Ratha (papertygre) wrote,

Seasteading in practice

I was reading a sci-fi novel recently, and started thinking about what it would take to write a novel. I further pondered that an interesting setting would be a world with seasteads. So what would this world be like? Before it occurred to me to read the official book, I brainstormed the following:

* Even if your seastead is located off the coast of someplace like California, you wouldn't be able to order something from Amazon Prime and expect to get it in two days. How long would it take for shipping to get as good as for Hawaii? (One thing that's nice compared to the American frontier is that keeping in touch with people on land via phone and email would be easy, as opposed to paper letters having to be exchanged.)

* No conceivable seastead would have the space to grow its own food. All seasteads would therefore be dependent on trade for food. Ergo, any viable seastead needs to have a strong industry to support foreign trade. I assume that the commute from international waters to an established city would be prohibitive, so a "bedroom seastead" doesn't seem realistic to me.

* Seasteads would also need some way to deal with waste: no landfills. Presumably every seastead would need an incinerator. Maybe it would also be common to pay people in established countries to haul away trash. Would it be considered reasonable to dump some trash in the open ocean, away from the seastead, as boats are allowed to do?

* How big would the typical seastead be? Santa Barbara has 90,000 people. Plymouth, MA (where I grew up) and BRC have about 50k. McMurdo Station in Antarctica supports 1,250. Maybe the largest seasteads (which would not occur until the phenomenon has been going on for some time) would get up to 5-10,000. Earlier on, typical seasteads might start around a hundred people. Seastead platforms would almost certainly have to be modular and capable of adding new tiles. This process of expansion would itself be fascinating and disruptive.

* How would people travel to and from seasteads? Seaplanes and boats. nasu_dengaku reports that there is a highly effective ferry system in the Greek islands.

* Seasteads would have a high start-up cost, so they would probably be created by a small number of investors. People would buy or rent real-estate from the investors. How much control would the investors retain over the running of the seastead, and would it hamper the creation of a more libertarian government? Would there be any co-op seasteads?

* Would shops and amenities on a seastead tend to be mom-and-pop kind of outfits, or would there be a lot of chain businesses? (It would be hard to enforce trademark rights, so that seems to suggest mom-and-pop would dominate, but there are also some advantages to familiar names and patterns, so maybe there would be a lot of rip-offs?)

* What about industries and business models? I have heard people discuss medical tourism and resort tourism. Also things like fish farming and other resource extraction. How about a philanthropic seastead?

* Presumably seasteads will use the currency of an existing power rather than take the risk of trying to create their own. But will some seasteads want to distance themselves from inflation and try creating their own currency anyway? If so, how would it be managed?

* I would expect some seasteads to 'catch on' and thrive, and others to wither away into ghost towns. What would make the difference? Would it be an outcome of cultural or economic forces, with a traceable progression, or would it be chaotic?

* Would the world have to change significantly for seasteading to become popular and hit a 'tipping point'? Perhaps some combination of crowding and expense in established cities, plus more oppressive government policies and/or economic issues? Would weather play a role?

Interested in responses to these, or other thoughts on the subject.

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