The Guardian has a wonderful chronicle of the rise and fall of an experimental libertarian society built on a cruise ship armed with little more than crypto-mining rigs. Yes really. Did I mention one of the founders was Milton Friedman's grandson? Here's how the journey began…
In 2017, Patri Friedman and the "seavangelist" Joe Quirk wrote a book, Seasteading, in which they described how a seasteading community could constantly rearrange itself according to the choices of those who owned the individual floating units. (Quirk now runs the Seasteading Institute; Friedman remains chair of the board.) "Democracy," the two men wrote, "would be upgraded to a system whereby the smallest minorities, including the individual, could vote with their houses."
In the decade following Friedman's talk, a variety of attempts to realise his seasteading vision were all thwarted. "Seavilization," to use his phrase, remained a fantasy. Then, in October 2020, it seemed his dream might finally come true, when three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. Grant Romundt, Rüdiger Koch and Chad Elwartowski planned to sail the ship to Panama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies. In homage to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of bitcoin's mysterious inventor (or inventors), they renamed the ship the MS Satoshi. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters.
Surely a bunch of Silicon Valley Tech Bros could hack their way into disrupting the regulatory apparatus of the ocean to create a Libertarian Utopia, right?
Welp, much like that libertarian community in New Hampshire that was overrun by bears, it seems their focus of hyper-individualism meant overlooking a few key details. For example, you couldn't cook your own food in your unit, not even with a microwave — you were forced to engage in commerce with the ship's restaurant. And then of course, there was the issue of what to do with all the waste, both human and otherwise. Which, maybe there'd a solution between "No food" and "What do we do with this poop?" but the founders neglected to consider things like fuel costs and crew costs, too.
What's even more absurd is that this cruise ship was merely intended as a stepping stone to achieve a society of SeaPods — little independent Jetson-like pods that sit on a pole above the ocean, where (according to their website) you just sip wine and Bitcoin-mine all day, for freedom.
If these men were more diabolical, they could have probably pulled off something akin to the Scientology Sea Org … but alas, they did not. If you're interested in learning more though, the Seasteading website is still up and offering information on other aspirational libertarian communities.
The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world's first cryptocurrency cruise ship [Sophie Elmhirst / The Guardian]
Image: Rapid-fire / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)