Non-profit floats around idea of high seas communities

December 27, 2010 7:24:53 PM PST
If you're not happy with the direction of the country, go start your own. That's part of the idea being floated by a Bay Area non-profit.

There is no land left unclaimed on the planet since every island, every forest, every desert and every coast is claimed. With each piece of land comes an established government.

"We believe progress comes from experimenting and to find better ways of doing things, you have to find new ways of doing things. But right now there is no place for political experimentation," Patri Friedman said.

Friedman wants to build a political laboratory, but since there is no land to proclaim his own, he is hoping to build it on the open seas.

"We want to build cities on the ocean for people to peacefully test new forms of government," he said.

He calls it seasteading. Friedman is a former Google engineer and grandson of Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. He founded The Seasteading Institute two-and-a-half years ago to further explore the idea. Since then, he has explored international and engineering options, looking for businesses that may be interested and for future residents.

"I think that part of the idea is that it could be a place to go get away from it all," seasteading supporter Michael Hartl said.

Hartl currently lives in Southern California, but he likes the prospect of making the ocean home.

"I also know a lot of people in this seasteading movement and I know a lot of people in the seasteading institute, so it would be a chance to hang out with people I know and like....and it would be an adventure," he said.

The first floating cities will most likely be built aboard old cruise ships.

"We think that early on it will start with modified cruise ships because that's using the engineering technology of today to start experimenting with the business models and the new forms of government then in the medium term - 10 to 20 years say it will look more like oil platforms," Friedman said.

Those platforms would have to be 200 miles off the coast and the ships, a more convenient 24 miles from land. But they will also require millions of dollars to be built to make that happen. Friedman will need a lot of money and he's getting help from a Bay Area innovator.

"The oceans make up 70 percent of the world's surface. It is one of the great undeveloped frontiers on the planet," Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel said.

Thiel has offered up to $850,000.

"We have a great number of people focused on clean technology, green technology and it's a very important problem and I think there are a lot people working on it. We also need to work on some of the problems that people have not been exploring," he said.

The institute is currently exploring locations for their first seastead and places under consideration include the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and off the coast of Southern California.

"We think that we can make the world better, not just by trying out these new things on the ocean, but by having the best innovations of new forms of government copied on countries on land," Friedman said.

Whether seasteading lives up to those hopes and dreams is yet to be seen, but it is certainly an innovative concept.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel


Load Comments