Seasteading is basically a crazy idea

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Sadly, Mencius Moldbug says, reason compels him to believe that seasteading is basically a crazy idea:

I mean this in the good sense of the word as well as the bad. Of all things that the endeavor reminds me of, it reminds me most of Shaw’s epigram that all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

I’m glad that smart people are crazy enough to do crazy things like this, and I’m glad that billionaires are crazy enough to put their money where their mouth is. What will come of it? We’ll see. Or our children will, at least.

But in the cold light of reason, let’s take a couple of sharp and serious looks at the project.

First, we need to look a little more closely at this word freedom. From my perspective, which is of course both reactionary and correct, freedom is not an abstraction. The extent of your freedom is the extent of your own practical control over your own mind, body, and property.

For example, I don’t think the conversion of Southern slaves into Southern sharecroppers made anyone much freer, because it created few practical options for the people involved. Before, you were an agricultural laborer who worked on the same farm for your entire life; after, ditto.

Defined in these terms, when you move onto a floating pole somewhere in the ocean, the first effect on your freedom is a massive decline. You have sworn fealty to King Neptune. Neptune accepts your service, as he has accepted so many before you. His court is glorious, his riches are infinite, his territory is vast. But Neptune is a stern and capricious lord.

To live at sea, you need not just love liberty. You need to love the sea. Spend a little time with Moitessier, Slocum, and the like; read this fine collection, and possibly this (pretty much all of Jonathan Raban’s books are good); etc, etc. Yes, I’m aware that seasteading is not yachting. I’m aware that no one intends to take their floating poles around Cape Horn. But you are still at sea, and a subject of Neptune you remain.

For example, until they can form a large enough seastead colony to support regular seaplane service (let alone floating runways, etc), the subjects of Neptune are isolated, in an way that no one on Earth now is. Perhaps the closest equivalents are the small spots of humanity dotted across Alaska. Would you move to Alaska? (Why New Hampshire? Why not Alaska?) Life at sea is likely to be no freer than life in the Alaskan bush. If this is the lifestyle you want, it is as free as anything. If not, it might as well be a jail.

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