Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seasteading: let's all bugger off to sea

Here is an interview I did with Patri Friedman way back in 2009, but apparently nobody is interested in publishing interviews with people who want to live on the sea and have a big old political experiment. Go figure.

Patri Friedman is a supporter, and dweller, of intentional communities (‘communes’ to us laymen/women), and the Executive Director of the Seasteading Institute – a non-profit organisation aiming to create habitable platforms at sea for people who feel politically marginalised. Libertarians ahoy!

Seriously though, getting a $500,000 start-up investment from Paypal founder Peter Thiel is usually a good indicator that you’re being taken seriously. Read on for a Q & A with the main man behind it.

1. To put in short The Seasteading Institute is an organisation which aims to one day build permanent settlement on the ocean for people who are dissatisfied with the stagnant nature of current political structures and societal norms. True?

Yep.  We may not actually build the settlements, as we are a nonprofit and that could be better handled by business ventures.  We aim to lay the groundwork in terms of engineering research, establishing credibility, and building a community so that such ventures can prosper.

2.  Just to clarify, how exactly does somebody like yourself come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is build floating habitats on the ocean upon which people can live by their own chosen form of government? No doubt some people have called you crazy?

All the time!  But usually before they've seen any details, rarely after they've heard an explanation.

Well, I started out dissatisfied with current forms of government.  I happen to be a libertarian, and all existing countries are far from my ideal political system.  On researching it, I discovered the strong trend towards centralization and bureaucracy, and against local autonomy, and realized this affects all minority political movements, not just libertarians.  How could all of these small groups of passionate people find a way to put their political ideas into practice?

History suggests that political innovation often occurs on the frontier, and the ocean is the obvious next frontier.  And when I started researching it, I discovered that while it has a great disadvantage - that it's a nasty place with lots of big waves - it also has a great advantage.  You can build ocean cities out of modular units so that you can later rearrange them.  In other words, people can vote with their houses - switch countries without ever leaving their home!  I think this has the potential to make these societies work better, because they will be voluntary associations of people who want to live together, rather than being trapped in one place on their land.

3.  As someone who lives in, and has helped establish intentional communities, what would Seasteading offer over such communities?

Instead of just being an intentional community, it's an intentional country.  Residents would have the freedom to experiment, not just at the level of who does the dishes or how common space is laid out, but all the way up to the great questions like taxes, regulation, defense, caring for the poor, and so forth.

4.  What would your own Seastead be like in terms of social structure and government?

I'm not actually sure.  Definitely libertarian, in that it would only ban things that directly affect other people.  But one reason I like seasteading is that I think even if you agree on the goals for a society, it is very hard to figure out what rules and institutions will achieve those goals.  So you have to try things out, see if they work, and then tinker with them later.  Which means I don't actually know what would best achieve my goal of increased freedom without having to hide or be a hermit.

One very non-libertarian rule I would want is "Don't do things which will get us invaded".  Even if this requires banning some activities that I think are moral (anonymous banking, making drugs for export to countries where they are illegal), I think it is necessary to ensure that freedom today doesn't lead to repression tomorrow.

5. Given that your ultimate goal is to have numerous Seasteads, all of which will presumably have their own form of governments philosophy on social structures; do you think that in the long term there will undoubtedly be conflict between them, with the outcome being a large group of Seasteads being under the rule of a few?

Because the population is there voluntarily, seasteads will be run more like businesses and less like governments. While businesses aren't perfect, and often cooperate with (or even coopt) the violence of governments, on their own they rarely engage in armed conflict. War drives away trade, and trade is the lifeblood of a business. States go to war because they can use other people to fight (like draftees), and finance it with other people's money. When you have to pay for and fight a war, it will rarely pay. If a seastead declares war, then (as David Friedman says), everyone will leave except the generals and war journalists.

I can certainly imagine mergers, but they will be peaceful. And if people don't like the resulting country, they will just leave - that's the whole point of seasteading. If you think too few are ruling too many, then start a new country, and if people agree with you, it will prosper. I don't think that seasteading will fix everything bad about the world - far from it - but I do believe that war for territory happens because of the fixed nature of geography on land, a characteristic not shared by the ocean.

5. The idea of Coaststeads seems very interesting, especially with regards to medical procedures. The obvious benefits of these which are mentioned on  TSI FAQ page, being that things such as medical procedures could be performed for half of the price due to it being in non-government controlled waters. However, would you be worried that some people may take advantage of this fact? Obviously this filters all the way through the idea of Seasteading. Would there be any sort of mandate or limitations imposed regarding what is, or isn't allowed, when in the Seasteading community. I mean, imagine a whole Seastead of Abba fans. Surely you wouldn't allow that?

Hey, it's not like the Winner Takes It All.  As long as they have Money, Money, Money, and are looking to party like the Dancing Queen and not fight Waterloo, why not?

More seriously, I don't really see where the "taking advantage" comes in.  I would say that government take advantage of their trapped citizens.  We believe that people who choose to freely associate deserve substantial local autonomy.

In terms of what is or isn't allowed, remember that seasteading is an inherently pluralistic movement.  Just like each seastead can decide its own laws, it can also decide what it will or won't tolerate.  That isn't for me or TSI to impose.  That said, we may make recommendations, and I recommend that seasteaders intervene when the right to free association is threatened, for example by something like slavery.  I don't think that the community should interfere when a seastead is doing something that will get it shut down, like exporting drugs or researching WMD, I think it is much better to distance ourselves from such rogues and let them bear the consequences from existing nations.

6. To most, the concept behind TSI will sound fantastical, to others it will sound dangerous, not just for the obvious reason of having to "master" the ocean, but also in terms of having a group of such free-minded individuals attempting to build a society. How do you address such concerns and does the accusation of yours being a utopian idea concern you? If it was utopian it would have to turn into a dystopia, right?

Unfortunately, many people like to meddle in other's lives.  It makes sense that such busybodies would be worried about a group who want the autonomy to construct their own ideal society.  That's their problem.

While seasteading is a movement which seeks to create a better society, I do not believe we are utopian.  The reason is that we have specific theories about how societies will work better on the ocean because of its fluid geography.  We aren't just hoping that the new society will be better than the old, with no particular reason.  Seasteading has the potential to solve a few of humanity's problems - like governments which are enormous and disconnected from their citizens.  But we don't expect it to be perfect.

7. For humours sake; Do you have a sea-monster contingency plan?

Not specifically, but if the giant kraken does attack, hopefully our defenses against pirates and our emergency plans to deal with storms will be sufficient.  No matter how large and slimy the sea-monster, a cruise missile between the eyes will seriously cramp its style.

8. Is there a particular type of person which you would consider ideal for TSI? I'm sure there are a multitude people who are not happy with their current role in there given society, and with the society itself, who would love the chance to start over (or just not pay tax) , but would there be any sort of exclusion, or selection process?

TSI itself is not launching any specific seastead ventures, at least right now.  Each private seastead venture is welcome to set its own selection process.  I would say that the ideal seasteader is someone who is fed up with current societies, has ideas about how to make things work better, and wants to live those ideas, not just talk about them.  The ability to work remotely, live communally, and deal with a pioneering type of environment will likely be valuable as well.

9. What type of people do you already have involved in TSI?

Our staff and board bios are here:, so you can see that part for yourself.  In terms of the community, we have everything from libertarian geeks to self-sufficiency communists.  Members are largely in the US and Europe.  We all share a dissatisfaction with current society, and the desire to do something about it, not just complain.

10. Lastly, are you still on track for the launch of a prototype in San Francisco Bay next year (2010)*?

Yes, we still expect to do that in 2010.  We plan to design the prototype and conduct a fundraising drive for it later this year, and if that goes well we'll be able to start construction in 2010.  This will likely be a small prototype we call StudioStead as it will be the size of a studio apartment.

*Since this interview was conducted in 2009 TSI have yet to launch their prototype, but are instead planning on launching a more ambitious project by 2014. Keep an eye on the oceans

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Moonies In Ireland

Here's an old article I wrote in 2009 that ended up homeless due to underwhelming interest in the subject and abject laziness on my part. Enjoy.

Moonies In Ireland

You wouldn’t think that Ireland would be a good place for a cult. But then take into account that all a cult needs is a large amount of fucking idiots and Ireland suddenly looks a lot rosier for any Charles Manson wannabes. I’m not saying that your going to see a Waco type incident taking place in Dunboyne Castle or anything, but what I am saying is that now and again some cultists do pop their heads up in Dublin. I’m not counting the Hari Krishnas or Scientologists seeing as every one already knows that those guys are freaks running pyramid schemes for the soul. The Hari’s are pretty harmless, and the Cruisites are probably going to zap me with a ray gun for calling them freaks, but there’s another cult, although not as prominent, which can be found in Dublin.

The Unified Church, otherwise known as Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (catchy!), has been reported around Dublin over the past couple of years. The gullible, weak, and plain damn lonely be warned. Like any self respecting cult they have their own messiah type character Sun Myung Moon, affectionately called Reverend Moon, who is all for the idea that he is the second coming of Jesus. His followers are often referred to as Moonies, which makes them sound like a really cute militant break away faction of the Clangers. But don’t let this man’s nut ball notions of grandeur fool you. He owns The Washington Times, The United Press International, Pyeonghwa Motors and of course, what every messiah needs, a munitions factory in Korea. If he is the second coming of Jesus, then our lord and saviour has turned into a real shit. 

Reverend Moon looking chuffed

 So, what’s his shtick when it comes to the philosophical side of things? Well, lots of terms are bandied about such as “the ideal family”, “thought unification”, homosexuals being “turd-eating dogs” and a literal Kingdom of God on Earth. Conveniently this would kind of leave him in charge of, like, everything. Let us of course not forget the prevailing theme if you so choose to worship this bloke; give him all your money so he can maintain his 18 acre mini-castle in a New York suburb.  There are of course a ton of allegations of freaky sexual practices, brainwashing, and general financial corruption. One member who was believed to have been the re-incarnation of one of the Reverend’s sons was also seemingly given free reign to beat the shit out of and shag whoever he wanted.

So what are these guys doing in Ireland? Fucked if we know, but strangely enough they have been in Ireland since the 1970’s and at one stage were pretty well known but since then any semblance of prominence has gone to shit (Reverend Moon visited in 2005 and they had to fly in members from other countries to attend his sermon) and they’re throwing their hat in with any religious minority in Ireland who are willing to listen. This would explain some of the bizarre accounts of heard about their lo-fi recruitment attempts. Most of these have occurred in a particular University type College in Dublin. Let’s face it, if you’re a student and your not humping something or destroying your youthful visage in some way, you’re probably sad enough to join a cult. Kudos to them on their demographic selection. 

Anyway we’ve heard at least 3 separate incidents of students being approached by two young clean-cut (aledgedly Korean) folk and being peppered with pamphlets and all sorts of preachy nonsense. This isn’t really a problem for those of us in possession of a brain, however one individual who was caught unawares ended up surrendering his phone number. After a few days of being barraged with telephone calls urging him to attend some worshipping ceremonies and commit himself to their cause, he decided to confront them face to face and tell them to piss off. Needless to say this didn’t initially work and he had to take the wimps way out and threaten to involve the gardi. They pissed off pronto there after.  This guy still insists that they were less annoying and preachy than charity muggers.

Okay so we’ve only heard of 3 people being approached by a proper cultists cult. If we were the statistical types we would put a spin on it and say that it’s a 150% increase on the 3 years previous. How fucked is that? The thing which really baffles is why any cult would try and move in on the Catholic Churches turf. If you fuck with the Catholic Church, they will fuck with you (we have a 1254 page Government report to back that up with).

Forward all queries to: The Washington Times

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Monday, September 13, 2010

#1 And This Is Why You Start A Blog

This is a blog called Banjaxed. Over the coming months it shall be populated by a variety of articles written by a variety of people, ranging from interviews, reviews, general opinion pieces, and an extra side of whatever I want.

As a general christening for the blog I've decided on a brief background for the thinking behind it. First of all, when you find yourself in a desk job making things like this on postits

You really need to ask yourself  'have I perhaps gotten a bit too bored?'and 'Eh did I actually just draw that?' and 'why does it turn me on?', why do people who stop by my desk look at me like that?'. Long story short, this blog is just one of the things that while I was living out that splendid nine to five, eyes glued to screen, under scrutiny for being anti-synergy and pro-stealing company time, decided that I wanted to do. So yeah, essentially there really isn't any thinking behind it, bar that I just felt like it.

I mentioned the idea to a few equally bored individuals who shall, hopefully, be contributing articles in the coming moths. In the meantime here’s a selection of other drawings on postits that will probably crop up in a future court case against me - "proof of deteriorating mental health blahblahblah".

Check back next month for actual content and less toss.
- The Man Who Calls Himself The Editor

Next month: An interview with Patri Friedman, a man who thinks we should all live on the ocean and do whatever the fuck we want, but in a non-pirate sort of way.

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