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