Seasteading Institute Comes to Agreement with French Polynesia About Developing a Seastead

If the bureaucratic hurdles can be jumped, a real seastead could be floating in French Polynesian water in 2018.


The Seasteading Institute, dedicated to promoting the creation of new political entities floating in the open ocean, tonight held a ceremony in which it publicly signed a long-in-the-works "memorandum of understanding" with the government of French Polynesia. The agreement is meant to pave the way to the creation of an actual functioning seastead in French Polynesian water, under a yet-to-be-determined special set of rules.

book cover

At the signing ceremony in San Francisco, Jean Christophe Bissou, the top spokesperson for French Polynesia's President Edouard Fritch, will be publicly signing that memorandum with representatives of the Seasteading Institute. (Fritch was originally scheduled to appear and sign himself, but had to delay at the last minute, having to deal with the unexpected resignations of two cabinet ministers.)

The memorandum is more an agreement to come to an agreement than setting any specifics in stone. The French Polynesian government sets forth its reason for wanting to pursue a Seasteading project in its waters in language from a draft of the memorandum in my possession:

The Government of French Polynesia has expressed its interest in the issues of climate change…The government of French Polynesia recognizes that the rising waters threaten its lands, its inhabitants and their precious way of life…the Government of French Polynesia publicly committed to "make every effort to preserve the Polynesian natural and cultural heritage to become a global showcase of sustainable development".

And here's where Seasteading comes in:

it will bring new technologies, new research horizons and new economic activities to French Polynesia. The Seasteading Institute's project is an opportunity to develop new living spaces on the sea and offers the possibility of multiplying this type of sustainable habitats in other places. It opens the capability of gaining new living spaces for countries threatened by rising water levels, overpopulation, or other dangerous phenomena.

The agreement "affirm[s] the joint will of the Parties":

to pool their efforts for the implementation of a pilot project for floating islands in French Polynesia. The development of this project involves various studies addressing the technical and legal feasibility of the project in French Polynesia as well as the preparation of the special governing framework allowing the creation of the Floating Island Project located in an innovative special economic zone…..

The Floating Island Project will develop innovative and sustainable floating platforms. It will promote the development of new technologies in the terrestrial Anchor Zone and in the Floating Islands Zone. The Floating Island Project will respect the environmental standards defined by French Polynesia. It will use renewable energies. It will welcome the development of innovative technologies for the protection of the environment. It will not be interested in any land or ocean mineral resource. The platforms aim to attract direct and indirect investments in French Polynesia and host numerous businesses and research projects. The project will allow international experts to collaborate in French Polynesia to develop platforms capable of minimizing the effects of rising sea levels. It will have to have a favorable and significant impact on the local economy with the establishment of a special economic zone that will facilitate the creation and management of companies.

The agreement commits them to finalizing the legal end of the agreement by the end of 2017.

Seasteading's communications director Joe Quirk has a fascinating and convincing book on Seasteading out in March (co-written with Seasteading Institute founder Patri Friedman) in which the ecological and business advantages of using the ocean are frontloaded, just as they are in the agreement with French Polynesia. The competitive governance aspect is still there, but no longer the first foot forward. Whatever seastead happens in French Polynesia will, as above, have a special legal status but not full distinct sovereignty. But if it works it will certainly be a fascinating proof of concept to attract more interest from investors and possible host governments.

Quirk says they were introduced to the French Polynesian government via a former government official and entrepreneur there named Marc Collins. The Polynesians already have a ministry dedicated to the "blue economy," the umbrella term for the type of aquapreneurship the Seasteaders hope to see happening on ocean seasteads.

"Going to Polynesia felt like coming home for a Seasteader," says Quirk, though he'd never been before they went to meet with the government there to begin the negotiations that ended with this agreement. "Polynesians are the original Seasteaders. They have a culture of moving from island to island, getting on those Polynesian canoes and going to a new island and founding a new society. They like the words 'autonomy' and 'choice' and get the idea of discovering new things."

French Polynesia, while they have a great deal of autonomy, are technically, as the name says, French, so the French government will also have to sign off on certain aspects of whatever deal the Seasteaders end up making with the Polynesians, Quirk says. What the Polynesians want most, he says, is "blue jobs, for their youth, and they want to create new maritime industries so their kids can become the entrepreneurs of the future."

The specifics of what business or aquaculture might happen on a prospective Polynesian seastead are not yet set in stone, Quirk says. But he feels confident they mostly understand the bureaucratic path before them, that the physical problems are proven solvable by aqua-architect firms the Seasteaders are in communication with, and while he knows that the unexpected can and will arise, Quirk thinks the physical construction of a Seastead in a Polynesian lagoon could be happening in 2018.

Even before this agreement with French Polynesia was officially signed, the British Guardian was casting a stinkeye at the idea, quoting a Tahitian TV host Alexandre Taliercio saying the Seasteaders, who he writes off as "millionaires," are "lulled by an illusory desire to free themselves from the existing states" and "seem to have much more to gain than we do."

The recently extra-controversial (for his support of and work with the incoming Trump administration) Silicon Valley billionaire financier Peter Thiel was an early funder of the Seasteading Institute, though he is not currently involved. Quirk says that he has no way of knowing now if the frequently inscrutable and unpredictable Thiel will give any future money to help actuate Seasteading in Polynesia or elsewhere. But Quirk does say that actuating the possibilities opening up in French Polynesia and making them a real floating place of business will require the Seasteading Institute to up its fundraising and investor-finding game in 2017.

My Reason feature on Seasteading in its early days, "20,000 Nations Above the Sea," from 2009.

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  1. Godspeed. I’m not optimistic, but who the hell knows.

  2. It will only become more relevant as global warming causes the oceans to rise, and the film Waterworld is proven oh so correct.

  3. Don’t we already have a libertarian seastead, with the Somali pirates?

    1. Yeah but they don’t have roads.

      1. I am interested in a rating from the more long-threading posters on H&R who are awake with regards to P: p’s post

        1. Are you looking for narrow gays?

    2. I’m not real solid in my libertarian philosophy yet and kind of flake out on some things as I figure it out, but I’m thinking Somali pirating might be a violation of the NAP.

      1. That’s why when the Somali pirates approach your Seastead demanding their fair share of you stuff, you blow their shit the fuck up. Easy. It’s when the big pirates from the USA, China, and Russia come looking for their fair share of your stuff that you have a problem. Nuclear.fucking.warheads. Never attempt a sovereign place without it. Yeah, they still want their fair share of your illegitimate stuff that rightfully belongs to them, they’re just not quite as anxious to come looking for it.

        1. From the Seasteading Institutes website: The technology to foster the fluid mechanics of voluntary societies is at hand.

          The Seasteading Institute is a nonprofit think-tank working to provide a machinery of freedom to choose new societies on the blue frontier.

          I want to be there when you sell your idea to obtain nuclear weapons prior to establishing a Seastead Hyp. I’m not sure they are going to be on board.

          1. It will be their eventual demise.

      2. NAP is no fun.

        I wanna be a pirate.

        1. Some people ask, “Does drinking before noon make me an alcoholic?”

          The correct answer is, “No, it makes you a pirate!”

  4. The French aren’t really that amenable to libertarianish projects as a whole. Quirk and Thiel (if involved) will likely be told their mothers were hamsters and their fathers smell of elderberries and sent on their way eventually. I hope I’m wrong though, it’d be an interesting experiment.

    1. Thiel just said a few days ago that the tech isn’t quite there yet. Maybe true. Let’s see, what do I need? First enough structure strength and stability that a big ass storm won’t sink me. Second, desalinization plant to scale and food production, to scale. Third, a nuclear arsenal pointed straight at and able to hit Washington DC, Moscow, and Shanghai. That’s good for a start. Anything short of that, you’re fucked.

  5. I get sea sick. Guess I’m barred from utopia like Moses from the Promised Land.

    1. I’m told that if it’s a big enough ship, seasickness usually isn’t a problem. My dad, who gets seasick, spent a tour in ‘Nam on an aircraft carrier, and he said he never got sick once, even when they were caught on the edge of a typhoon.

      1. My dad spent a tour in ‘Nam on the USS William H. Standley. He threw up a lot.

        I’ve never thrown up in French Polynesia, in spite of all the drinking.

        1. My dad said the destroyers that were escorting the carrier looked like they were doing 45 degree rolls during the typhoon. I think he was damn glad he wasn’t on one of them.

          1. As someone who’s been stationed on ships *this century*, I can assure that we have things like roll-stabilizers since the ’80’s. Carriers don’t move as much as you think – it looks like a lot but because the ship is so big the movement in any particular area is slow.

            Older amphibs, because they operate close to the shore, have flatter bottoms and will roll like a motherfucker though.

    2. Well, perhaps if you everyone moves to Utopia you can run wild in the left-behind wastelands.

      1. Nah, Detroit is too cold for me.

    1. Good thing they have helmets to protect them from all of the… sand.

      1. I’ll just make the observation that the only people wearing helmets in the video were white people.

        1. Yeah, I facepalmed on that.

          I see he clocked one guy going 75. If you lose it going 75 it won’t matter if you are on sand, stone, water or concrete or if you are wearing a helmet or not.

          1. It actually makes a yuge difference in survivability whether or not you’re wearing a helmet.

      2. Hey, sand is coarse and rough, and it gets in everywhere.

    2. sandboarding

      Is that a new “enhanced interrogation” technique?

  6. It’s happening

    1. With French-Polynesian chicks? You’d better believe it’s fappening.

      1. Eh. You need a larger sample size

          1. I knew you were going to say that.

          2. Where muh wholesome titties?

  7. …the Seasteaders, who he writes off as “millionaires,” are “lulled by an illusory desire to free themselves from the existing states” and “seem to have much more to gain than we do.”

    -Atlas Drowned

      1. Now, I swear by the sun god Utu on this very day — and my younger brothers shall be witness of it in foreign lands where the sons of Sumer are not known, where people do not have the use of paved roads, where they have no access to the written word — that I, the firstborn son, am a fashioner of words, a composer of songs, a composer of words, and that they will recite my songs as heavenly writings, and that they will bow down before my words……

  8. It will not be interested in any land or ocean mineral resource.

    They might have a problem with that one.

    1. There have been “Seasteaders” for a very long time. Self sustaining platforms of life that moved around the planet on the seas. They are called sail boats. Not many sailors can dock one without the assistance of an engine anymore. They all have some sort of “mineral resource” in their construction though, so I will be interested in how they build this utopia.

      1. They purchase it? The idea I think is that the first people doing this are workers in industries where your physical location is not important (or is all-important to get around national laws) like IT or finance.

  9. At least it won’t have moonbeam’s choo-choo.
    I’m sure this will come as a surprise to, oh, two or three proggies:

    “Report: Taxpayers face $3.6 billion cost overrun for high-speed rail’s Valley section”
    “The Los Angeles Times reported it had obtained a confidential report by the Federal Railroad Administration that said the 118-mile section from Shafter to Merced could cost taxpayers $9.5 billion to $10 billion, well over the original budget of $6.4 billion.”…..rylink=cpy

    Note that it’s not only $3.6Bn, it’s also more than 50%.
    OK, those of us dumb enough to live here are asking the rest of you to please contact you’re fed politicos and tell ’em “NO WAY WE’RE PAYING FOR THAT IDIOT’S UNION HALL ON WHEELS!”
    It is certainly not going to be built without fed money and we here will owe you a debt or gratitude if the plug is pulled on this boondoggle.
    In fact, we’ll name the remains for the congress-critters who vote “no”.

    1. “your fed politicos”, dammit.

    2. I’m just curious how much an excavation and dam would cost on the San Joaquin River.

      1. I’m just curious how much an excavation and dam would cost on the San Joaquin River

        I bet they wish they had a way to control runoff this coming spring.

    3. I’m curious how it remained hidden this long:

      “The report was presented to California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, according to the Times.”

      Moonbeam should be run out of town on a rail, along with his collection of hair shirts.

    4. Maths are hard, but isn’t that 90 million dollars per mile?

      1. That’s $90,000,000. And that’s in real money, not ruppies or Canuk Bucks.

      2. OK, let’s deal with what we really know:
        The initial ‘estimate’ was scribbled on cocktail napkins in a restaurant, ‘negotiated’ by Willie Brown and Rod Diridon based on what they both hoped would not arouse major opposition, but still be a number high enough to avoid general hilarity; wife and I happened to be seated next to them and they were not secretive as the plan was “hatched”.
        There has never been one dollar budgeted to “maintenance” in any of the numbers floated about.
        The Central Valley run should be the cheapest and easiest to estimate; quakes happen east and west of there and it’s flat as a pool table AND THEY MISSED THAT BY 50%!!

        1. Don’t worry: once it’s operational, they’ll lose money with every ticket sold, but make it up in volume.

  10. Been business traveling all day, so just on HnR for the first time —
    wasn’t sure if anyone saw this IowaHawk tweet about Obama’s last days:

    Nobel Peace laureate fighting wars in 7 countries bestows Medal of Freedom on Crazy Uncle Choo Choo before give finger to Cuban refugees

    And then he airdropped $2 billion in cash to Iranian mullahs while stage-diving into a mob of weeping celebs for his going-away tongue bath.

    1. Haven’t seen it, but spot on.

    2. A true war monger would’ve dropped 22,000 bombs not 21,000. Peace prize earned.
      Safe travels, CA.

    3. I can only say he left out the part where the celebs were oh, so brave in calling Trump a poopie-head! Took real nerve, there.

  11. From the Guardian article: Hencken predicts a close relationship between the seastead and the islands. In an interview with Business Insider in October, he suggested that he would be able to take a speedboat to French Polynesia to take yoga classes and go to restaurants. The islands would also provide a construction base, he said, further reducing costs.

    So this is not a “Seastead”. It is an offshore resort/vacation home. I’m cool with that, but the sales pitch should be different.

    It is that attitude that draws the suspicion of local residents like Taliercio, who questioned whether “facilitating the tax evasion of the world’s greatest fortunes” would be healthy for South Pacific nations.

    It has worked well for some countries.

    1. “It is that attitude that draws the suspicion of local residents like Taliercio, who questioned whether “facilitating the tax evasion of the world’s greatest fortunes” would be healthy for South Pacific nations.”

      Charles Schumer hardest hit.

    2. Yeah, tell Taliercio that that strategy has worked wonders for the local economies of every place that’s done it.

  12. Even before this agreement with French Polynesia was officially signed, the British Guardian was casting a stinkeye at the idea, quoting a Tahitian TV host Alexandre Taliercio saying the Seasteaders, who he writes off as “millionaires,” are “lulled by an illusory desire to free themselves from the existing states” and “seem to have much more to gain than we do.”

    One of the other crabs is escaping from the pot, grab its motherfucking leg!

    1. I think her complaint is that the crabs might move to a lagoon in Tahiti. I’m not sure I blame her.

  13. imo Spectre wasn’t so bad. And I quite liked Skyfall, too. Quantum was a scattered, stupid mess. And Casino Royal was the best Bond film since I’ve been alive.

    1. The first 90 minutes of Spectre was pretty great. The last hour is enjoyable if you take it all as tongue-in-cheek, but I’m pretty sure that’s not intentional.

    2. Casino Royale is definitely up there and the best one for several decades – Dalton’s were good but they still had too much ‘gadget’ and silliness, left over from the Moore years.

      Quantum . . . was not good.

      Spectre . . . was not good but a lot better than Quantum. Again, like Skyfall, too much ‘villain is a master at the xanatos gambit’ shenanigans.

      Skyfall is good except for the idiocy surrounding Silva. He’s just a bad character. Which is too bad since his motivations and the ‘messiness’ surrounding this sort of work (which is rarely touched on in the other films) regarding when to cut losses and what ‘cutting losses’ actually means in human terms is a good topic to build a movie around.

  14. an interesting interview between Tom Woods and the head of the Bucknell campus libertarians.

    the end is where he’s asked his opinion of Milo Y. its about 2m. here worth a listen.

    I think his answer is exactly the sort of perspective people like Robby (for whatever reason) completely lacks. and may explain why pandering to the left is the wrong way to create a productive dialogue with it.

    1. Because the left is composed of easily upsettable toddlers who can’t deal with counterfactuals, and attempting to pander to it leads one down an inescapable labyrinth of Marxist critical theory (assuming one makes even the most cursory step toward a reality-based assessment of politics)?

      1. No, he more says that milo creates opportunity for actual debate.

        otherwise, the loud activist SJW students basically bully/intimidate anyone with even mild different POV, and there’s an ideological hegemony on campus.

        while many people might disagree w/ milo, he says in the aftermath of his events, people actually debate the points he raises. i think the quote was (paraphrased), “the most real conversations i’ve had with people were after he left”

        Milo simply shakes up the status quo and shows that its not wrong to have terrible opinions (even if they’re wrong).

        Robby et al tut tut his approach and suggest he’s a bad-influence and says hurtful things and wish he’d be more polite,. etc.

        they don’t understand you can’t create any ‘middle ground’ without someone like him first staking out an extreme POV…. which is nevertheless still *a valid opinion*, and one that deserves to be heard (as does any).

        By accepting that there is any such a thing as an “extreme” which is intolerable, you’re granting the censors to increasingly define anything outside of their dogma as that. he shatters the idea that some things are ‘beyond debate’

        1. It’s not like the left hasn’t used the same tactic for years. If you’ve got Maoists and Castro apologists on campus, it makes the debate on how much higher we should raise the min wage seem reasonable.

        2. “By accepting that there is any such a thing as an “extreme” which is intolerable, you’re granting the censors to increasingly define anything outside of their dogma as that. he shatters the idea that some things are ‘beyond debate'”

          Moveable feast/slippery slope.
          Grant that one POV is “intolerable”, you have granted the ability of those who made that claim to define any other POV as “intolerable”
          A-1 is limitless for a reason.

          1. It’s fun as hell, though, to talk about shit they say is intolerable. I’m sure Block had a blast writing Defending the Indefensible.

            1. Sadly, it was never read by those who needed to do so.

    2. Milo and Shkreli cancelled tonight at UC Davis because of protesters.

      1. There are a lot of terrified lefties willing to use violence to preserve their fantasy.
        I’ve never heard nor read what Milo promotes, but if it causes that sort of infantile response, it’s gotta be good.

        1. Milo is a socially conservative gay man, and he calls feminists ugly. Therefore, hate speech from him must be met with violence. And the Alex Jones theory that the anti-Trump protestors will start their reign of DC terror tomorrow. So, if Infowars is correct, the “anti-fascists” will start blocking roads, etc tomorrow. With the idea that if the National Guard or other state peace keepers arresting them being fascism, being the proof they need to get more and more violent before Trump is inaugurated.

          1. “So, if Infowars is correct, the “anti-fascists” will start blocking roads, etc tomorrow.”

            Not sure I have to go anywhere tomorrow, but it seems I just might.

            1. In DC?

    3. Listened to that last week. That Bucknell kid seems like he’s going through the same transformation that Tom did when he was at Harvard. You just want to tell the kid, “You’re on the right path, but push it farther until you’re really uncomfortable. That’s where the truth is”.

      1. *listened again. He’s a lot further on the libertarian path than Tom was while at Harvard.

  15. They can call it New Frogland

  16. Godfrey Elfwick today, on Twitter:

    Gendered toys force children into cisnormative gender roles…Unless a little boy likes barbie dolls. Then he’s trans.

    I believe little children should make their own decision to transition genders. But not get a tattoo. They may regret that.

    ‘Some parents aren’t comfortable with their child’s demand to switch gender’ I’d be a dalek by now if my mum had listened

    1. A transgender exterminating Dalek?

    2. Elfwick isn’t the hero we deserve, but the one we need right now.

  17. Just saw a tv ad “Call your senators to reject Tillerson for SecState.” paid for by some “climate” PAC. jfc now I have to endure campaign ads in January?

    Because … are they really unsure the senators from Californistan are going to confirm Tillerson? Or is this more “spending stupid people’s money for no purpose” like Hillary running tv ads in CA round the clock before the election, just to plump up the popular vote?

  18. Let’s hope they fill out the right forms, send them to the proper Department heads and acquire the permission they need to move forward.

  19. French Polynesia cooks up boondoggle to get their hands on some of that carbon tax money. Sweet.

    Why is it that every ‘sustainability’ project just looks like a giant, sucking black hole to pour money in?

  20. If the bureaucratic hurdles can be jumped, a real seastead could be floating in French Polynesian water in 2018.

    If they’ve ‘come to an agreement’ to operate ‘under special rules’, is it a genuine seastead or is it basically Hong Kong?

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