading Institute, an advocacy and research group that consults with governments around the world on creating new jurisdictions.

Imagine a future of floating man-made island-states, each independently governed and economically self-sustained. A person could select from a range of options on where to pledge citizenship, based on their taste for that colonys philosophy and lifestyle. That was the genesis of Ephemerisle.

The original intention was: Hey, we want to make new countries on the ocean, Friedman said. That sounds really hard. What if we can find an incremental path? What if we start a festival on the ocean where people get together for a week and live under different systems?

But launching full-fledged atolls on the rollicking Pacific would have demanded a level of engineering savvy and, in Ephemerisle parlance, saltiness that participants just didnt have. So Friedman and a large group of friends settled on an out-of-the-way estuary a short drive from San Francisco where currents are chill, access is easy and boat traffic is minimal. Then they started building.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Seren JV Elston (top) and two friends aboard Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Ephemerisle festival is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta

The learning curve was steep that first year, Friedman said. He built a small wooden pyramid out of hardware-store materials, buoyed it with empty water jugs, stuck a motor on one side, strapped on a life jacket and set sail. But there was so much drag that the thing barely moved. After a while puttering along, he got bored, tried climbing one of the pyramid pillars and flipped over.

I swam to the shore, Friedman said. I had my cell phone in a waterproof bag and called for rescue and they brought me in.

Other participants fared better, and Friedman spent the week on a houseboat. In a short video documentary of that first year, you can see glimmers of unique crafts and a community spirit taking shape. Still, the end result a collection of houseboats and some rickety wood structures was a far cry from the grandiose ideal of a floating libertarian Waterworld.

I am not entirely certain I can see the throughline between this and the ultimate end seasteading goal of independent freeholds out in international waters, Brian Doherty, an early Ephemerisle participant, said in the documentary. Seasteading, to be viable moving forward, has to have all of the aspects of a human civilization. The most important aspect of which is it has to be productive, not merely consumptive.

Friedman officially gave up on the event a year later to focus on the Seasteading Institute. But the seed had been planted, and Ephemerisle has carried on without Friedman at the helm. (He has attended for fun several times since then.)

The gathering has shape-shifted each year since, depending on who shows up and what creations they bring.

Ephemerisle founder Patri Friedman floats on a homemade pyramid raft at the inaugural Ephemerisle event in 2009.

Dubbing the event Burning Man on water wouldnt be quite fair, although there is crossover between the two communities, a similar bohemian aesthetic and a certain appeal among alternative thinkers and audacious engineers. Its less a gathering of seasoned sailors (though there are some delta rats) than a weeklong DIY raft-up of free-spirited city dwellers in funky outfits. Self-expression and its accoutrements are rampant.

Toward the end of the festival in July, I spent a day exploring the gathering on a Jet Ski. It takes place at the tip of Mandeville Point, about 15 minutes (give or take) from Korths Pirates Lair Marina, south of Isleton. Unlike the setting at Burning Man, Ephemerisle is within easy reach of civilization. While launching my boat, I spotted festivalgoers loading up on water jugs and bags of ice at a local shop. More waited for a ferry pickup from a person at the event. A small group loaded a barge with art supplies and building materials, including a small maple tree in a wooden planter box. One woman in the group planned to install it in a buoy and set it free on the delta.

Bounding through the channels, the gathering wasnt hard to spot. I throttled down to cut my wake and take in the scene.

On one motor yacht, people took turns diving off the high bulwark. A man in a small skiff cruised the channel on a gust of wind. Someone had fashioned an old RV shell into a small houseboat. On the black tugboat, a man in a Speedo played what sounded like a recorder while a shipmate on deck behind him fumbled around in a VR headset, arms outstretched. Sunbathers lazed about. Many people were napping in houseboats or below decks, avoiding the sun and recovering from the previous nights party. A long black craft called Venom Sound Ship made endless loops through the fractured colony of boats, spouting dance music.

Several people I spoke to heard about the event through the Burning Man community. Some, like Tom W. Bell, are compelled by the seasteading element. Others, like Venom Sound Ship captain Scott Rizzo, regularly appear at maritime events around California. A few stumbled upon it and were intrigued enough to stick around.

Martha Esch, a tan woman moored on the shore of the channel in her cabin cruiser, first attended Ephemerisle three years ago after learning about the gathering while attending a nearby Fourth of July fireworks show. Several young people from the Bay Area I spoke to learned about Ephemerisle via Facebook.

One foursome on a houseboat had never heard of the event but happened upon it during their vacation in the delta and wound up hanging around for the spectacle.

We have binoculars, so weve been keeping ourselves busy, said Sandy Carter, calling across the water from the rear deck of the boat, where she and three friends were sipping cocktails and playing cards. Someone had motored over to them when they arrived and explained the gist of the gathering. Most of us dont know what Burning Man means but well go home and look it up on our phones, Carter said.

About 50 yards away, a couple dove off the rear of a boat and began swimming across the channel to Elysium, where an ad hoc presentation forum was getting under way. A handful of people busied themselves preparing Siren Island to receive guests while an enormous freighter coasted across the channel just south of the gathering.

Overall, the attitude was live and let live. Some people had been living the life all week, others were new arrivals, just in time for the closing party. Boaters helped each other with building projects and resupplies and were generous with invitations to host visitors. Katz, the longtime festivalgoer, summed up the vibe to me in an email: If they came for Ephemerisle, theyre part of Ephemerisle.

Ephemerisle founder Patri Friedman.

The event in July would have felt fractured and unmoored if not for the gravitational pull of Elysium, the big island at the center of the gathering.

While most boats at the festival kept their captains and maybe a small handful of guests, Elysium was responsible for boarding and feeding dozens of campers for as long as a week. That kind of operation doesnt come together without careful planning and, above all, rules. For that, the island represented the closest embodiment of the seasteading ideal upon which Ephemerisle was founded.

To me, rules are to Ephemerisle what art is to Burning Man, Friedman said. He called the process of forming cohesive group identities and drawing parameters around acceptable conduct and behavior Ephemerisles artistic spirit.

All of those challenges thats the heart of the festival, Friedman said. Some people will get it and be enthusiastic, and some people will ignore it and party.

Tom W. Bell is the former. His book, Your Next Government?,is an account of how special jurisdictions may come to replace nation states. He has consulted on seasteading proposals in French Polynesia and elsewhere. I want to be involved in this experiment in governance, Bell said. I want to see how it happens in this highly decentralized, truly voluntary environment.

He signed up to work as a guide on Elysium at night, during party time. The basic job description: patrol the island, hand out flashlights and whistles to guests who may need them, and make sure no one hurts themselves. Its risk mitigation, he said.

Bell worked in tandem with a greeter, who walked new arrivals through initiation and presented them with documents to sign which focus in part on the importance of enthusiastic consent among people on the island and handed them a wrist band. Its really border control, Bell said. We have to protect our boundaries so no one comes and hurts the people we have there.

(I couldnt get a firmer read on the inner workings of Elysium because of one of the islands core principles: No Media.)

Previously, the area where the greeter met new arrivals was called the immigration station. Some people were questioned about consent in a way that felt like interrogation, Katz wrote in an email. It broadened the divide between islands and made some people feel very unwelcome. Elysium later dropped the immigration station name. Arrivals this year were greeted at a welcoming station.

At one point during his stay this year, Bell encountered a greeter in what looked to be a heated exchange over the islands documentation with a woman whod just arrived. He sat down to help ease the tension, patting the greeter on the back. I want them to see he has people on his side, and I say to him, Youre doing right here. Youre protecting the people who are taking the huge risks to put this place together, Bell said. After that, the woman and her partner signed the paperwork.

I dont know if that helped. But I think thats how governance works here, Bell said. Its not about goose-stepping these people off the barge. Lets do this in a gentle, sociable way."

One of the things I love about this is it plays out, on a very small scale, the issues we deal with on a national scale, Bell said. Who does government perfectly? No one. If humans are involved, its going to be a mess.

The floating festival of Ephemerisle takes place each year at Mandeville Point near Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The festival in 2019.

A stream of dance beats flowed over the warm delta channel as The Entanglement, loaded with passengers and outfitted with a makeshift DJ booth, made its way toward Siren Island.

Boaters are taught to dock by lining up their bow parallel to the docking platform, approaching slowly, then swinging in their stern. But The Entanglement approached the low bow of Siren Island head-on, landing with a hard thud and crunch of party-boat metal grating against the islands redwood planks.

Hey! Serena JV Elston, Siren's creator, hollered at The Entanglement. She turned to me. This is the s I hate.

In no time, the boatload of partiers had hopped onto the islands flat nose, straining the ballast of the pontoons supporting Siren and causing the island to pitch and yaw. The islands wings began taking on water, house music from The Entanglement playing over the commotion.

Elston, a woman with wild wavy brown hair and wearing a blue bathing suit, turned to the small crowd, instructing them to spread out and distribute their weight. The Entanglement shifted into reverse, ripping a plank off the island with a loud crack.

OK, time for you to leave! Elston yelled to the skipper, a blond man with headphones around his neck. You dont even have bumpers, dude!

Many, if not most, Ephemerislers live full-time on land, so inter-vessel visitations can have a bumper-boats quality. Making human life happen on the water is a fundamental challenge of the event, and without proper instruction, Ephemerisle participants muddle through on messy experience.

In hosting visitors to Siren Island nonstop, Elston was keenly aware of that knowledge gap. She pointed to a cleat at my feet tangled in a thin silver chain that a visitor had attached with a small combination lock to secure his kayak. This is exactly what Im talking about, Elston said. What the f is that?

A man with curly hair named Adam replied: Its people bringing their terrestrial s with them.

People build Siren Island at Ephemerisle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta while a cargo ship passes in the background.

Whether Ephemerisle is growing or shrinking is tough to say. There are no ticket sales or census numbers, and while longtimers say there was a big drop-off several years ago when the local houseboat rental industry folded, numbers appear to have bounced back a bit. Best guess? Its roughly stable, with at least a few hundred participants each year.

In many ways, it has come to inhabit the purpose assigned by its creator: a hodgepodge of flotsam and philosophy that amasses at the same time and place each summer, with certain communities gaining strength and stability while neglected ones atrophy. It draws people who are curious and audacious enough to give themselves over to a communal experience with no central leadership. Your safety net is your neighbors.

Yes, there are glow sticks, tents, onesies, didjeridoos, psychedelics, dubstep, mohawks, fishnets, tattoo stickers, cuddle puddles, pirate flags, dreadlocks, gurus, Buddhists, DJs, Buddhist-DJs and armchair libertarians galore. Why wouldnt there be?

Theres also live improvisational music sets, collaborative art projects, ad hoc engineering solutions, presentation forums, deep conversations, communal sunset howlings, bonds forged and a constant swirl of innovative ideas and institutional wisdom.

Some people I interviewed think the spirit of Ephemerisle is dead or irrelevant, the core principles rendered moot, the excitement of venturing into unchartered waters neutralized. To others, its alive and intact, buzzing with activity and brimming with potential. But cultural phenomena are fluid and amorphous, and a persons perspective on their potency and authenticity depends on the timing and circumstances of an individuals point of entry. Whats clear is that the experience is special to everyone who goes whether thats to party or to dabble in low-level world-building.

In my short time there, I found that I was most happy when I was contributing. Hacking away at the watermelon under the warm sun on Siren Island, ferrying a friendly stranger over to Elysium, sharing information about the event with the people I encountered. Everyone had an opinion, everyone was trying to figure Ephemerisle out what it was, what it is, and what it could one day become.


Early on my first day at Ephemerisle, before the snafu with The Entanglement, I jet-skied over to Siren Island to say hello to Elston. Reclining on the bow was a pale, naked woman with long wavy ginger hair and gray eyes Botticellis Venus, I thought. My approach was too fast and before I could maneuver Id set the nose of my boat on a collision course with one of Sirens wings.


A few strangers on the island shot dirty looks my way. Heat flashed into my cheeks and a pang of embarrassment wrenched my stomach. I was so clearly a newb, a kook, a landlubber so obviously not salty dead weight at an event that needs all the buoyancy it can get.

I stammered out a few quick apologies. At the bow, Venus seemed unfazed.

Eh, she shrugged. You live, you learn.

Gregory Thomas is Travel Editor at The Chronicle. Email: gthomas@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @GregRThomas.

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Ephemerisle is Burning Man on boats in the Sacramento River Delta - San Francisco Chronicle

The Decline of the Nation-State – Slate

A construction crew works on a section of privately built border wall on December 11, 2019 near Mission, Texas.

John Moore/Getty Images

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued something very close to a declaration of independence for the largest U.S. state while speaking on MSNBC earlier this month. Noting that California has been forced in a position of competing against other states, other nations, against our own government for badly needed personal protective equipment to fight the coronavirus, Newsom vowed to use the purchasing power of the state of California as a nation-state to acquire the needed supplies.

California is often compared to other countriesit would have the worlds fifth largest GDP if it were independentbut Newsoms statement took on new meaning in the context of the escalating tensions between state governments and the Trump administration over the response to COVID-19. States have been forced to work around the federal government to access supplies and coordinate plans. Some states are reopening their economies ahead of schedule, also in defiance of the White House, while others are banding together into regional alliances to coordinate their eventual reopening. President Donald Trump may claim that he has absolute authority when it comes to U.S. pandemic response, but right now the country looks more like a patchwork of occasionally overlapping regional responses.

Trump has also encouraged protesters to liberate states with governors that plan to extend stay-at-home orders. In the case of Virginia, he came close to encouraging armed insurrection by invoking the Second Amendment. He has accused governors who defy his directives of mutiny. The president has often sounded more like a medieval monarch inveighing against rebellious noblemen than the president of a centralized bureaucracy. The question may be less whether California is acting like a nation-state than whether the United States is acting like one.

Its telling to see which groups take the lead in acrisis.

Similar dynamics are playing out elsewhere. In Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and India, state and regional governments are also charting their own paths in responding to the crisis, sometimes openly defying national governments. Some of the most consequential political actionspositive and negativehave been carried out at the local level. The virus may well leave behind a world where power is more diffused from the national to the regional level, and where the international political order is a lot messier.

This might seem counterintuitive, as the virus is also creating boom times for centralized state bureaucracies and traditional views of sovereignty. The quarantine, testing, and surveillance measures required to slow the viruss spread have necessitated an extraordinary degree of state intervention in citizens lives in the worlds democracies, and allowed authoritarians to entrench their power. Globalization has ground to a halt as international borders have closed and hardened into the impenetrable walls of nativist dreams. Multilateral institutions have never looked less relevant: The U.N. Security Council is ineffectual; the EU may have been dealt a death blow; even the World Health Organization has become a political punching bag. Rather than cooperating to fight a virus that has no respect for national boundaries, nation-states are too often competing over valuable supplies.

In parts of the world where central governments legitimacy was already weaker, alternative actors are also stepping into the fray. As the Washington Post noted recently, armed insurgents and terrorist groups and drug cartels and gangs have formed a parallel underworld of public health policy and strategic messaging. Examples include the infamous gang MS-13 enforcing curfews in El Salvador; drug cartels distributing economic aid packages in Mexico; and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the group once known as al-Qaida in Syria, taking the lead on public health education within the areas it controls. Taliban personnel in medical gear have reportedly been quarantining people whove recently returned from virus hot spot Iran, something the Afghan central government has been notably unable to enforce.

In the absence of leadership from the top, its becoming clear which institutions, formal or not, are trusted by their communities. Even groups that are (for good reason) international pariahs can enjoy more local legitimacy than formal governments. Its telling to see which groups take the lead in a crisis; in many parts of the world, its not the central governments.

If we think of the current international political order in terms of the familiar world map, with national governments enjoying complete and non-overlapping power over their own territories, the virus has exposed this view as woefully incomplete. Even the map itself is questionable: Its worth noting that the country that has arguably been the most effective at controlling its COVID-19 outbreakTaiwanis one that officially doesnt exist according to most other governments and international organizations, including the WHO. The notion that international politics is defined by the interactions of the 193 governments with placards at the United Nations has never looked shakier.

In short, rather than a world of strengthened states contained within ever more impermeable borders, the pandemic could leave behind a much more complicated and messier political world, where power is contested in new waysor perhaps in very old ones.

In an influential 1998 article, the Wharton School professor Stephen J. Kobrin wrote that thanks to emerging threats to the authority of nation-statesmultinational corporations, transnational terrorist groups, nongovernmental organizationsthe world could be entering a neomedieval period in which global politics is more complex, with more diffuse sources of power, than the modern system of fixed, mutually exclusive, geographically defined jurisdictions known as nation-states. He meant medieval in the sense that medieval European borders were diffuse, shifting and permeable; it is anachronistic to see them as modern jurisdictional limits. It was a world in which political power was based more on family ties or religious authority than geographic territory, one in which the King of France might have sent letters to the count of Flanders, who was clearly his vassal; the count of Luxembourg, a prince of the Empire and the king of Sicily, who while a ruler of [a] sovereign state, was also a prince of the French royal house.

As late as the 17th century, the king of Spain was also the king of Portugal, Naples, and Sicily as well as the duke of Milan and Burgundy. The historian Derek Croxton has likened this arrangement to the EU in reverse, in that all these countries shared an absolute ruler and foreign policies but had their own protectionist trade policies. A traveler from Lisbon to Barcelona at that time would need a separate passport for each kingdom they passed through along the way, even though they technically never left the dominion of the king of Spain.

To put this in modern terms, one could imagine a scenario not far off where a road tripper driving across the United States would pass through a series of quarantine-induced border controls defining open states and locked-down states, with different rules and cultural norms (mask on, mask off) depending on the region.

Kobrins essay predicting the end of an era where the sovereign nation-state is the defining unit of international politics is very much a product of its time: The postCold War era was a boom time for predictions of the decline of the nation-state, from John Perry Barlows Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace to Robert D. Kaplans The Coming Anarchy. As Kelsey Atherton recently noted for Slate, the speculative fiction of this period depicts a world in which governments have withered away to insignificance. Neal Stephensons 1992 cyberpunk classic Snow Crash depicts a future in which people live in neighborhood-size, politically autonomous, usually ethnically homogenous burbclaves with their own laws and security forces.

It didnt quite work out that way. Nation-states responded to the threat from nonstate actorssymbolized most vividly by the 9/11 attackswith a massive expansion of the security state and surveillance capabilities. Information and capital may move rapidly across borders, but peoples political rights and their ability to travel are still organized by the country on their passport.

Ive reported on a number of alternatives to a world dominated by nation-states over the years, from the quasi-anarchist confederacy concept favored by Syrian Kurdish leaders, to digital citizenship programs, to ex-situ nationhood arrangements for islands lost to climate change, to the seasteading dreams of Silicon Valley.

This would be a more chaotic world, but it would also be a world rife withpossibilities.

Ive always found ideas like these to be fun thought experiments, but not particularly realistic. As the philosopher of nationalism Ernest Gellner wrote, we live in a world where a man must have a nationality as he must have a nose and two earsthe current political order seems so entrenched that its hard to even imagine an alternative.

Id always assumed it would take a global disruption on the order of a world war to make any sort of alternative arrangements plausible. Could a pandemic be that sort of disruption?

Perhaps. These are clearly exceptional times. Depending on how long the current state of emergency lasts, we could soon live in a world where a number of previously extraordinary things are normalized. Maybe well see interstate checkpoints within the United States, international organizations working with sanctioned terrorist organizations to deliver medical aid, or the right to travel and work being determined not by governments but by an app developed by Google and Facebook.

This would be a more chaotic world, to be sure, but it would also be a world rife with possibilities. Already, some voices on the left have been arguing that were entering a municipalist moment, one in which progressive movements will be looking to the local as a place to build power, as a recent article in Dissent put it. This new municipalism has manifested itself in the mutual aid groups that have sprouted from London to Washington to deliver aid to front-line workers and economically vulnerable people who have been failed by the government.

Mutual aid is not just a local phenomenon; people are also collaborating across borders. As the New York Times recently noted in an article on scientific cooperation, while political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency.

Its not just the scientists. Around 2.6 billion people, or more than a third of the worlds population, are currently under some form of lockdown to slow the spread of the virus. This is more people than were alive during World War II, and this time theyre in every region of the world. This many people around the world have never been involved in a common project like this before in history. A neomedieval world of more fluid borders and political organization is not necessarily a more antagonistic one.

None of this is inevitable. There are powerful actors that are already using this crisis to build stronger states and harden borders. But the moment of crisis is also opening up the possibility of transformative change that lingers even after the quarantine orders lift.

For more of Slates coronavirus coverage, listen to a recent episode of one of our news podcasts.

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The Decline of the Nation-State - Slate

Floating Cities: The Next Big Real Estate Boom – Forbes

Floating island.

"I'm a real estate developer and this is a developer's dream, spoke Lela Goren, a NYC-based developer and investor during a UN Habitat event as she looked over a scale model of Oceanix Citya floating city concept that could be deployed around the world. In this era where the value of and need for coastal property throughout Asia is so high that dozens of countries are creating hundreds of square kilometers of artificial land for urban development, her words resonated throughout the room. Not only may floating cities be a salve to help to mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels, but also a way for governments and developers to create vast swaths of much-coveted space for highly profitable coastal development by building out into the sea in a more environmentally sustainable way than land reclamation.

Most cities are located nearby water and this number will also increase in the next decades, said Kees-Jan Bandt, the CEO of Bandt Management & Consultancy. This was already the case a hundred years ago: water is life and always has been a center of economic activities.

For this reason, coastal cities have been drawing people towards them at an ever-increasing rate. Nearly three million people move from the countryside into cities each week, with the bulk of this migration heading to coastal cities, which now contain over half of the worlds population and are, quite literally, bursting at the seams. This is a situation that is expected to only grow more dire, as UN Habitat predicts that by 2035 90% of all mega-citiesmetropolises with over 10 million peoplewill be on the coast.

Over the past decades, coastal cities across Asia have been responding to the need for more land by simply making it themselves. Land reclamationdumping or corralling sand in aquatic areas to create new landhas grown to bonanza-like proportions, as Asian cities build arrays of high-value housing, luxury shopping malls, entertainment facilities, transportation infrastructure, and even entirely new cities where there was only open water not long ago. From 2006 to 2010, China was tacking on an additional 700 square kilometers of new land each year. Malaysia is engaged in mass reclamation work for the 700,000-person Forest City project as well as a slew of luxury developments in Penang and Melaka. Sri Lankas capital of Colombo reclaimed enough land to build an entirely new financial district thats meant to rival Singapore. South Korea built the Songdo smart city entirely on land expropriated from a bay. Dubai has turned reclamation into an art. While upwards of 20% of Tokyo and nearly 25% of Singapore is on land that nature didnt make.

In some Asian countries it is sometimes easier, quicker, and, on the long-term, cheaper to reclaim land from the sea than develop on existing land because of land ownership, Bandt explained.

In already crowded coastal cities, large swaths of development land are rare, and the procurement of such often requires costly and complicated evictions and relocations. So land reclamation was often seen as a win-win for developers and municipal planning boards: they could get fresh, barren land in high-value, central locations without needing to deal with the trouble of land owners or tearing down already built-up areas. Also, in most countries, reclamation is a land rights wild card, as there are no existing statutes on the ownership of land created on the seaits a simple matter of makers-keepers. And the profits from land reclamation? According to Ocean University of China professor Liu Hongbin, land reclamation in China could produce a 10- to 100-fold profit.

However, there is another side of land reclamation that isnt all glittering shopping malls and gleaming gantry cranes. It turns out that land reclamation is environmentally hazardous.

Once you reclaim, you lose the ecosystem, Professor Jennie Lee, a marine biologist from Malaysia Terengganu University, stated bluntly. The coral reef, the mangrove are the shoreline's protector, so once you reclaim, you destroy the natural protection to the coastline and, over time, you will see the water currents change and physical changes of the coastline itself: some beaches will have more sands piling up and some beaches will be eroded away. When you pile side dunes on an area, you have a lot of runoff, a lot of siltation happens, she continued. When you increase the turbidity of an area the phytoplankton reduces because there is not enough light, and then it just goes to the next level: the fishes reduce because there is no more food for them, and after that it will just change the ecosystem itself.

Besides being environmentally hazardous, land reclamation is contributing to the depletion of a resource that until recently was thought to be inexhaustible: sand. According to many reports, the sand wars have already begun, with many countries throughout Asia banning the export of the resource and organized crime syndicates filling the void by trafficking it like a narcotic. The world is running out of suitable sand for developmentour thirst for concrete, of which sand is a necessary component, and artificial land has pushed the resource to the brink.

There is also another unfortunate, often inopportune thing about land reclamation: it is often no match for nature.

Even in Dubai, with the worlds best engineering and obviously a lot of money, many of their land reclamation projects dont hold after a decade, said Marc Collins Chen, the founder of Oceanix, one of the leading companies driving the development of floating cities. If you look at Japan, the Kansai airportbuilt with state of the art engineering and a lot of moneyits sinking, and its sinking fast.

As the years pass, countries throughout Asia have started to understand the pernicious impacts of their land reclamation activities, and many want to see the projects come to an end. China has already banned all but essential land reclamation developments in 2018, and earlier this year, Zhejiang province doubled-down on Beijings order.

Meanwhile, the demand for more coastal development land continues to exist, signaling that a new solution is needed.

A substitute for land reclamation is now being proposed, offering the same perkscheap and easy to make blank slates for developmentwithout as many of the environmental and social drawbacks. They call them floating cities, but the term is an overt misnomer. Floating cities dont actually float, but are essentially platforms that are anchored to the seabed in coastal areas. The technology is not newits basically the same idea as an oil rig or large dock, only with a city built on top of it. Once the intellectual property of libertarians looking to construct utopias and tax shelters, the idea is now creeping into the consciousness of the commercial real estate sphere worldwide.

The economic potential is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, opined Collins Chen. More and more countries are banning commercial land reclamation while population pressures on coastal cities continue to grow. Floating cities become the only option to expand onto the ocean sustainably.

There are currently dozens of floating city models that are being tested and proposed around the world by a new class of innovator dubbed the aquapreneurs. In the Netherlands there is a company called WaterStudio, that has already built small-scale floating buildings, including UNESCO-backed schools. Recouping from its failure in French Polynesia, the Seasteading Institutewhich was founded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Milton Friedmans grandsonis still adamant about building floating cities to create a space for innovative forms of governance and economics. The Chinese construction giant CCCC is also in the floating city game, commissioning a design for a floating city that looks like a sprawling buoyant landmass made from prefabricated hexagonal modules. The French architecture firm XTU developed a floating city concept called X SEA TY. The architect Vincent Callebaut designed a floating city called Lilypad that would house 50,000 people in an array of high-rise towers that look like, yes, lily pads. Then theres Marc Collins Chens Oceanix Citya design that has already received considerable traction.

This visionary group of aquapreneurs believes that humanitys future isnt found in recoiling from sea level rise or stemming the tides of coastal migration, but in facing the reality in front of us and building out into sea to an extent that would make even the most ambitious land reclamation engineer blush. Rather than engaging in a perpetual fist fight with the ocean, the aquapreneurs are saying that we should build over top of the sea and just let nature do its thing down below.

Eventually, it's going to happen. There is no turning back. We are going to eventually have floating cities, declared Nathalie Mezza-Garcia, a complexity scientist who once worked with the Seasteading Institute.

While there is not yet an example of a living floating city, the model does present the potential of being less environmentally hazardous than land reclamation. Floating cities dont require large amounts of sand to create, preserving a dwindling resource and negating the damage done to the environment in the locales where the sand is sourced and where it is deposited.

Floating is a lot better than land reclamation because it protects the marine environment. It can be easily be removed or expanded, whereas land reclamation usually takes a bunch of sand and dumps it over a place, killing everything that lives there, Mezza-Garcia explained.

Floating cities are also being touted as being cheaper and faster to construct than land reclamation. When developers reclaim land there is generally a multi-year waiting period for the sediment to settle before it is safe to build on. Floating cities have no such requirements: you can start building the day the platform is anchored.

So let's say Shenzhen needs 5,000-person low income housing, Collins Chen proposed. You could literally tow it in within months instead of waiting ten years [for the reclaimed land to settle]. Reclaimed land is expensive because you got to bring trucks and trucks of sand and dirt and then you have to bring all of the teams to actually build and lay the concrete slab. Whereas, floating cities can be entirely built in a factory, towed out, and assembled. So it really is about the environment, costs, and speed.

Floating cities are not only for idealistic libertarians anymore, but grounded entrepreneurs looking to be a part of the next big boom in real estate development.

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Floating Cities: The Next Big Real Estate Boom - Forbes

Future ahoy: Are you ready to live in a floating city? – San Francisco Chronicle

When the ice caps melt, covering the earth with water, and Kevin Costner sails the seas alone, wearing a set of fish gills and a hardened scowl, the rest of us will be happily content, living comfortably on fancy floating city-states. No fighting cigarette-crazed pirates on greasy Jet Skis, just lazing like frogs on teched-out lily pads.

Why, you ask? Its simple, really. Subsections of humanity will have made the migration from terra firma to the mighty oceans decades earlier. The transition will come partially as an urgent response to our worsening climate crisis and partially as an extreme outgrowth of free market economics.

Thats the theory of Patri Friedman, co-founder and board member of the Seasteading Institute in San Francisco, who happens to be the grandson of the highly influential Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. His ultimate goal is to facilitate a situation in which governments overtly compete for inhabitants on an open market.

To me, hell is one-world government, Friedman told me earlier this year. Even if (the law) had whatever the closest to what everyone in the world would together choose to me thats hell because its vulnerable.

The engine of Friedmans mission is seasteading (think homesteading), which involves creating city-scale offshore habitats for self-sustaining communities of intrepid humans. Securing your plot on one would be as simple as joining a new gym but, you know, as a full-time citizen.

Friedman, who consults on seasteading projects around the world, isnt the only one who sees this vision. Blue Frontiers, a company founded in 2017 by the former executive director of the Seasteading Institute, Joe Quirk, has been trying to jump-start a project to save French Polynesia from the rising Pacific.

Our ambition is to build the worlds first sustainable floating islands, said Marc Collins, managing director of Blue Frontiers and former minister of French Polynesia at a United Nations hearing in 2017. What our country needs and what a lot of the island-nations specifically in the Pacific need are mitigation strategies for sea level rise.

The fact that seasteading sounds like the utopian basis of pulp sci-fi hasnt stopped countries and groups around the world from expressing interest. Proposals have gained traction with varying degrees of failure so far in Thailand and elsewhere. Soon enough, believers say, the first permanent seastead will launch, the floodgates will open, and civilization may find itself hopping aboard a flotilla of giant Petri dishes.

As the oceans stretch and grow, seasteaders will already be in great shape. I do like to joke, Friedman wrote in an email, that the higher the seas, the better for seasteads!

Gregory Thomas is The Chronicle travel editor. Email: gthomas@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @GregRThomas

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Future ahoy: Are you ready to live in a floating city? - San Francisco Chronicle

Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty

BANGKOK (AP) Thai authorities have raided a floating home in the Andaman Sea belonging to an American man and his Thai partner who sought to be pioneers in the seasteading movement, which promotes living in international waters to be free of any nations laws.

Thailands navy said Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet endangered national sovereignty, an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.

It filed a complaint against them with police on the southern resort island of Phuket. Thai authorities said they have revoked Elwartowskis visa.

Elwartowski said in an email Thursday that he believes he and Supranee also known as Nadia Summergirl did nothing wrong.

This is ridiculous, he said in an earlier statement posted online. We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.

The couple, who have gone into hiding, had been living part-time on a small structure they said was anchored outside Thailands territorial waters, just over 12 nautical miles from shore. They were not there when the navy carried out their raid on Saturday.

The Thai deputy naval commander responsible for the area said the project was a challenge to the countrys authorities.

This affects our national security and cannot be allowed, Rear Adm. Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media on Tuesday. He said the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane.

Seasteading has had a revival in recent years as libertarian ideas of living free from state interference such as by using crypto-currency including Bitcoin have become more popular, including among influential Silicon Valley figures such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Elwartowski, an IT specialist, has been involved in Bitcoin since 2010.

Several larger-scale projects are under development, but some in the seasteading community have credited the Andaman Sea house with being the first modern implementation of seasteading.

The first thing to do is whatever I can to help Chad & Nadia, because living on a weird self-built structure and dreaming of future sovereignty should be considered harmless eccentricities, not major crimes, Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who heads The Seasteading Institute, said on his Facebook page.

The floating two-story octagonal house at the center of the controversy had been profiled and promoted online by a group called Ocean Builders, which touted it as a pilot project and sought to sell additional units.

The group describes itself as a team of engineering focused entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading and are willing to put the hard work and effort forward to see that it happens.

In online statements, both Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the couple merely promoted and lived on the structure, and did not fund, design, build or set the location for it.

I was volunteering for the project promoting it with the desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform, Elwartowski told The Associated Press.

Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared, Elwartowski said. We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.

Asked his next step, he was more optimistic.

I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government, he said.


Associated Press journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.

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Thailand says US man's seasteading home violates sovereignty

Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty …

Thai authorities have raided a floating home in the Andaman Sea belonging to an American man and his Thai partner who sought to be pioneers in the "seasteading" movement, which promotes living in international waters to be free of any nation's laws.

Thailand's navy said Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet endangered national sovereignty, an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.

It filed a complaint against them with police on the southern resort island of Phuket. Thai authorities said they have revoked Elwartowski's visa.

Elwartowski said in an email Thursday that he believes he and Supranee also known as Nadia Summergirl did nothing wrong.

"This is ridiculous," he said in an earlier statement posted online. "We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed."

The couple, who have gone into hiding, had been living part-time on a small structure they said was anchored outside Thailand's territorial waters, just over 12 nautical miles from shore. They were not there when the navy carried out their raid on Saturday.

The Thai deputy naval commander responsible for the area said the project was a challenge to the country's authorities.

"This affects our national security and cannot be allowed," Rear Adm. Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media on Tuesday. He said the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane.

Seasteading has had a revival in recent years as libertarian ideas of living free from state interference such as by using crypto-currency including Bitcoin have become more popular, including among influential Silicon Valley figures such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Elwartowski, an IT specialist, has been involved in Bitcoin since 2010.

Several larger-scale projects are under development, but some in the seasteading community have credited the Andaman Sea house with being the first modern implementation of seasteading.

"The first thing to do is whatever I can to help Chad & Nadia, because living on a weird self-built structure and dreaming of future sovereignty should be considered harmless eccentricities, not major crimes," Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who heads The Seasteading Institute, said on his Facebook page.

The floating two-story octagonal house at the center of the controversy had been profiled and promoted online by a group called Ocean Builders, which touted it as a pilot project and sought to sell additional units.

The group describes itself as "a team of engineering focused entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading and are willing to put the hard work and effort forward to see that it happens."

In online statements, both Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the couple merely promoted and lived on the structure, and did not fund, design, build or set the location for it.

"I was volunteering for the project promoting it with the desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform," Elwartowski told The Associated Press.

"Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared," Elwartowski said. "We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways."

Asked his next step, he was more optimistic.

"I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government," he said.

Associated Press journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.

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Thailand says US man's seasteading home violates sovereignty ...

Seasteading bitcoin couple charged with violating Thai …

Posted April 21, 2019 14:16:17

The Thai navy has boarded the floating cabin of a fugitive couple who are prominent members of the "seasteading" movement and may face the death sentence for setting up their offshore home.

Thai authorities have revoked the visa of bitcoin trader Chad Elwartowski and charged him and his partner, Supranee Thepdet, with violating Thai sovereignty by floating the cabin 14 nautical miles off the west coast of the Thai island of Phuket.

The cabin had been promoted as the world's first seastead by the group Ocean Builders, part of a movement to build floating communities beyond the bounds of nations as a way to explore alternative societies and governments.

"I was free for a moment. Probably the freest person in the world," Mr Elwartowski posted on Facebook on April 13, days before the Thai navy raided his vessel.

The 46-year-old and Ms Supranee, whose Facebook page describes her as a "Bitcoin expert, trader, chef, seastead pioneer", were not on board when the navy boarded, having apparently fled after a surveillance plane flew overhead the previous day.

The US embassy in Bangkok said Mr Elwartowski had engaged a lawyer and was being provided with appropriate assistance.

The Royal Thai Navy had planned on Saturday to seize the structure and tow it back to shore for use as evidence.

In a video posted last month detailing the construction of the floating home, Mr Elwartowski said 20 more similar homes would be up for sale to form a community.

Mr Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the vessel was in international waters and beyond Thailand's jurisdiction, but Thai authorities said the structure was in its exclusive economic zone and therefore a violation of its sovereignty.

A Thai navy task force inspected the floating home on Saturday as it prepared to tow the structure back to Phuket.

"We will invite technical units and officials who have inspected the object to consult on the methods of towing to minimise damage," Captain Puchong Rodnikorn, chief of staff of the Operations Squadron of the Third Naval Area Command, said.

"Once the sea house reaches the shore, the owner of this house can come to inspect it, as well as come forward to the Thai authorities in order to prove themselves in the legal process."

The navy said it had evidence the floating home was built in a private boatyard in Phuket and the couple wanted to establish a "permanent settlement at sea beyond the sovereignty of nations by using a legal loophole".

It said the action "reveals the intention of disobeying the laws of Thailand and could lead to a creation of a new state within Thailand's territorial waters", adding this would undermine Thailand's national security as well as the economic and social interests of maritime nations.

Mr Elwartowski referred all questions to the Seasteading Institute and pointed to online statements from the Ocean Builders website in response to questions over the charges.

Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee are members of Ocean Builders, which has denied they were planning to set up an independent state or "micronation".

The group said the pair did not build, invest in or design the floating home themselves, but were "volunteers excited about the prospect of living free".

According to Ocean Builders, the concept of seasteading has been discussed for years, but the cabin Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee lived on was the first attempt at living in what it described as international waters.

Other groups, such as the Seasteading Institute, which was originally backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, have sought to build floating cities with the cooperation of host nations.



Continue reading here:

Seasteading bitcoin couple charged with violating Thai ...

Bitcoin Couple’s Seastead Dreams Sunk by Thai Navy

By CCN: The Thai Navy has dismantled the floating sea cabin of U.S. bitcoin investor and seasteading advocate Chad Elwartowski. His Thai girlfriend Supranee Thepdet was living with him in the seastead. The Thai Navy boarded the boat over the weekend and returned its pieces to shore in three boats. The Thai government plans to use the dismantled floating home as evidence in a case against Elwartowsi and Thepdet.

The two are on the run and have engaged the U.S. embassy. The couple says that the Royal Thai Government is pressing to have them tried and killed for violating the Southeast Asian countrys national sovereignty. Its a crime that carries the death penalty in Thailand. Luckily, when the authorities moved to seize the vessel, the two had fled; Elwartowski had spotted a surveillance plane flying overhead the day before.

Although the government of Thailand maintains the seasteaders violated its national sovereignty, the couple most certainly did not. They did not engage in sedition against the government. They did not attempt to overthrow it, nor did they encourage anyone to break its laws. They simply chose to peacefully withdraw from its territory.

In the style of historys millions of homesteaders who left their countries and built something for themselves in unexplored and unsettled lands, this couple is a pair of explorers and pioneers. They are obviously not criminals.

In a statement released Monday, Patri Friedman,the chairman of the Seasteading Institute, urged compassion for the pair. Friedman insists their actions were no threat to Thai sovereignty.

The Thai governments response to the seasteading couple has sent shock waves throughout the international community and media. These events have likely spurred the most mainstream media coverage that the burgeoning seasteading movement has ever received. It is unfortunate that this publicity has come at so great and unfair a personal cost to two of the movements pioneers.

Seasteaders seek to settle humanitys next frontier this planets vast and abundant oceans.

The seasteading movement received a huge boost in 2008 when billionaire libertarian and tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel invested nearly $2 million in the Seasteading Institute. The rise of seasteading certainly introduces questions about national and individual sovereignty, but these challenges should be met with reason and understanding by the worlds sovereign states, not naked aggression.

See more here:

Bitcoin Couple's Seastead Dreams Sunk by Thai Navy

Michigan man faces death penalty in Thailand for building …

A Michigan man is on the run and hiding from Thailand police as he and his girlfriend are wanted by the Thai government for violating that countrys sovereignty by building a floating home off the nations coast.

According to the Associated Press, Chad Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, - also known as Nadia Summergirl - have been charged by the Thailand Navy after they had been living on a small floating house anchored outside Thailands territorial waters. The seasteading home was approximately 12 nautical miles from shore.

Seasteading is a movement popular among those who wish to live free from the laws of countries by living in international waters. Elwartowski was living in a home built by a company known as Ocean Builders, which also picked the location.

I was volunteering for the project, promoting it with the desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform, Elwartowski told the AP.

The company hoped to use the first house as proof that it worked and to sell more units based on that success.

However, Thailand officials say Elwartowskis home threatened national security.

Rear Adm. Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media last week the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane, the AP reports.

Elwartowski has documented part of the issue on his Facebook page, saying he did nothing wrong and asking for help. However, those pages have been removed. Elwartowski spoke with the AP last week about the issue.

Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared, Elwartowski said. We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.

He went on to say he hopes his lawyer can hash out an agreement with the Thai government.

Elwartwoski graduated from Tecumseh High School in Tecumseh, MI and attended Michigan State University. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, one of Elwartowksis sisters said her brother made a significant amount of money by being an early investor in Bitcoin.

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Michigan man faces death penalty in Thailand for building ...

World’s first floating city to be built off the coast of …

Ambitious plans to create a city in the sea, complete with homes, offices and restaurants, are beginning to materialise.

Long touted as the next frontier for humanity by tech billionaires and libertarians, seasteading the idea of building autonomous, self-sustaining cities in international waters has moved one step closer to reality.

A pilot project underway in the coastal waters of French Polynesia is set to become the first functioning floating community by 2020, offering homes for up to 300 people.

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Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Picture: the Seasteading Institute

Joe Quirk, president of the Seasteading Institute, outlined his plans for cities in the ocean that are free from the constraints imposed by world governments in a recent interview .

If you could have a floating city, it would essentially be a start-up country, Mr Quirk told the New York Times, explaining his disillusionment with current governments that just dont get better, and are stuck in the past.

He said he sawseasteading as a way to escape this system.

We can create a huge diversity of governments for a huge diversity of people," he said.

For the time being, however, the seasteaders seem prepared to cooperate with existing governments in order to get their initiative off the ground. For their Floating Island Project, run by a new company set up by Mr Quirk and his collaborators called Blue Frontiers, they are working with the local government of French Polynesia to create a Semi-Autonomous Floating Venice in Paradise.

This floating city will exist in a special economic seazone, allowing the the Seasteading Institute to try out some of its ideas in a relatively controlled environment.

Engineers and architects have visited an undisclosed location where the project is set to begin. Their ambitions extend to the creation of a research institute in the floating city, and even a power plant to sell energy and clean water back to their host nation.

The project is projected to cost $167 million.

The team has made a deal with French Polynesia to create a "unique governing framework"in a patch of ocean where their project can begin.

Mr Quirk, who describes himself as a seavangelist, first became interested in the notion of seasteading at Nevadas Burning Man festival in 2011. The festival provided him with an idea of the type of unconstrained society he would like to see flourishing in offshore cities.

Another early backer of seasteading, the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, has invested $1.7 million in The Seasteading Institute, but has since fallen out of love with the idea.

"They're not quite feasible from an engineering perspective," MrThiel told the New York Times in a separate interview. "That's still very far in the future."

Indeed, past efforts to get seasteading off the ground have not been successful, with a prototype planned for the San Francisco Bay in 2010 failing to appear.

But the team behind the Floating Island Project are sure of their new idea, and are currently in the process of demonstrating the projects viability to the French Polynesian local government.

The Memorandum of Understanding they have signed is based on the seasteaders ability to show the positive economic and environmental impact it would have for their host nation.

If that all goes to plan, they anticipate work beginning on development of the pilot project as early as 2018 and beyond that, many more.

I want to see floating cities by 2050, thousands of them hopefully, said Mr Quirk.

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World's first floating city to be built off the coast of ...

What is Seasteading? DIS Magazine

disaster issue Alessandro Bava, architect and Renaissance man Martti Kalliala, and artist Daniel Keller discuss #seasteading and Tech-Secessionism.

The Seasteading argument:

1. We need a better legal system in order to increase freedom and efficiency.

2. The best way to find a better system is through diverse experimentation and competition.

3. One needs a location to make an experimental society.

4. All land is claimed by governments who wont give up their land, yet 70% of the earth is covered by oceans.

6. In order to make experimental societies we must build competing floating city-states on the ocean.

Daniel Keller: Seasteading is a portmanteau of Sea and homesteading. It is the concept of building semi-permanent cities at sea, usually in international waters and armed with novel socioeconomic and legal systems. Its sold as the optimal libertarian solution to the lack of innovation in government. Yet its essentially a fantasy escape plan for a permanent minority to circumvent a representative democracy, which is inherently unsympathetic to their devotion to tax evasion and secession.

Libertarians argue that the Federal government should consider itself a public option provider of citizen experience in the governance industry, and open the market to competing options. Obviously no national government is going to let this happen within their borders, so the idea is that they might, for some reason, just go ahead and tolerate it as long as it takes place in international waters. So a seastead is seen as the only way to lower the barriers of entry to the governance industry which are insurmountably high in any sovereign (land-based) nation. These platforms would ideally be built modularly so that citizens or groups could merge and split off to form new seasteads in the constant search for their optimum-blend society. (Islands having sex with other islands, then divorcing them).

ExitCon, Martti Kalliala

Alessandro Bava: Since the 15th century, understanding the legal and political status of the sea has been a struggle. Political philosophers like Hugo Grotius and Carl Schmitt have produced, in very different times, theories to define the immense and fluctuating body of water in terms of power relations. The renewed interest in seasteading seems to reignite that struggle by trying to inhabit the voids left by contemporary regulations on the sea, in times of global political instability. Do you think the seasteading option is a form of new colonialism, and in a way interprets current frustration with traditional governance models?

Martti Kalliala: I dont think the colonial lens necessarily sets a meaningful frame in which to understand seasteading even though you could say its rooted in a narrative sequence beginning with Manifest Destiny (then hitting the Pacific Wall, and reopening the idea of the frontier via a literal application of Blue Ocean Strategy).

But yes, frustration and anxiety for sure re: broken governance systems that have been experienced across the political spectrum. Theres a whole lot to be said about the current, and to a certain degree generational, disposition towards exit over voice. The tendency to favor opting-out over staying in, to create new structures rather than improve what already exists, to build a startup instead of a tracked career in existing organizations or to start a new country. Exitcore might then be the aesthetic limit of utopia.

DK: I agree that the narrative basis of seasteading could be seen as a literal extension of Manifest Destiny off of the California coast and into the Pacific and beyond. But as opposed to classic forms of colonialism there arent any people out there being directly displaced or subjugatedseasteading has all the excitement and potential of a frontier without the humanitarian guilt. When I asked Peter Thiel about his interest in seasteading at the DLD conference a few years ago he framed it exclusively as fulfilling an emotional need for new exploitable frontiers as a catalyst for innovation and economic growthfirst the oceans and then space.

AB: Will the next war be fought at sea?

DK: A lot has already been written about the emerging scramble for the North. The Nordic countries, Canada, Russia and the USA are all jockeying for resources and access trade routes in the soon-to-be ice-free Arctic Ocean. In fact a lot of potential geopolitical hotspots involve access to the sea, most notably Russias annexation of Crimea which was primarily about maintaining control of its only southern naval base and access to the Black Sea or the dispute over the resources around the Spratly Islands in the S. China Sea which threaten to escalate into a regional war.

Moreover, its a common belief that wars over access to freshwater will be the 21st century equivalent of wars over oil. So one way or another wars this century will be fought on or for water.

Simon Denny, TEDxVADUZ REDUX at T293 gallery / Courtesy T293, Rome

AB: Is it untimely that such interest in the sea is territorial even in times when the biggest industries are non-territorial (i.e finance)?

MK: But the body is still territorial. And the banality and awkwardness of needing to deposit ones physical body somewhere to be free is really fascinating: one would choose this total unfreedom and hardship that comes with living on an isolated platform in a corrosive, at times hostile ocean environment in exchange for a set of abstract, mainly negative freedoms. Culturally its a bizarre combination of settler machismo battling the challenges of the life aquatic and an almost autistic disregard for ones physical environment like whatever as long as there is soylent, hi-speed internet and a lax tax code.

DK: I think its a misconception that weve moved beyond the territorial. I think its similar to fantasies of the internet as immaterial when in fact it is an enormous, lumbering stack of physical infrastructure. This is also why I think people were so shocked by Russias territorial expansion into Ukraine fighting for territory felt so retro. But even finance is super-territorial (not non-territorial). Enormous profits are derived from exploiting the differing energy states between jurisdictions, through tax avoidance schemes like the double irish or the dutch sandwich, sort of comparable to a steam engine generating energy from thermal gradients. If the world was really post-territorial, this would no longer be possible. A uniform and post-territorial world would be akin to a state of maximum entropy.

AB: Martti how do you think seasteading is relevant in architecture, or rather how is architecture relevant to seasteading?!

MK: Its pretty obvious how existing and historical architectural typologies of living and working could be applied in more intelligent and interesting ways compared to these naval engineer / archi-hobbyist designs that now circulate online.

More interesting is the fact that designing a seastead would mean collapsing spatial concepts such as country, city, neighborhood, territory, site and building into basically one architectural gesture. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, in a design where secession is possible down to the scale of an individual building or cell a seastead as a kind of plankton raft of floating mini-steads these concepts become almost meaningless.

AB: Daniel how has your interest in seasteading translated into your art practice. In general whats the relationship between your research and your art-making?

DK: Its always a bit difficult for me to translate my interest in something into an exhibition format intended for art world audiences (without veering into didactic illustration on the one hand or obscurant poetics on the other). But of course on an allegoric and visual level seasteading is so incredibly rich with potential that I think it is worth trying. In my exhibition Lazy Ocean Drift last year at New Galerie in Paris (which was my first solo show post aids-3d) I tried to introduce a constellation of ideas around seasteading, offshore finance, labor automation, and ecological disaster in the form of sculpture, sound, installation and video.

I am working on a proposal for a follow-up exhibition in an institution in Germany where I will transform the space into a sort of site-specific immersive seastead simulator. The centerpiece of the proposal is a 7 channel video projection onto the windows of the space, which will display a real-time rendered seascape generated in a video game engine.

AB: Theres something beautiful about imagining the sea horizon as the only view from your future windowis that just romantic? Or is it a generational phenomenon that arises from the implication of false ideas of limitlessness in technology, and the actual physical and phenomenological limitation we experience everyday?

MK: If its romantic, the ocean-as-image is also culturally (and apparently also biologically) imprinted with a host of associations that have been successfully appropriated by financial capitalism. Just think of concepts such as liquidity, offshore, Blue Ocean Strategy etc. and the imagery they are typically associated with. This is of course something that Daniel has been looking at a lot in his practice.

DK: Yes, I think the appeal of this imagery really boils down to an almost lizardbrain attraction to blue and green landscapes. By employing that sort of imagery to illustrate entirely artificial concepts like liquidity, it lends them a sense of naturalistic inevitability. I imagine liquidity looks more like cubes on a conveyer belt than a splash of refreshing aquamarine mouthwash.

AB: For me ultimately the idea of seasteading conflicts with the idea of world order, meaning: imagining the coexistence of many tiny floating utopias where you can choose your preferred form of life seems totally nuts. Thats what happened in colonial americaand then the USA happened

MK: Or you could consider seasteading as being a completely predictable glitch of that very world order inhabiting its voids as you said earlier. If nature abhors a vacuum then human nature abhors any vacuum of governance. So pretty much every opportunity for jailbreak from so-called Westphalian state space, which is the foundation of our current world order, has been ruthlessly exploited in the form of thousands of extra-state, extra-legal real and virtual spaces covering our globe from special economic zones to offshore finance to Guantanamo. Seasteading is just a tiny sub-narrative of this rearranging and relayering of sovereign space. In itself I doubt it could pose an existential threat to this so-called world order, but it doesnt claim to be one.

AD: How do you imagine your island?

MK: I think the neo-Victorian New Atlantis from Neal Stephensons Diamond Age mixed with Leon Kriers Atlantis would offer an attractive USP.

DK: I imagine a real seastead to be an incredibly depressing unabomber style man cave. A barnacle-pocked corroding metal platform, littered with semen-encrusted socks, stockpiled food in filthy barrels and broken algae bioreactors; the water surrounded by floating plastic garbage.

Daniel Keller, Lazy Ocean Drift at New Galerie / Courtesy New Galerie, Paris

AB: In 2012 I did a project for a seasteding island off the shore of Naples, Italy. The idea was to create a free trade zone in the sea, operated by the Italian government, which would benefit from a new neighborhood. The project was published online on the most read left wing newspaper, La Repubblica, and generated tons of negative responses Why do you think seasteading has so many enemies?

MK: Id presume its as unattractive as most libertarian ideas in general to the vast majority of people. Thats also part of the libertarian argument for it: people with a natural disposition for libertarian ideas will always remain a minority, hence a libertarian government can never get into power through the democratic process, hence seasteading.

In any case, funny that you mention the hostility towards your project as I just last week had the opposite experience. In 2008 I produced a rather well researched but completely preposterous project to construct an artificial island a kind of SEZ-meets-TAZ social laboratory in the Baltic Sea between Helsinki and Tallinn by using the excavated rock material of a potential railway tunnel dug between the two cities. I just got mail from the mayors office in Helsinki requesting the drawings as they would like to bring the idea back into discussion. Now Im not sure if this is a good idea

Daniel Keller, Lazy Ocean Drift at New Galerie / Courtesy New Galerie, Paris

DK: Yeah there is a huge disconnect between the idea of seasteading as a platform for experimenting with various forms of governance and the reality that the vast majority of people interested in pursuing it are orthodox libertarians who see some kind of anarcho capitalist libertarianism as the inevitable winner in a fair fight between political systems. I really think that a belief in libertarianism is linked to a distinctive and relatively rare neurological type, and therefore will never convince the vast majority of people who tend towards a more altruistic and collectivized morality.

Daniel Keller, Lazy Ocean Drift at New Galerie / Courtesy New Galerie, Paris

AB: Martti recently you have rewritten Rem Koolhaas text City of the Captive Globe, readapting it for seasteading, could you explain that connection?

MK: So the original text was an early hypothesis of the theory of Manhattan written before Koolhaass seminal book Delirious New York. In it he abstracts Manhattan into its essential parts: a gridded archipelago in which each science and mania has its own plot. On each plot you have a base (platform) on top of which each philosophy can construct its own edifice, suspend unwelcome laws, facilitate speculative activity, etc. Here 1920s Manhattan works as an ideological laboratory and an incubator of the world itself (the actual office and condo-filled Manhattan obviously failed to deliver on this hypothesis). Today of course the incubator is a startup incubator and the grid is the smooth unobstructed space of the ocean. So suddenly the text becomes the subconscious theory of seasteading

While I understand the relative pragmatism of the Seasteading Institute looking into solving the fundamental hard problems of settling in an ocean environment which Im sure is necessary for them to gain any mainstream acceptance, the potential of the seasteading imaginary is to a degree wasted on trying too hard to make sense of it. It will probably never make sense, and it shouldnt. For it to be truly attractive I believe it ought to be explicitly charged with libido, excess, and insanity essentially the unfulfilled promise of Manhattanism as a kind of boiling aquaculture. So instead of the lock-in of the grid, a liquid substrate on which islands can copulate and produce mutant offspring, collapse, burn and rise again. And, why not resurrect seapunk as some kind of aesthetic practice of every day life?

Daniel Keller, Lazy Ocean Drift at New Galerie / Courtesy New Galerie, Paris

On December 11, Martti Kalliala is organizing a symposium in NYC about Seasteading, including new work by Daniel Keller:

ExitCon a Symposium on the Formal Imaginary of Tech-Secessionism

Van Alen Institute30 W. 22nd StNew York, NY

See the original post here:

What is Seasteading? DIS Magazine

Will Seasteading Create First Truly Non-Violent Nations …

Why do the nations rage?

I don't know. Maybe because they're out of ammo culturally. As Joe Quirk, president ofThe Seasteading Institute calls them, the 193 monopolies on government that control 7.6 billion people right now" could benefit from some peace-loving competition. More importantly, the existence of his planned seasteads, floating platform-based ocean communities, could benefit the ostensible customers of monopoly governments by modeling nonviolent, voluntary community making.

Iinterviewed Quirk because I am interested in the cause of liberty and nonviolence from an anthropological perspective. I am curious about why humans group together and assent to monopolies of violence called states. I want to know how humans came to morally condone and even consecrate the violence such entities employ against nonviolent people for disagreeing with majoritarian might-makes-right rules.

Watch the interview here:

In the news today we are hearing reports that an elderly pundit Dr. Jerome Corsi is likely facing prison time for getting tripped up in a perjury trap during psychologically abusing grillings by grand inquisitor Robert Mueller. Corsi's actions, whatever the specifics, did not produce a victim. (Robert Mueller did when he helped mislead the nation into the Iraq War, as tens of thousands of wounded or killed soldiers prove.)

Regardless of what you think of his politics, Corsi is facing the prospect of being locked in a cage merely for the impotently cathartic game of DC blood sport. Seemingly near half the country seems to be foaming at the mouth at the sight of a political writer being caged in his last years just because he favored their rivals' presidential pick. Who wants to live in a society where its law and liberty is decided by these violent bouts of scapegoat ping pong?

Centralized monopolies that demand the right to initiate violence against any nonviolent misfit are devolving into anarchic schisms of mad groupthink. Where do we get off this ride?

To exit the vehicle safely, we must know how we got in it and why it is breaking down and making us sick on its way out of commission.

The enigmatic Jewish prophet Habakkuk once wrote, Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!

He wrote it at a time in which evidence suggests the world was filled with societies founded and mediated by controlled acts of bloodshed. Today, we call it ritual human sacrifice and tribal war campaigns for glory. As sophisticated moderns, we are embarrassed to address the seeming fluke of sacrifice so ubiquitous to human history so we awkwardly shuffle it off to the corners of our museums. At best, the fashionable answer is that sacrifice was a quirk of religion or agriculture or proto-patriarchy or some other such cultural institution that soiled our primal nobility.

In reality, sacrifice was a safety valve ancient communities used to channel pent up resentment, fear, and conflict into misfit human vessels of destruction. These scapegoats were marked out from the masses by some arbitrary difference that made them unbearably peculiar to suspicious crowds looking to avert famine, disease, or other harbingers of social in-fighting and disorder. Eventually, the governing authorities streamlined the process of sacrifice to include foreign-captured slaves who first received orgies and feasts to make them tainted enough with the local spirit of the community in tension.

We think we educated ourselves out of human sacrifice but this is a convenient myth we tell ourselves to justify its continual residue in our daily lives. Every culture that sends state agents to lock up a woman sellingunlicensed tamales or a politicaldissident or an addict or an Amishherbal salve seller is still very much enthralled by the one-for-all logic underlying our generative sacrificial origins.

Today, we hide our consent for coercion against misfits by telling ourselves it is for the protection of victims and children. As if, for example, another Amish farmer thrown into a violent prison cage would cause the nation to perish if he was left alone to sellhis raw milk.

Beyond domestic sacrificial violence in the name of victims, it is difficult to find a single country in existence today that did not have its founding determined by self-justifying war. As another remnant of sacred ritual, war has been a socially binding agent for societies: a means of uniting restless neighbors in righteous self-sacrifice of life and wealth for the defeat of a less-than-human foreign foe. Yet recent years have shown that as the public is more frequently exposed to the images of constant intervention in countries like Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, whatever unifying high war has long held is rapidly dissipating.

Our increasing sensitivity to the plight of the other, be it the drug war-ravaged family or drone strike victims abroad, make the governance models built on the initiation of physical violence against nonviolent people increasingly ineffective. No wonder criminal justice reform and ending wars are now the few areas of overwhelming political unity. Yet political systems, always in a lag from cultural trajectories because of structural incentives to maintain the status quo, are dramatically slow to decisively satisfy such popular demands.

A command-and-control economy where medical innovation and scientific reform are bugs to be blocked by bureaucracies simply has too much inertia built on the foundation of sacrificial wars and regulations to change its ways any time soon.

That's why Joe Quirk and the Seasteading project are such a fascinating case to consider. As sacrificial forms of governance continue to leave their citizens in disunity and internal resentment over who gets what spoils in a supposedly zero-sum economy, we have a real chance to see the first sovereign societies develop free from bloodshed.

An ocean-platform community voluntarily funded and organized, if successful, is a monumental event in human anthropology.

Just having a place where problem solvers and innovators can develop potential breakthroughs in science, medicine, and innovation, free from deeply captured regulatory apparatuses could be a tremendous leap forward for mankind. And if these societies can maintain a thriving, non-monopoly state-managed existence, the rest of the world's governments will be on notice to wean off of sacrificial violence or perish through increased social unrest and decline.

Competition may be a sin to John D. Rockefeller. But when it comes to bloated bureaucracies buoyed by outdated ways of treating human beings, it looks like a big beautiful blue ocean to me.

See the article here:

Will Seasteading Create First Truly Non-Violent Nations ...

Patri Friedman – Wikipedia

Patri Friedman (born July 29, 1976) is an American libertarian activist and theorist of political economy.[1] He founded the nonprofit Seasteading Institute, which explores the creation of sovereign ocean colonies.[2][3][4]

Friedman grew up in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of Upper Merion Area High School, class of 1994, where he went by the name Patri Forwalter-Friedman. He was named after Patri J. Pugliese, a close friend of his parents.[5] He graduated from Harvey Mudd College in 1998, and went on to Stanford University to obtain his master's degree in computer science. He also holds an MBA from New York Institute of Technology Ellis College.[6] He worked as a software engineer at Google.[7][8] As a poker player, he cashed in the World Series of Poker four times.[9]

Friedman was executive director of the Seasteading Institute, founded on April 15, 2008, with a half-million-dollar donation by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.[10] The Institute's mission is "to establish permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems".[11][12] This was initially a part-time project one day a week while working as a Google engineer the rest of the time[7] but Friedman left Google on July 29, 2008 to spend more time on seasteading.[13] He and partner Wayne Gramlich hoped to float the first prototype seastead in the San Francisco Bay by 2010.[14][15] At the October 2010 Seasteading social, it was announced that current plans were to launch a seastead by 2014.[16]

Since attending the Burning Man festival in 2000, Friedman imagined creating a water festival called Ephemerisle as a Seasteading experiment and Temporary Autonomous Zone. Through the Seasteading Institute, Friedman was able to start the Ephemerisle festival in 2009, aided by TSI's James Hogan as event organizer and Chicken John Rinaldi as chief builder. The first Ephemerisle is chronicled in a documentary by Jason Sussberg.[17] Since 2010, the event has been annual and community-run.

On 31 July 2011, Friedman stepped down from the position as Executive Director of Seasteading Institute, but remained chairman of the board.[18] Later, he co-founded the Future Cities Development Corporation, a project to establish a self-governing charter city within the borders of Honduras.[19][20]

In 2012 it was announced the initiative would be halted due to the changing political climate of Honduras.[21]

During his poker career, Patri Freidman was predicted to become a world champion by Card Player Magazine.[22] He claims to have created AI bots for online poker.[23]

Patri is the grandson of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman[24] and economist Rose Friedman and son of economist and physicist David D. Friedman.[24][25] He has two children by his first wife. As of Feb 10 2018, he is married to Brit Benjamin.[26]

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Patri Friedman - Wikipedia

Floating islands project in French Polynesia The …

Who is Blue Frontiers?

Founded in 2017 by members of The Seasteading Institute and a former minister of French Polynesia, Blue Frontiers has a diverse team from around the world, working on developing floating islands in French Polynesia. It is now independently responsible for all aspects of the project.

Blue Frontiers aims to build an ecosystem of products and services to promote sea level rise resiliency, sustainable development, and societal innovation.

The project consists of constructing ecological floating platforms in a lagoon of French Polynesia that could offer a response to the challenges of rising sea levels and sustainable development.

These platforms would also provide a basis for homes, offices and infrastructure to encourage the formation of vibrant communities and explore new ways of living together.

At the same time, we want to promote innovation in digital and marine technologies by creating an attractive destination benefiting from its unique framework.

The Institute was in the process of evaluating potential host countries when it was invited by a Polynesian to consider French Polynesia, given the many strengths of the region:

The Polynesian government will fund neither the studies nor the completion of the project. No Polynesian tax dollars will fund Seasteads. No local investors will get tax exemptions either. The Institute estimates that the amount we are going to have to invest in Polynesia will be between 30 to 50 million USD for the pilot phase.

The floating island project will improve the traditional framework of special economic zones with provisions specifically designed to attract investors in French Polynesia. Because free zones already exist elsewhere, we need an innovative legislative framework and streamlined administrative procedures to attract partners and investors.

During our trip to French Polynesia in September 2016, we visited several promising sites. Detailed studies must now be undertaken, taking into account in particular the local residents, the seabed, the currents, and the profile of the wind and waves.

The images on our website come from ideas and studies done before we chose French Polynesia as our host country. Our architects will design floating islands that suit the specific environmental and aesthetic needs of the site we select.

The environment is a major concern of the project, and our architects are very sensitive to protecting it. Our islands are designed to have a negligible impact on the environment, use renewable energies and may even, according to some preliminary studies, lead to an improvement of the ecosystem under certain conditions. We plan to form partnerships for the monitoring of the seabed and to share knowledge about our progress.

The protocol signals the willingness of the government and the Institute to work together. In 2017, Blue Frontiers completed and submitted to the government environmental and economic studies. Following that, the government will develop an appropriate legislative framework for the project.

You can download the text of the protocol (english text at in the second part).

Our partners and companies attracted by this project will contribute to the diversification of the Polynesian economy and help retain local graduates who might otherwise look abroad for opportunities.

Significant investments in construction will spread to the local economy, and businesses and residents will maintain or increase employment with domestic suppliers and traders.

We hope to help place Polynesia at the center of international efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, notably by developing the technologies needed to maintain populations threatened by rising sea levels in the Tuamotu and elsewhere.

Listen to Minister Jean Christophe Bouissou present the project and its benefits to TNTV:

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Floating islands project in French Polynesia The ...

French Polynesia cuts ties with libertarian Seasteading …

A South Pacific island nation is cutting ties with tech billionaires and libertarians.

In 2017, government officials in French Polynesia signed an agreement with the Seasteading Institute, a group founded by investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, that would give the libertarian group access to build a floating and politically autonomous city, called a seastead, off the coast.

Now the country's ruling political party says the agreement has expired.

The ruling Tapura Huiraatira party said in a Facebook post that the memorandum of understanding, a non-binding document that sealed the government's intent to work with the group, had a "deadline of validity" at the end of 2017. The agreement became void in January 2018.

"It's not a contract. This document does not bind the Country [sic] in any way. It has no legal value," the Facebook note said.


In 2008, Thiel, a longtime tech industry fixture and a Trump transition team member, set out on a mission to develop a floating city that would run independently from existing nations. Thiel invested $1.7 million in The Seasteading Institute, but resigned from its board in 2011.

Thiel later said in an interview that engineering seasteads is "not quite feasible."

After the group's founding in 2008, some tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley chastised the idea, saying that the island paradises would be too wild, expensive, and elitist to generate real results.

But the seasteading concept began eventually gathering support from libertarians and people living outside the Silicon Valley bubble. A 2013 crowdfunding campaign raised over $27,000.

For years, the Seasteading Institute wanted to set up camp in international waters. Eventually, the group determined the costs of building hundreds of miles from a shoreline, away from an existing nation, were too extravagant. So the institute decided to team up with a host country.

French Polynesia fit the bill.

The island chain is located an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles. It has a fiber cable that runs underwater to Hawaii, providing the bandwidth that tech workers require.

Rising sea levels threaten French Polynesia's existence, which made a proposal to build new land appealing to the government.

An artist's rendering shows the plans for a seastead off the coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia. Blue Frontiers

In 2016, the Seasteading Institute sent a delegation to meet with French Polynesian officials. They drafted an informal agreement between the government and the Seasteading Institute.

But as the Seasteading Institute plotted its vision, locals from Tahiti the largest island in French Polynesia grew increasingly concerned about the prospect of "tech colonialism."

A documentary film crew followed the Seasteading Institute leadership at a conference in Tahiti last year. They found that locals weren't given much of a voice at these events. In the film, Alexandre Taliercio, a local radio and TV personality, describes the seastead project as a cross between "visionary genius" and "megalomania."

In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, Taliercio argued that rich Americans just want to skip out on paying taxes. "These millionaires have much more to gain than we do," he said.

The Seasteading Institute has not publicly addressed the sunken plans. Its website features a video about the French Polynesian "floating island" splashed across the front page.

Business Insider contacted the Seasteading Institute and did not immediately receive comment.

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French Polynesia cuts ties with libertarian Seasteading ...