Imagine a Silicon Valley of the Sea

In 2008, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel gave half a million dollars to a Google engineer named Patri Friedman, the grandson of economist Milton Friedman. The money was to establish the Seasteading Institute, which aims to spearhead the development of politically autonomous, floating "seasteads" in unregulated international waters. This was to be the beginning of a long experiment in civilization building. It also turned out to be the origin of many, many puns.

Nearly a decade in, this experiment has yielded more theory than practice. Nevertheless, the institute has published a wildly optimistic book called Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the Environment, Enrich the Poor, Cure the Sick, and Liberate Humanity From Politicians. Written by staff "aquapreneur" Joe Quirk, with an assist from Friedman, Seasteading's principal argument is that "the world needs a Silicon Valley of the sea, where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to demonstrate their ideas in practice."

The dream of oceanic colonization is at least as old as science fiction, but the institute is both contemporary and sincere. The book begins by heralding 2050 as a "deadly deadline: an approaching pinch point in the supply of several key commodities that humanity needs to survive." By then, Quirk and Friedman warn, more than half the world's population will lack fresh water, and we'll have reached "peak phosphorous," when we no longer have enough of the mineral, which is key to agricultural production, to feed ourselves.

For every problem the book raises, seasteading is the solution.

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Nearly a decade in, this experiment has yielded more theory than practice. Nevertheless, the institute has published a wildly optimistic book called Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the Environment, Enrich the Poor, Cure the Sick, and Liberate Humanity From Politicians. Written by staff "aquapreneur" Joe Quirk, with an assist from Friedman, Seasteading's principal argument is that "the world needs a Silicon Valley of the sea, where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to demonstrate their ideas in practice."

The dream of oceanic colonization is at least as old as science fiction, but the institute is both contemporary and sincere. The book begins by heralding 2050 as a "deadly deadline: an approaching pinch point in the supply of several key commodities that humanity needs to survive." By then, Quirk and Friedman warn, more than half the world's population will lack fresh water, and we'll have reached "peak phosphorous," when we no longer have enough of the mineral, which is key to agricultural production, to feed ourselves.

For every problem the book raises, seasteading is the solution.

Read Full Article