When Peter Thiel, a co-founder of Paypal and one of the early investors of Facebook, donated $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute, the Internet blew-up with ideas of a libertarian city-states floating out in international waters.
Many forum members are currently against the concept of homesteading the open sea, but the idea seems to be gaining traction as time goes on.
At present, the seasteading movement seems be largely affiliated with libertarianism, due to the politics of the founding members of the Seasteading Institute.
However, the idea of colonizing international waters has been around for decades. Although some of its members are politically motivated, others cite other reasons, such as tax evasion, religious freedom, or just the idea of being the first to colonize a new frontier.
The Idea of Seasteading
The actual terms “seastead” and “seasteading” were first coined in Ken Neumeyer’s book, Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean (1981).
Though his book is not about giant stationary man-made islands to create a new society, it does explain some methods to live entirely off the grid on a sailboat in open water.
Neumeyer’s idea behind seasteading using sailboats was, in his view, the best way to survive what he believed was the impending societal collapse.
Societal collapses aside, most advocates of the movement believe that this is how the initial steps toward seasteading will take place.
Just as homesteaders of 1800s took to their wagons, living off the land as they moved out west, seasteaders will take to their boats.
In Wayne Gramlich’s article, "Seasteading – Homesteading on the High Seas", he was honest about his reasons behind his interest in the movement.
He stated in the first line of the article, “…tax avoidance is my pick as the most powerful motivator for the development of sea surface colonization technology.”
In his article, Gramlich takes a hybrid approach to ocean colonization, called the floating island.
Not exactly a boat, but not a stationary island. The concept is merging the two. He proposes to achieve this by:
"...using thousands of recycled 2-liter carbonated beverage bottles. Food is grown using tried and true 'victory garden' style gardening, rather than advanced hydroponics. Power generation is performed via a combination of photovoltaic, wind, and wave energy extraction…"
Reishee Sowa of Puerto Aventuras, Mexico proved the plastic bottle technique in principle in 2005. He started building his floating island in 1998 and used 250,000 plastic soda bottles.
It was a small scale, not the massive artificial island capable of supporting luxury resorts, but still proof of principle.
Unfortunately, the island sank during a hurricane since making headlines, which would be something that seasteaders of the future would have to overcome.
The new idea behind seasteading is using refurbished cruise ships or oil rigs as luxury resorts to entice wealthy investors to live on these structures full time.
It appears that this is the ultimate goal of the Seastead Institute.
Flaws in the Seastead Concept
None of these seastead concepts are without flaw.
The largest flaw with the Seastead Institute is that they want to build large communities that are not self-sufficient. It seems the organization would rely heavily on imports of diesel (for power generation), food, medicine, etc.
Exports, if any, would be limited to the resources of the open water. One service the Seastead Institute cites as a potential source of revenue is medical tourism. Where visitors could visit, or even live on, a seastead and receive medical treatment not available in some countries.
Yet, with no foreseeable exports, the cost of living on such a seastead would be astronomical, and at best they would become a playground for the ultra-wealthy.
Nevertheless, the movement appears to be gaining ground. Widespread colonization of the high seas is at least decades away from being a reality; however, it could be very possible that humanity will slowly begin to colonize international waters, seeking out new freedoms, or just simply seeking out new adventure.