Seasteading Part 3: Barriers to Success

By: Shafer Higgins, Cheyenne Keeler, and Alexia Coston

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Our prior two blog posts introduced the concept of seasteading as well as its potential market applications. This final entry will discuss the “barriers” that make success for seasteading difficult. Seasteading offers the tantalizing potential to be the next vast frontier for homesteading. But as amazing as it sounds, various barriers have so far stalled development, leaving it a mere dream.  The barriers explored below include the high costs of building a seastead, the technology involved in the development of a seastead, and the market uncertainty associated with a new, disruptive technology.

High Costs

The most obvious barrier is, of course, money. In 2014, The Floating City Project estimated the total costs of building a seastead to be around $225,476,251. Seasteads require a significant advancements in technology and building material. In addition, there are costs involved to ship the material and personnel to build the infrastructure in the sea. This heavy investment has deterred many investors in the past, meaning those who dream of a city in the sea are still waiting to see that dream become reality.

Based on the estimated costs of the infrastructure, living expenses for those who want to live in a seastead are estimated to be $978 per square foot for each home. Although some people could pay this amount, those who can afford to do so are not those who have expressed interest in living in a seastead. In a survey, the Floating City Project found that of those most interested in living on a seastead, over 60% of respondents made an income of $50,000 or less, compared to the 20% of respondents who made an income of over $100,000. Hence, the data suggest that the demographic most willing to live in a seastead cannot afford it.

Technology

In order to build a seastead, new innovations are required to ensure it is safe and functional. Since the idea of living in a floating city has never been a real possibility until the last decade, developing these technologies is not exactly a simple task. Creating a city on top of a steel frame that has to withstand the sea, weather patterns, and rising water levels poses a significant challenge. The entire process uses expensive tools and designs, pushing engineers’ limits. Moreover after the seastead is built, frequent quality checks are necessary to ensure the structure is safe for residents living there. The lack of technological know-how and potential safety hazards create major barriers to seasteads.

Market Uncertainty

Major technological advancements such as seasteading are accompanied by fear, uncertainty, and doubt that people experience when facing radical innovations. Living on a seastead is not something most people can imagine doing. The Floating City Project’s qualitative interviews asking respondents what would deter them from living on a seastead highlighted worries related to the credibility of the organization building the seastead, the seastead’s ability to respond to medical emergencies, and internet access on the seastead. Potential residents need reassurance that where they are living will be safe and that it will be similar to living on land.

There is also the fear that seasteading can harm the environment. A large seastead may disrupt the ecosystem of local ocean life. Pollution and human interference is already impacting marine environments; potential investors are concerned seasteads will exacerbate the problems. Before building a seastead, the developers should focus on addressing these concerns and assuring potential investors.

A new way of life can be terrifying and the lack of a viable prototype certainly casts uncertainty over the technology. Removing this barrier will be essential to seasteading’s success.

Conclusion

Successful commercialization of radical innovations requires precise knowledge of the proper target market, a compelling value proposition, and a way to create awareness of this new opportunity. The Seasteading Institute could overcome the initial difficulties of establishing seasteading through a pilot demonstration project. This pilot project would be a smaller scale version of the eventual Floating City Project, a prototype for both the floating platforms that would make up the city as well as an experiment in potential social structures. A pilot project would have the dual purpose of identifying both the technical problems that would arise as well as the social problems and the unforeseen barriers to success. The group that would take part in this project could be selected based on the various needs seasteading aims to solve. Success of the project would provide a tangible example of the opportunities and benefits of seasteading. Additionally, the data gathered from this initial experiment would provide invaluable data for future seasteading projects.

Sources

[1] Wittrig, S.(2017, February 01). Kinetic Energy – Breakout to Clean Energy. Floating city-project-report-4 25-2014 seasteading institute white pa… Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://www.slideshare.net/tswittrig/floating-cityprojectreport4-252014-seasteading-institute-white-paper

[2] Nogrady, B. (2016, November 01). Future – The benefits and downsides of building into the sea. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161101-the-benefits-and-downsides-of-building-into-the-sea

Pictures

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasteading#/media/File:Stea.jpg

 

 

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