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Experts Gather To Float Fantasy Island Ideas

Seasteading Institute Concept

Floating islands free from the problems of land captured the imagination of entrepreneurs when Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel announced his financial backing for The Seasteading Institute in 2008. For nearly a decade they have remained a dream. At the first-ever floating island conference this week, that dream has never been closer.

Tahiti hosted the first First International Conference on Floating Islands this week, featuring remarks from the president of French Polynesia and dozens of scientists and engineers. Hours of presentations hammered home the need and demand for floating islands.

The concept behind seasteading is not complicated, mirroring the homesteading platform of self-sufficiency within a community. The movement is primarily driven by a desire to leave politics behind. Leaders like Thiel envision a libertarian utopia free of the laws, regulations and taxes of life on land. Others say seasteading is a necessary next wave of development as climate change makes land development more difficult. 

However, the logistical and financial requirements of building an ocean-faring colony have proven to be extremely complicated.

Peter Thiel

“The question of whether seasteading is possible or desirable is in my mind not even relevant. It is absolutely necessary,” Thiel said at a 2009 seasteading conference.

Six years later, Thiel's vision was more realistic.

“I’m not exactly sure that I’m going to succeed in building a libertarian utopia any time soon,” he said in 2015. Financing is the biggest hurdle. “You need to have a version where you could get started with a budget of less than $50B,” he said.

Seasteading Institute concept

Over the years the plan has come down to earth. Instead of a building a towering Rapture-esque city in the middle of the ocean, the plan is now to construct a modest island, like the rendering above, tucked into the calmer waters of a cove. But calmer waters mean territorial waters of a host nation.

The Seasteading Institute has found a partner in French Polynesia. The parties signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year. According to the agreement, after economic, environmental and architectural research in and around French Polynesia (much of which has been underway for years) has been completed, the government will collaborate with the Seasteading Institute to develop a special governing framework for a land base and sea zone. The goal is to achieve this by the end of 2017. Once a governing framework is in place, implementation and construction can begin. 

A report from The Seasteading Institute estimated the cost of its new concept at around $225M, a capital cost of $978/SF. Yearly maintenance cost estimates come in just shy of $9M. But can you really put a price on freedom?