To flesh out plans for their floating city, The Seasteading Institute takes fundraising to Indiegogo. With capital from the masses matched by the Thiel Foundation, twenty-first century pioneers may settle the oceanic frontier by 2020.
“Our biggest challenge is getting over this first hurdle, where we get enough people together, enough money together; this can’t be done on the cheap,” says Randolph Hencken of The Seasteading Institute. “So while there’s lots of people who wish they could just go tomorrow, it’s going to take a critical mass of people and capital to actualize the place.”
The Institute’s “Floating City Project” is a pipe dream made practical. Its mission may appeal to those fed up feeling voiceless in today’s political process, as seasteading gives people a fresh start.
“What holds seasteaders together is a penchant for new opportunities,” Hencken says. “A lot of that has to do with freedom from [overreaching] governments, [and] a lot of that has to do with just the excitement of trying something new.”
Floating-city settlers may choose to migrate offshore for the chance to shape their political futures. The Institute’s seastead will strive for de facto autonomy.
“The major goal behind seasteading is to give humans more opportunity in governance,” Hencken says. “We have 7 billion people and only 190 countries, so there’s not a lot of choice. And there’s so many great ideas for how we could live together or run a government that are unavailable to be tested because there’s no space to test them.”
Retaining autonomy can prove tricky, even on the ocean. It makes more sense economically to locate a seastead close to shore rather than in international waters; but coastal proximity means dealing with local territorial jurisdiction.
“We’ve spent a good process evaluating coastal nations for ones that we think would be most susceptible to reaching a bilateral investment treaty with us,” Hencken says. “We also plan to build a city that is of symbiotic relationship to the neighbor.”
Some potential boons for coastal countries considering a seastead: new jobs and an influx of people and product at their ports. Plus, Hencken says, seasteading could provide solutions to oceanic pollution exacerbated by agricultural runoff.
“There’s a lot of great opportunities in aquaculture that would be associated with a floating city that could remediate the waters,” Hencken says. “So it would be commercial benefits, environmental benefits, and social benefits of allowing a seastead to be in their waters.”
To build a maritime metropolis, the Institute must navigate diplomatic waters and get plans in hand. Their current Indiegogo campaign aims to raise $20,000 to pay Dutch firm DeltaSync to transform vision into design; the Thiel foundation will match whatever the public puts in.
“Eventually our goal for the floating city project in the next year is to conclude this feasibility study where we say, this is what the design could be, this is what the design would cost, here’s a location that we’ve already begun negotiations with the government, and here’s hundreds of people that want to live there,” Hencken says. “And then we take that project and we go to investors and developers and we say this is a worthwhile investment.”
“The total cost of [the feasibility study for] our floating city project is going to be probably closer to a quarter million dollars,” he says.
Besides actual capital, The Institute looks to Indiegogo for another kind of validation.
“It’s one thing to say on a survey, ‘Yeah, I would pay $800 a square foot.’ It’s another thing to actually put down as little as $10 or up to thousands of dollars to show that you’re really committed,” Hencken says. “And that’s what we’re asking of the community right now, is to prove their interest in seasteading by putting a little skin in the game.”
From its Indiegogo campaign to online survey, the Institute’s seasteading movement has welcomed crowdsourced input. Importantly, what the masses donate to, there’s a chance they can participate in. Many a Trekkie will tell you space is the final frontier; but with seasteading becoming a viable alternative to land living in the not-so-distant future, pioneers could settle new frontiers a bit closer to home.
“There’s so much energy put towards trying to take humanity to space and it’s a great idea, and I hope it will be that we will get there. But I don’t think we’re going to get there in my lifetime, not to a point where the common person could afford to go there.” “Yet it’s something that’s very feasible to make it so the common people could go live on the ocean, and there’s a frontier right there waiting for us that’s unexplored, uninhabited.”
Unexplored and uninhabited for now.
“I do believe that this floating city project that we’re working on, with the Indiegogo campaign is going to catalyze the first bona fide seastead,” Hencken says. “I’d like to see us begin construction on it in the next few years; hopefully by 2020 we can see hundreds or thousands of people living there.”