Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peter Thiel, SeaSteading's Financial Backer, Doesn't Like Boats


The website "" provides an interesting profile of the billionaire backer of the Seasteading Institute, Peter Thiel. One of the things you learn is that Thiel doesn't particularly like boats, and doesn't plan to be an early adapter of seasteading. Another thing you will learn is that Thiel is something of a maverick provocateur.
If the seasteading movement goes forward as planned, Thiel won't be one of its early citizens. For one thing, he's not overly fond of boats, although maybe, as Friedman says, "he just needs to be on a large enough structure." Thiel characterizes his interest as "theoretical." But whether Thiel himself heads offshore or not, there's a whole lot of passion underlying that theoretical interest. Thiel put forth his views on the subject in a 2009 essay for the Cato Institute, in which he flatly declared, "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible." He went on: "The great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms," with the critical question being "how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country."

Until a libertarian colony can be established in outer space—Thiel is bullish on that idea, too, though he thinks the technology needs at least a half-century to develop—seasteading will have to suffice. "[It's] not just possible, or desirable," he said in an address at the 2009 Seasteading Institute Conference, "but actually necessary." _Details

Also check out this Cato-at-Liberty article on seasteads from the perspective of tax havens. It includes a 9 minute video on the economic benefits of tax havens.

This short article on Peter Thiel and seasteading at The, includes a number of criticisms of seasteading from a small number of web personalities.

The near-term vision of seasteading as promoted by The Seasteading Institute is not particularly inspiring. Front man Patri Friedman does alright in public speaking, media appearances, and writing articles. But he does not have the type of maritime heavy industry background that would inspire confidence in truly serious investors.

Seasteading is desperately in need of a "killer app," and it is not clear that offshore gambling, banking, and tax havens will be good enough -- particularly if the legal question of sovereignty is not settled.

In a global boom economy, seasteading might have better prospects, and a lot more millionaire and billionaire investors. But there is a need for more "heavy hitters" with backgrounds in large marine structures and financing, and in the various offshore industries which might bring quick profits to such a speculative venture.

The challenge of building a robust seastead able to stand up to anything the ocean might throw at it, is not as great a challenge as building a robust space elevator to geosynchronous orbit. But it is still a significant challenge.

The challenge of raising new generations of young people with practical real world competencies, plus a sense of adventure, is likewise a significant challenge -- given the state of today's perpetual adolescent incompetents, psychological neotenates, and academic lobotomates. But challenges tend to bring out the greatness in innovators.

Stay tuned.

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