Float­ing Cities

A fresh start on a float­ing city could be just a few years away

OffComm News - - WINTER 2013 -

Of­fComm News caught up with Ran­dolph Hencken, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Seast­eading In­sti­tute, to find out what’s go­ing on in the world of ocean liv­ing and where the op­por­tu­ni­ties lie for con­nec­tiv­ity com­pa­nies.

For five years, The Seast­eading In­sti­tute has been con­duct­ing re­search into the po­ten­tial for per­ma­nent, in­no­va­tive com­mu­ni­ties ~ float­ing at sea. It is now ap­ply­ing this foun­da­tion of knowl­edge and its net­work to­wards an ac­tual de­sign, along with ad­di­tional ef­forts to de­ter­mine spe­cific needs and de­sires of po­ten­tial cus­tomers, and to select a prac­ti­cal lo­ca­tion for what could be­come the world’s first city at sea. It is an am­bi­tious vi­sion. One thing is clear: When Ran­dolph Hencken, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Seast­eading In­sti­tute, puts his mind to some­thing it’s highly likely to come to fruition. Of­fComm News caught up with him to find out what’s go­ing on in the world of seast­eading and, per­haps most im­por­tantly, where the op­por­tu­ni­ties lie for con­nec­tiv­ity com­pa­nies.

What is the Seast­eading In­sti­tute all about? At The Seast­eading In­sti­tute, we work to en­able seast­eading com­mu­ni­ties ( or float­ing cities) which will al­low the next gen­er­a­tion of pi­o­neers to peace­fully test new ideas for govern­ment. The most suc­cess­ful can then in­spire change in gov­ern­ments around the world. This is an au­da­cious vi­sion that will take decades to fully re­alise. We strongly be­lieve in

‘ in­cre­men­tal­ism’ ~ break­ing this huge vi­sion down into man­age­able, prac­ti­cal steps. As a non- profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, our role is not to build seast­eads our­selves, but to set the stage in or­der to em­power oth­ers to do so. Our pro­gram there­fore fo­cuses on busi­ness devel­op­ment, en­gi­neer­ing and le­gal re­search, po­lit­i­cal and in­dus­try diplomacy and build­ing a com­mu­nity of as­pir­ing seast­ead­ers. What will life be like for some­one liv­ing on a plat­form in the sea? Cruise ships have demon­strated the vi­a­bil­ity of safe, com­fort­able, and even lux­u­ri­ous liv­ing at sea. While a per­ma­nent sta­tion­ary off­shore com­mu­nity may have to lo­cate on a more sta­ble plat­form ( such as semisub­mersibles) to re­main com­fort­able in rough seas, we be­lieve hu­mans are ca­pa­ble of re­solv­ing dif­fi­cult en­gi­neer­ing prob­lems when the need arises. In the early days this lifestyle will re­quire sac­ri­fices in terms of space and avail­able ameni­ties. This is why we be­lieve an in­cre­men­tal ap­proach ~ us­ing ma­noeu­vrable ships, or lighter plat­forms in calmer waters, in the short- term ~ which will al­low seast­eading to grad­u­ally build up from small com­mu­ni­ties of ded­i­cated pi­o­neers to full- fledged me­trop­o­lises, com­plete with all of the ameni­ties of land- based cities. Fur­ther­more, in com­pet­ing to at­tract cit­i­zens from land, seast­eads will have to in­no­vate bet­ter sys­tems of gov­er­nance at a lower cost. We do not ad­vo­cate for a par­tic­u­lar form of gov­er­nance, but rather en­vi­sion a flour­ish­ing of di­verse new ways of liv­ing to­gether. How will these plat­forms be con­nected to phones

& in­ter­net ~ what’s your vi­sion? De­pend­ing on the needs of the first seast­ead en­ter­prises, ex­ist­ing satel­lite links or wire­less tow­ers may be suf­fi­cient, or a more novel so­lu­tion may be re­quired. If the seast­ead is close enough to land, a sys­tem of re­lay buoys equipped with WIMAX or sim­i­lar short range tech­nol­ogy is a pos­si­bil­ity. How­ever, some of the most ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial so­lu­tions are emerg­ing new tech­nolo­gies, such as Google's Project Loon, for con­nect­ing ar­eas that used to be too re­mote to war­rant in­fra­struc­ture. In ad­di­tion to the re­cent Float­ing City Project, the in­sti­tute seeks to in­spire ideas for in­no­va­tive busi­ness mod­els as the seeds of fu­ture au­tonomous com­mu­ni­ties. Tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions will stem from the needs of com­pe­tent and or­gan­ised teams and en­trepreneurs, pur­su­ing prac­ti­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties with high ex­pected re­turns for in­vestors. We hope to grow our move­ment as large as pos­si­ble, and then link en­trepreneurs with ex­perts in rel­e­vant fields when the ap­pro­pri­ate time comes. Can you tell us about the con­nec­tiv­ity des­tined for the seast­eads? Seast­eading rep­re­sents a chal­lenge ~ con­nect­ing to the most re­mote re­gions on earth ~ and a new mar­ket, in the form of the pi­o­neers who de­velop new busi­nesses that are re­liant on high amounts of band­width. Alexan­der Wiss­ner- Gross has pro­posed a high fre­quency trad­ing out­post, lo­cated in the At­lantic Ocean be­tween the fi­nan­cial hubs of New York City and Lon­don. A small ship or spar plat­form, equipped with a small com­puter net­work and rapid in­ter­net con­nec­tion, could ex­ploit the brief la­tency in in­for­ma­tion to ar­bi­trage in­ef­fi­cien­cies in fi­nan­cial mar­kets. Seast­eading will also ad­vance the gath­er­ing of large quan­ti­ties of meto­cean data, in­so­far as it in­creases hu­man­ity's pres­ence and abil­ity to cope in the harsh off­shore en­vi­ron­ment. What op­por­tu­ni­ties will this pre­sent for con­nec­tiv­ity com­pa­nies? The needs will be spe­cific to the busi­ness model in ques­tion. The In­sti­tute is cur­rently fo­cused on the Float­ing City Project, which will pro­duce com­pre­hen­sive plans and demon­strate mar­ket de­mand for what could be­come the world's first float­ing city. Our lat­est strat­egy in­volves ne­go­ti­at­ing an agree­ment with an ex­ist­ing na­tion to build closer to shore, in calmer, pro­tected waters. Con­nec­tiv­ity could there­fore likely be achieved with­out the most ex­treme re­mote so­lu­tions, and rather rely on up­grades and ex­ten­sions of the land- based sys­tems. If we are lo­cated just be­yond the horizon, we will be weigh­ing the costs of var­i­ous op­tions of con­nect­ing to land via WIMAX, op­ti­cal laser, un­der­wa­ter cable, ver­sus by­pass­ing land through satel­lite or an­other novel so­lu­tion.

Ran­dolph Hencken, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor The Seast­eading In­sti­tute

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