Do you love the ocean? Are you an innovator? Are you sick and tired of old models of government that are stuck in the last century?
If you answered yes to the above, consider seasteading; it’s like Waterworld but without the mutants.
The idea is to build politically independent countries that float on the ocean, and the concept might not be as far-out as you think.
The Seasteading Institute has already signed an agreement with the French Polynesian government to develop a legal framework for the first floating island and the Institute is currently calling for public submissions to attend its upcoming forum in the region.
As part of its Ignite series featuring radical and provocative ideas for the future, Lateline spoke to Seasteading Institute spokesman Joe Quirk, about how these floating nations could work.
What are seasteads?
Seasteads are floating islands of self-governing communities which hope to facilitate innovative business ideas in a low-regulation environment.
Mr Quirk said the world is run by old-style governments and seasteads would move the world into the 21st Century.
“Seasteaders bring a Silicon Valley sensibility to the problem of governments not innovating sufficiently,” Mr Quirk said.
“Innovators are held back and stymied by existing regulations, and we want to give them 21st century regulations on start-up governments,” he said.
“Once you provide people with a platform to start their own country, every conceivable type of innovator reaches out to you with their own idea.”
Wouldn’t they just be floating tax havens?
According to Joe Quirk, no.
“A seastead can’t help you avoid taxes if you’re an American citizen. If you make six figures you can’t avoid taxes, whether you move to a seastead or to Switzerland,” he said.
Still, won’t they just be full of rich people?
“Seasteads cost money, and if you want to succeed as a Seastead you have to find ways to attract people to move there. If I was a billionaire I wouldn’t want to move to a seastead, but if I was a member of the bottom billion, most of whom want to leave their dysfunctional governments, I might want to move to a seastead.”
The founding philosophy is minimal governance
Mr Quirk said the Seasteading Institute takes no position on what kind of societies should be formed.
“We’re providing a technology for other people to try their version of societies,” he said.
“As long as people can join them voluntarily and leave them voluntarily, and all the seasteads have to compete amongst each other to attract citizens voluntarily, we think the best solutions for governance will emerge.”
But don’t most breakaway societies fail?
Like most start-up businesses, most breakaway societies fail, but Mr Quirk said there’s always a certain percentage that succeed.
“That’s the marvellous thing about seasteads; if a government fails, there’s nothing much the people who live there can do about it. But if seasteads fail, they simply disassemble and go away,” he said.
The question remains, what would happen to those who lose their jobs?
What would they look like?
Think oil platforms crossed with cruise ships.
“Oil platforms are a technology for floating permanently on the high seas, and cruise ships are a technology for self-governance on the high seas, and if you combine these two technologies, imagine cruise ships that never dock but float permanently,” Mr Quirk said.
“Imagine if they were 10 times as big. Imagine if they were modular and could move about and you could choose the neighbours you wanted to live with.”
What about things like water, power and defence?
How would seasteads protect against piracy and should they have their own armies? What about supplying food, drinking water and electricity?
There are currently dozens of seasteaders discussing these and many more topics on the Seasteading Institute’s online forum.
Ideas range from arming seasteads with 3D printed guns to building breakwaters to protect from rough seas.