Living on the ocean is a dream that has been vividly described in sci-fi Hollywood movies, but now, it could become a reality courtesy of a unique pilot program that’s being taken seriously by officials in French Polynesia including current President Edouard Fritch.
The concept is being manufactured by a consortium of both public and private entities including Blue Frontiers and The Seasteading Institute, a non-profit think-tank that is pushing for floating societies to become a reality.
One of its most high-profile backers is billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel.
French Polynesia is serving as the project’s first port of call, although its organisers hope to see other jurisdictions taking up the call towards “seavilization”. Since its inception in 2017, Blue Frontiers has considered various sites around the world and hopes to see other countries following French Polynesia’s lead.
The cluster of islands is officially deemed as an “overseas country” by its political superintendent (France), comprising of 118 dispersed islands and atolls stretching over more than 2,000 kilometres in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.
Its current government has approved plans for a private consortium to build around 300 floating homes at a cost of around US$50 million, but not only that, the initiative is also offering cryptocurrency-powered political sovereignty for all would-be residents.
A bit like Hollywood’s Waterworld only a lot more orderly and with far better facilities.
Under the current proposal, Blue Frontiers and The Seasteading Institute are looking to build a newly-made island that would make premium-priced homes available within an entirely new “economic ecosystem” based on a transparent and fairly distributed cryptocurrency called Varyon.
“A core structural feature of current models of government is centralization. Too much centralized authority leads to inefficient bureaucracies and representatives disconnected from the people they are meant to serve. Given a suitable technological solution, governments are ripe for decentralization. That technological solution is seasteading”, says Blue Frontiers.
The man-made island would also become part of a buoyant Specialized Economic Zone (SEZ) that is entirely self-governing and not subject to any particular government’s laws, including the current regional adjudicator, France.
The current plan is to use the proceeds of Varyon’s launch and token sales to expand its ecosystem and create “SeaZones and seasteads” that only accept Varyon for various products and services, including new homes built within floating cities.
Powering up for ocean living
Blue Frontiers has said it intends to power the floating city with large solar panels and wind turbines, but also, is looking to implement new environmentally-friendly technologies to ensure its vision is suitably powered and is able to provide high-end creature comforts for its inhabitants.
Its creators say that if the concept is successful, it could hail a wider implementation of similar ventures in other parts of the world.
The overall cost towards the project is estimated to be around $50 million with the island expected to be ready for inhabitation by the end of 2022.
It has secured funding through the philanthropic donations via the Seasteading Institute and the Blue Frontiers, the organizations driving this initiative and managing the sale of the Varyon cryptocurrency tokens.
In the long run, the team behind the initiative envisions hundreds of similar self-governing cryptocurrency-powered floating communities that can “float to other locations” with little notice, thereby “removing government monopolies on the space where citizens live and businesses conduct their commercial activities.”
Administrative hot water
The Seasteading Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of French Polynesia last year and has tasked Blue Frontiers to complete a “set of environmental, economic, and legal studies” regarding the development of its envisaged city in French Polynesia.
The ocean-farer also says that the project still requires a “special regulatory framework granting substantial autonomy.”
All indications suggest the consortium will not face much opposition given the investment, regional job creation (not to mention additional tourism) the venture is likely to generate.
The project developers have picked French Polynesia because it is a highly pristine and exotic region, but from in a more pragmatic sense, it is a region where a significant amount of land is resting on coral and could “disappear with rising sea levels,” according to scientific research cited by Blue Frontiers.
According to Blue Frontiers, “overcrowded urban environments need to safely and sustainably expand onto water, and millions of people globally are harshly affected by sea level rise today, with many more crippled by it tomorrow.”
The sea-steading developer also claims that all its “ecological floating habitats” are specially designed to be tsunami-proof and are completely immune to rising sea levels.
As well as offering a home for the displaced, the self-contained islands are designed to function as business centres that are beyond the influence of government regulation.
“This means there is stability, outside of fluctuating geopolitical influences, trade issues and currency fluctuations — it’s the perfect incubator,” says Blue Frontiers researcher and self-styled “seavangelesse” Ms Nathalie Mezza-Garcia.
The University of Warwick researcher has published several peer-reviewed scientific papers including ‘Towards a World without Nation-States’ in 2014 and ‘Anarchy and Complexity’ in 2016.
The floating island project in French Polynesia is her most sincere and practical anti-establishment concept, whereby governments merely act as service providers while allowing floating communities to self-govern without hindrance.
Ms Mezza-Garcia says there is plenty of evidence to suggest an egalitarian concept would function in practice and would facilitate a truly sovereign method of self-governance. “If you don’t want to live under a particular government, people will be able to just take their house and float away to another island,” says Ms Mezza-Garcia.
The floating city project is currently conducting local engagement, community building, and site studies with construction likely to commence shortly thereafter for the project to meet its current deadline date of 2022.