Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Initial Design Photo Of Seasteading City Demands Ridicule

Two days ago I posted some mild criticisms of the Seasteading Institute's floating city plan.  Now I'm adding more fuel to my fire.  This article displays a concept model of this artificial island for billionaires.  I'll republish the photo below.

Do you see something wrong here?  Check this out.  That's a container ship parked next to an offshore platform.  The offshore platform has no cranes, no piers, no material handling equipment, or anything else that is absolutely required to make an economically viable effort at getting those containerized goods off the ship and into the hands of the platform's wealthy denizens.  Seasteaders need a crash course in supply chain management.  They should hire me as a consultant.  I'll raise my rates just for them so they can brag about paying top dollar for advice. 

I'll offer yet another item to my litany of nonviability.  This city-state has no way to feed itself.  You can't live without food no matter how many billions you have in your Swiss account or how fast your satellite broadband connection zips around the world.  Are they going to have dedicated fishing fleets prowling local waters?  A steady diet of nothing but cod, tuna, and king crab will bore these urban transplants to death in no time.  Most American city supermarkets require replenishment every few days, depending on inventory turnover and spoilage.  How many supermarkets can fit on a floating platform?  I'm guessing just one, and it will be about the size of a typical Trader Joe's in San Francisco. How will it be supplied?  Remember, there are no plans yet for the cranes and dock space necessary to make any trade in goods, let alone food imports, physically possible.  Maybe Whole Foods can deliver risotto by airdrop (*snicker*). 

I've figured out the mentality behind this effort.  It's a stab at creating a gated community to reflect the exclusive status the creators of this stupidity feel they deserve.  The thing about gated communities on land is that they're already connected to the infrastructure for energy, water, waste disposal, and transport that makes them livable.  There won't be enough space on an ocean-going platform to make all of that possible.  Check out the cramped quarters on an aircraft carrier for the only existing model of how thousands of people can live at sea.  Note that the carrier needs to replenish its nuclear reactor's fuel every few years (in drydock, on land, which will negate our seasteaders sovereignty!) and is never self-sufficient in food or material goods.  The carrier's residents have little personal space, let alone enough space for a hundred billionaire condos.  The mentality of rich folks who expect Jeeves to rush into the parlor with a cocktail every time they ring a silver bell from Tiffany's doesn't transplant to a cramped offshore platform.  Some rich people apparently aren't satisfied with seceding from society; they want to secede from reality as well. 

Have at it, seasteaders.  You'll never get off dry land.  Oh, if you need some more material for future designs, look no further than fiction.

Here's a final bit of free advice.  Focus these platforms on fulfilling an unmet need for energy production from waves, tides, and offshore windfarms and you'll have an excuse to park them within sight of the shore.  Proximity to shore means you can build causeways wide enough for trucks or trams and not worry about the lack of space for containerized trade I mentioned above.  Get them approved as special economic development zones and you'll have reason to build things into them that would otherwise raise NIMBY objections.  There may even be enough room for a dozen or so billionaire bachelor pads if they can stand the noise from all of the energy-generating infrastructure.  Once they're profitable, maybe the residents can install a country club on the side of the platform facing the ocean.  That will give them the illusion of turning their back on landbound commoners and seceding from reality, which is what they obviously want anyway.  I'd love to see these things operating near San Francisco, as the backers intend, but I'll help them keep the endgame in mind.  Hire me now before my rates go up again.

Full disclosure:  I think this whole idea is stupid.