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This is a geopolitical experiment on life in a floating oceanic habitat with no mandated societal structure beyond that of a loose, employee owned and operated enterprise. This is not a novel idea. There have been several attempts to organise something like this in the last 20 years. None have been successful, unless you count Sealand, Which is about 50x50 feet, is a monarchy occupied by a handfull of people, and doesn't actually float. Nevertheless, Sealand is well worth study. It is economicly successful, and has lasted 30 years. It has had to deal with some tough social, political, and environmental challenges that we will have to cope with as well.
The Atlantis project (Oceania) was a defunct floating habitat project, based on assemblies of hexaonal platforms. ResidenSea is an ocean liner cum floating condo-city for those with a seven figure net worth, touring now and soliciting residents. Freedom Ship is a much scaled-up version of the same thing but a mile long (roughly an arcology on a giant barge), still in the planning stage and also for the wealthy. It makes some libertarian noises, but seems in design fairly autocratic, being based on the ship-at-sea authority model and will have a large police force. Celestopea is a utopian new-age community, in the planning stage, of modular hexagonal floating platforms to be fixed offshore of Costa Rica. New Utopia is a planned city built up on a sea-mount southwest of the Caymans. This is not an exhaustive list. Here is a list of links to sites describing more of these projects, and references to material concerning the history, politics, legality, and social theory of mid-ocean micronations.
Many of these projects have been initiated by idealists, with no or vague business plan, expecting the rest of the idealists to rally to the cause and donate the required capital and effort. The pelagic project is not a utopian scheme, they never work. It's based on profitable enterprise, gradual growth, and being prepared for the worst from people and political organizations.
<Flame-on> In a word, liberty (I'd be a Libertarian if I believed in political organizations). Some of us need to live where there are no coercive governments, where we can keep what we earn, where we are fully responsible for our own destinies, where we can actually own our posessions, our privacy, and our bodies. It's a daring and a dangerous idea. If you don't already believe in this, good for you. I wouldn't try to convince you for the world. Have a nice, secure life. It takes all kinds. You will make a fine customer. <Flame-off>
There are three tough problems to solve. The first is an engineering problem: how do we build it?
To survive one of the most hostile environments on the planet.
Cheaply enough that it can be made self-supporting.
Simply enough to be built by unskilled labor in poorly industrialized places.
The second is a social one: How do we operate it?
Without provoking interferance from nation states.
To insure its economic survival and growth.
Such that it retains the structure and philosophy we intend.
Without compromising the freedom of the inhabitants.
The last is an economic one: How do we pay for it?
Without much risk of losing our shirts (and houses, and savings, and ...).
Without surrendering control to investors.
And again, without provoking interferance from those pesky nation states.
Now. It's gone beyond the planning stage, though more planning is needed. Money has already been spent. Physical work has been done yielding physical results. Scale models of increasing size are being build and tested. The first full size tile could be poured the summer of 2003. The first multi-module structure could be afloat, in use, and earning a modest income a year after that. It would be perhaps 10 years or more before growing large and well equiped enough to become mostly self-sufficient and declare sovereignty (and yes, that is a long term goal).
Realistically, the most likely outcome is that it will lose momentum, fall prey to organizational problems, or become yet another victim of someone's foreign policy as a 'destabilizing influence'. These are the fates of previous efforts. Still, there's a chance of getting there, and a guarantee of a good time trying. There are some things we are doing differently that may give us a better chance of success than the others. Here is a rough outline of the long term plan.