Saturday, August 27, 2011

Seasteads: Full Speed Ahead, and Damn the World Government!

Shimizu Seastead Tower

The seasteading idea has been in the news lately, largely due to a expose of billionaire Peter Thiel, and his quirks. At Next Big Future, David Brin provides his opinion about Seasteading, suggesting that wide scale seasteading may only occur in the context of a world government!

Here is an outline of Brin's thinking on seasteads, which largely come from the writing of his most recent SF book:
1- The core aim is to escape meddling by any modern states...

2- This business plan has to compete with an older and more reliable one: when you want an “offshore” country of your own, simply buy one that already exists...

3- Now, in fairness, this may not only be an option for the rich! ...

4- The ocean is a harsh and dangerous environment. Corrosive to metal and other parts....

5- A related matter. When you are at sea, facing nature’s full brunt, including typhoons and corrosion and threats of all kinds, the daily details of running the place will be neither anarchic nor democratic. There will be a captaincy…...

6- Clearly there is a shortcut through all the red tape and other dangers. I portray it in EXISTENCE. That trick is to forge alliances with already-existing small, island states....

7- ...If you reject the democracies, then will you call them for help, when an armed gang comes to simply take over your sovereign land, by right of conquest?...

8- ... Instead of emphasizing the tax-avoidance aspect (a meme which I predict will bite its promoters back, very hard, in the near future), I’d rather see the emphasis be on freedom to do social experiments. Feminist enclaves? Polygamous or polyamorous paradise? A haven for drug experimentation? For genetic self-mod or for bureaucracy-minimized space launch? A place of self-exile for sex-offenders? A MYOB festival? ...

...Because of the way that WG [ed: World Government] is forming on Planet Earth… with the judiciary and bureaucracy first and the legislature last… the chief effect is to ensure that individual humans have no legal standing before international agencies. Only sovereign nations have standing, can file suit, negotiate treaties, assert rights and privileges.

... If they can establish a dozen or so new, sea-based national entities, to stand alongside the 200 or so that already exist, then the SeaSteaders will be in the same position as the original founders of the New York or London Stock Exchanges.

They will have inheritable or negotiable “seats” — a grandfathered position of “standing” allowing them to step up before WG bodies representing the interests of millions of clients. Large and small.

Think this is about autonomy? Or feudal privilege? Or social experimentation? Naw. These guys are smarter than that.

It’s about getting in on the ground floor of the 21st century’s great new business frontier.* _Brin
Brin may honestly believe that his imagination is an accurate reflection of the outside world. In fact, some of his very strong, but questionable, views on many other topics suggests that this is the case. The anti-solipsistic solipsist. Isn't that always the way?

Brin has a degree in (astro?) physics, and may see himself as a poly-expert of sorts. Certainly writers in general often consider themselves knowledgeable on the topics which they research for reports, articles, stories, and books. Of course, what they are is semi-exposed dilettantes, not experts. But try telling them that! ;-)

What about this world government idea? The concept works fairly well within a number of science fictional plots, but is a world government likely for the near future of planet Earth? Only in the sense that Imperial Rome was a world government, or Alexander's Greece. A government over the "known world," a fudged world government, by name, if not in reality, is always possible.

Far more likely than an orderly world government is a "Coming Anarchy," as described by Robert D Kaplan. World demographic trends projected to the middle of this century predict a diminishment of Europe, North America, and the advanced nations of East Asia -- with an explosive growth in the populations of low IQ tribal areas in Africa and Asia. Multicultural areas within Europe, North America, and Oceania are likely to grow at the expense of the core host populations.

These trends do not paint a picture of a coming, all-powerful world government. So where does Brin likely go wrong? Brin's problem here -- as in other areas of his thinking, apparently -- lies in his assumptions and biases. Unexamined biases are a common curse of intelligent and successful people who feel that "they have arrived." Why mess with success? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. etc etc.

In this case, Brin's bugaboos are the "oligarchs." The concept is presumably borrowed from the Russian experience of the 1990s and 2000s, and extended to all other world societies and cultures. Is this a logical extrapolation?

Regardless, these oligarchs are the puppet-masters and string pullers behind the curtains, and if they decide they want a world government, Brin believes they have the power to create one.

Reality check: All of this [Brin's book plot] takes place within a futuristic setting, in the context of advanced technologies which can extend the power of individuals and cabals significantly. Anything can happen. We willingly suspend judgment just to see what is coming next. But it is not reality.

Al Fin sociologists and futurists believe that Brin is overlooking the most salient dynamic trends occurring on the planet. He does this because they are hiding behind his blind spots, his unexamined assumptions. This means that Brin is in for some significant surprises in the not so distant future.

Lucky Brin.

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