“A cruise ship is not very good for people who want to be free.”
September 7, 2021 2:47 AM   Subscribe

The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship

According to Harris, Koch wanted to try to make the ship more fuel-efficient by installing a smaller engine, which he thought he could do while the ship was at anchor. “We were like, how are you going to cut a hole in the ship’s side big enough to get the engine out, which is below water level, and not sink the ship?”
posted by the duck by the oboe (174 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Archive link.
posted by acb at 2:49 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


After trying multiple insurers and brokers, Romundt began to realise that the cruise ship industry was, as he put it, “plagued by over-regulation”. (Along with airlines and nuclear power, according to Harris, it’s in “the top three”.)

Hm. I wonder why that might be?

Laurie Penny wrote an article in 2018 about a 4 day crypto cruise. That sounded hellish enough. Imagine having to live there.
posted by davidwitteveen at 3:54 AM on September 7 [24 favorites]


Massive dude diligence fail.
posted by BobTheScientist at 4:00 AM on September 7 [55 favorites]


“Let’s think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers!” he declared.

First problem: this is not how governments work.

Second problem: all of these schemes seem designed by people who a) hate regulations and being told what to do and b) do not understand logistics at all. And, weirdly, c) although they are some sort of entrepreneurs, they don’t seem to have figured out how to project a budget.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:03 AM on September 7 [59 favorites]


Maybe the reason I never try to start my own techno-libertarian utopia isn't laziness or a lack of ambition but a reasonable understanding of the complexity of the world. Nah, who am I kidding, it's totally laziness.
posted by mollweide at 4:04 AM on September 7 [43 favorites]


They understand how government works. They just don’t give a fuck about other people.
posted by spitbull at 4:08 AM on September 7 [22 favorites]


Do sea pirates accept Buttcoin for paying off ransoms?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:08 AM on September 7 [6 favorites]


It's the same attitude that brought us Brexit and other greatest hits - that regulation and bureaucracy are simply obstacles designed to hold back big thinkers and disruptors. As opposed to being essential safeguards that stop us from descending into chaos. Human society is somewhat more complex than a startup.
posted by pipeski at 4:11 AM on September 7 [75 favorites]


Raise your hand if you thought that this was a satire at first. (Poe's Law of the Sea?)
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:23 AM on September 7 [14 favorites]


There was a recent episode of the economist's Checks and Balance podcast focusing on the dysfunction of San Francisco local politics (podcast, article). One part of the podcast discussion that didn't make the article was the suggestion that tech & tech workers focus on "disruption", setting up new businesses, etc -- is in considerable opposition with the skills & interest in working within an existing system to bring about incremental change -- say, being good at politics and organising in society.

The whole libertarian ocean homestead fantasy leading to buying a cruise liner and trying to establish rules for a community of people to live in highly cramped artificial living conditions in a highly regulated industry is pretty hilarious.

This crypto libertarian cruise liner debacle is maybe a nice cheap relatively humane approximation of what would happen with libertarianism vs space colonisation, where the failure modes are even nastier and there is even more need for people to cooperate and suppress individual freedom in order to avoid catastrophe for society.

see also: Charlie Stross's 2010 blog post space cadets
I postulate that the organization required for such exploration is utterly anathema to the ideology of the space cadets, because the political roots of the space colonization movement in the United States rise from taproots of nostalgia for the open frontier that give rise to a false consciousness of the problem of space colonization. In particular, the fetishization of autonomy, self-reliance, and progress through mechanical engineering — echoing the desire to escape the suffocating social conditions back east by simply running away — utterly undermine the program itself and are incompatible with life in a space colony (which is likely to be at a minimum somewhat more constrained than life in one of the more bureaucratically obsessive-compulsive European social democracies, and at worst will tend towards the state of North Korea in Space).
posted by are-coral-made at 4:27 AM on September 7 [44 favorites]


It's perhaps telling that the Communists had a less janky word for spacefarer (cosmonaut), leaving Team Liberty Eagle to make do with “astronaut”, a contrivance with an aura of ornery, petulant defiance about it (“we're not going to let any dirty commies tell us what to call our space heroes! From now on, if anyone asks, we're going not to space but to the stars!”)
posted by acb at 4:32 AM on September 7 [4 favorites]


After trying multiple insurers and brokers, Romundt began to realise that the cruise ship industry was, as he put it, “plagued by over-regulation”. (Along with airlines and nuclear power, according to Harris, it’s in “the top three”.)

No shit. For those three, when things go wrong they go very, very wrong. And large ships are usually crewed by the cheapest staff they can find, registered in the most convenient country, and have their true ownership disguised through layers of shell companies. And that's before you get into full-blown fraud by owners. Regardless of government regulation, it's no surprise that a quant in an insurance company would look at this and go 'nope'.
posted by kersplunk at 4:33 AM on September 7 [39 favorites]


Viva Vivas listed the options, including cabins with no windows ($570 a month), an ocean view ($629), or a balcony ($719). Ocean Builders held a series of live video calls for potential customers which attracted 200 people at a time

Who on Earth would be interested in this and have sufficient money to seriously consider it?

One Reddit respondent – maxcoiner on Reddit, Luke Parker in real life – was as close to the target market of the Satoshi as it was possible to imagine. A longtime follower of the seasteading movement, he was also such an early and successful bitcoin adopter that he and his wife were able to retire early thanks to their investments.

Oh, lottery winners. It figures.

Funny how a speculative scene which made some early adopters wealthy seems to attract all sorts of other speculative projects which could take off and be the next big thing if only you'd buy in early.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:39 AM on September 7 [6 favorites]


Part of me is really sad it didn't work out. It's not so often that someone's dream utopia could come to fruition.

But... I'm a little confused about how the cruise ship and these immobile pods would reflect the values of seasteading anyway. It's not like you can move one of those pods.

It feels like the problem with seasteading isn't the residences, it's the auxillary support - the stuff people get from land. If I was a multi-bajillionaire and wanted seasteading to move forward, I'd make the approximate to a floating gas station. Fuel, groceries, maybe a (as fast as possible) high-speed internet connection. Then, you charge boats a small fee to dock and use your provisions.

Even better, run them as a franchise, and the best floating-gas-stations win, and people can "vote by moving their houses" etc.

And then, all the "seasteaders" just buy boats and do what they were already doing. Like, why doesn't everyone that wants to "seastead" just buy a boat and mine their crypto on their own boat?
posted by bbqturtle at 4:55 AM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Seasteading sounded like a much better idea when I didn't own a house. Now the idea of plunking a structure in seawater and then trying to live in it forever sounds insane. Hard enough maintaining a building on regular old ground.

Indeed, reading the article it sounds like the part that really killed the dream was, y'know, running the ship. How much time and energy and money are seasteaders willing to dedicate to staying afloat?

(The other thing that killed the dream is none of the crypto libertarian were lawyers, which is incredibly unsurprising once you think about it)
posted by goingonit at 4:58 AM on September 7 [26 favorites]


Romundt – a softly spoken Canadian with the optimistic, healthy glow of someone who combines entrepreneurial success with water sports...

I know what it means but I also know what I want it to mean.

On a relevant note though, these libertarian schemes all seem to miss the attraction of libertarianism: being left the fuck alone. In contrast, by making their "government" exactly contiguous with their populace, they require constant engagement and adversarial posturing
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 5:05 AM on September 7 [42 favorites]


They definitely seem to never understand risk management. Insurance is a private solution to a lot of "government"-like problems. What happens when things go wrong, is there a plan for that? Those questions are hard and complex and take lots of attention to detail.

Insurers don't ever have to tell you why they aren't willing to insure. It can be as simple as they don't understand the risk you're asking them to cover, and they're not willing to do the expensive analysis for you, for free, before they'll offer coverage.
posted by bonehead at 5:16 AM on September 7 [18 favorites]


Also, jesus, who wouldn't spring an extra benjamin for a balcony?
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 5:18 AM on September 7 [7 favorites]


@spitbull:
They understand how government works. They just don’t give a fuck about other people.
I agree completely on the latter. However, this is not really an either-or proposition. For the most part, they don't understand how government works AND they don't give a fuck about other people.
posted by mystyk at 5:19 AM on September 7 [45 favorites]


I think it's all a bit of a shame.

If you could take bunches of Randoid loons and trap them in rusting hulks they can't maintain, then push them out to sea, isn't that a net benefit to society?
posted by pompomtom at 5:32 AM on September 7 [87 favorites]


Over here just laughing and laughing.

I want to call these dudes a bunch of overgrown toddlers but that would be an insult to toddlers.

According to Harris, Koch wanted to try to make the ship more fuel-efficient by installing a smaller engine, which he thought he could do while the ship was at anchor. “We were like, how are you going to cut a hole in the ship’s side big enough to get the engine out, which is below water level, and not sink the ship?” Harris shook his head, his memories of Koch clearly fond, if perplexed. “I was forever saying, ‘No, Rudi you can’t do this; no, Rudi you can’t do that.’”

Dude wanted to cut a damn hole in the side of the boat underwater LMFAOOOOO!!!

One of my favorite examples of the level of maturity these dudes display:

He decided to spend Christmas on board, along with the crew. Master key in hand, he wandered around the Satoshi, making sure to enter every room that said Do Not Enter. He toured the engine room, and sat on the sun deck. He worked, because he can’t help working, even at Christmas, but he also went on all the water slides, alone. (Harris told me he’d turned them on specially for Christmas Day.) Though Romundt doesn’t usually drink, he had a glass of wine and called all his friends saying, “I’m on my own cruise ship for Christmas!” He had the kind of good time it is perhaps only possible to have when you have just made an unbelievably expensive mistake born of a desire to invent an entirely new way of living and involving the purchase of a huge floating vessel. “I was king of the ship!” he said, still delighted.

King of the ship??? Are you this many fingers old?!?

Thanks for posting, it's been hard to laugh at things lately but hoo boy this got me good.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:40 AM on September 7 [30 favorites]


And, weirdly, c) although they are some sort of entrepreneurs, they don’t seem to have figured out how to project a budget.

I think that for some successful entrepreneurs, the money flows in so fast they don't have to. My partner works for a company that was originally founded by a precocious 17-year-old, with his father's support. His father became CFO. Five or six years ago, the founder sold the company and drove off into the the sunset in his Lamborghini, and the new owners discovered that the company's financial records were, not quite a mess, but just absent. They had no idea what they were spending money on, or where the income was coming from (no breakdown by markets or demographics or whatever). The 17yo had a great idea (tech-related, of course), it took off, and dad and son got rich off the proceeds without really having any notion of how a company worked.

My partner reported being relieved when people stepped in who had actual managerial experience, capable of, for instance, firing people who needed to be fired.
posted by Orlop at 5:48 AM on September 7 [12 favorites]


I asked Patri Friedman whether governments would permit seasteading to continue if it turned out to be successful. His answer was along the lines of "That's a hard question, and I don't have an answer."

In _Citizen of the Galaxy_, Heinlein was right about the constraints needed for space-gong-- the Free Traders have freedom in the sense of not being controlled by governments, but the shipboard culture works by allowing very little freedom for individuals.

On the ISS, astronauts have some freedom to play, but it's not like they have to deal with anyone who's actually recalcitrant.

I would *like* seasteading to work-- refugees need someplace to go-- but I don't see how the practicalities work.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:49 AM on September 7


“We were like, ‘This is just so hard.’”

Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre, white libertarian.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 5:51 AM on September 7 [105 favorites]


isn't that a net benefit to society?

Do you want Bioshock? Because that's how you get Bioshock.
posted by acb at 6:03 AM on September 7 [14 favorites]


It's also worth mentioning that these folks' libertarian paradise required the labor of a large crew of people who would not themselves be experiencing anything resembling libertarian paradise--if I were working in that kitchen, I would be scared of the slow transition of my job from low wage worker to slave trapped on their hellish boat by people with guns and no ethics. I know that's always how it would work in their fantasies, but there's not even a hint here of the hypocrisy inherent to their system.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:07 AM on September 7 [78 favorites]


King of the ship??? Are you this many fingers old?!?

And if you suddenly found yourself owner of a cruise ship (say, having bought one on a drunken bender), can you really say that you wouldn't turn on the water slides and take a ride just because you could?
posted by acb at 6:07 AM on September 7 [30 favorites]


the trade press reported that Ocean Builders sold her for $12m, more than they paid for her, though possibly not quite enough to cover the elaborate costs of running an empty cruise ship for three months.

What’s the bet this slight financial and highly situational miracle gets used in the future as a tortured proof that - with just enough scale - they can make this work…..if they can just find a less regulated location. Like Antarctica or something.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:09 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


Seasteading to stay at arm's length away from an oppressive government?

Worked for the Dutch.
posted by ocschwar at 6:16 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


> Part of me is really sad it didn't work out. It's not so often that someone's dream utopia could come to fruition.


Part of me is sad it didn't get to the point where a thousand libertarians all try to cooperate with and live with other libertarians, while following rules.

Like a crypto mining rig, but for schadenfreude.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:16 AM on September 7 [60 favorites]


I always wonder: have libertarians never played a game before? Even the simplest children's game requires rules, but these bozos somehow think that a society can function without them.
posted by Ickster at 6:16 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


These are the kids who snuck money out of the bank in Monopoly. The rules are for suckers. (Monopoly is an awful game, but it sure is popular.)
posted by rikschell at 6:26 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Their cruise ship plan was dumbfoundingly naive. I like the part where they talk about metering electrical use per cabin like that is an add on they can option at anytime rather than a helliously expensive and disruptive renovation that requires either [on the cheap end] CTing every circuit or [on the expensive end] rewiring every single cabin and the entire distribution system for those areas. Just the thought of having to find space to physically install the metering equipment on a 30 year old cruise ship makes me twichy.

Bet the cost of administering the billing costs more than electrical power provided. Course it would have been fun to see these anti regulation jackoffs deal with a locked in utility provider.

And what the hell is their hurricane plan? Regular cruise ships avoid them by sailing out of the way but once they officially deregister as a ship this is no longer an option.

Having worked at ski resorts or in work camps (which is what this essentially would be) for the last 15 years: no way this works.
posted by Mitheral at 6:31 AM on September 7 [27 favorites]


An aging cruise ship. Run by an antivaxxer. Full of libertarian cryptocurrency true believers. Forever.

It’s like an improv yes-and-ing its way to a vision of hell on earth.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:36 AM on September 7 [58 favorites]


I think libertarians end up in one of two places: either not understanding that the goods and services they expect rely on a large degree of human suffering, or understanding that and being satisfied that they can offload the "externality" of maintaining that system on traditional governments. Which makes seasteading even stupider, because on a boat you're basically administering the deprivation yourself.
posted by phooky at 6:38 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Me, I liked the part where their floating freedom ball-pit was going to be eco-friendly, while it got its internet connection from towers on the shore and encouraged its occupants to run bitcoin-mining rigs in their own rooms. I extra-liked the part where the author waited for another ten paragraphs to subtly point out that all their electricity comes from the engine burning diesel.
posted by Mayor West at 6:39 AM on September 7 [26 favorites]


Also it turns out that I have no upper limit on how many "tech bros assume they can just waltz into a seriously complicated decades-old problem-space and solve it handily with their plucky disruptive brains, but then reality hands them their own ass" stories I can read. I could just sit in front of a screen all day, cackling wildly at the endless parade of tales of these idiots losing their money, dignity, or lives because they think they're smarter than everyone else.
posted by Mayor West at 6:43 AM on September 7 [86 favorites]


My favorite part is when they explain hiring a ship's captain because "We didn’t know anything about running a cruise so it was like, we didn’t want to have to figure all this stuff out." I appreciate the recognition of their own ignorance. But then followed up by the arrogance of assuming they could figure it all out, it was just kind of a hassle they didn't want to bother with. Meanwhile in reality they can't even figure out simple things like "will this ship be seaworthy?"

There is an actual cruise ship full of people who live there full time: MS The World. It's been running some 20 years now (albeit with a bad patch during Covid). Folks buy one of the 165 apartments and then live aboard either full time or off and on through the year.

I met a group of 10 people from The World once while doing a fancy train tour of India. They were horrible people. Just the kind of rich smug entitled jerks you'd expect. I quickly learned to avoid them in the train's shared dining room at night; they were the ones mocking the Indian accents of the staff and complaining how their roast beef sandwiches didn't taste right. (In India, with a full Indian menu available every night.)

Anyway, I suppose The World is successful seasteading but I don't think they think of it that way so much. They're not disrupting civilization with a libertarian fantasy, they're just living out their fantasy of lifetime luxury with travel. My understanding is The World is run very much like a business. But with some HOA characteristics, like they have a big meeting every year where they decide the itinerary and vote on it.
posted by Nelson at 6:50 AM on September 7 [40 favorites]


Not sure if this is an example of Engineer's Disease or just garden variety hubris or just bros being bros.
posted by signal at 7:04 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


Come for the Randroids, stay for the norovirus.
posted by gimonca at 7:07 AM on September 7 [17 favorites]


Using their own money, they funded the first attempt at a single residential seastead, in the form of a floating white octagonal box 12 nautical miles off the coast of Thailand. Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl, lived there for two months in early 2018, until the Thai government discovered the seastead’s existence and declared it a threat to the country’s independence, possibly punishable by life imprisonment or death. Elwartowski and Summergirl had to flee the country before the Thai navy dispatched three ships to dismantle the floating box.

Wow, I'm halfway through the article, and it's just schadenfabulous. Thanks for posting!
posted by Umami Dearest at 7:08 AM on September 7 [17 favorites]


-if I were working in that kitchen, I would be scared of the slow transition of my job from low wage worker to slave trapped on their hellish boat by people with guns and no ethics.

I would not be a woman worker on that ship for all the money in the world, and I'm not sure I'd care to be a young, small man either. There are plenty of slave workers on other kinds of ship; I have little doubt that this would devolve into the same thing.
posted by Frowner at 7:08 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


You'd expect somebody who believes in the primacy of themself would also believe in the importance of not repeating other people's mistakes, but these guys (almost always guys) keep doing it again and again, on decommissioned drilling platforms, in villages in Texas and New Hampshire, and now on a cruise ship, and they all wind down in nearly exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons. It's almost as if the ideology does not encompass the way the world works.

So is there a chronology of attempts at libertarian utopias? Because there seems to be a new one -- and a new tragic-comic long-form journo piece about its failure -- every couple years, and it'd be instructive to see how often that happens.
posted by at by at 7:09 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


I mean, they literally didn't have a plan for dealing with their shit.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:10 AM on September 7 [27 favorites]


they all wind down in nearly exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons. It's almost as if the ideology does not encompass the way the world works.

“But this time it will be different because I am in charge!”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:12 AM on September 7 [12 favorites]


Enraptured by his lifestyle, Romundt wondered why everyone wasn’t living this way.

...and promptly decided that the stupidest possible explanation was the correct one.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:32 AM on September 7 [7 favorites]


I had a horribly bad idea for their next adventure while out walking the dog, and I just have to get it out of my head before it eats my brain any further. Cryptocurrency cruise, but sailing around in international waters of the Indian Ocean looking for MH370, and if they find it the passengers get a share of the reward Malaysia originally had offered plus get a share in the auction of NFT’s of the sonar pictures of the wreckage etc. Lots of hand waviness of how they would actually find it, would Malaysia still offer any reward, why would anyone do this etc.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:33 AM on September 7 [8 favorites]


In my attempt to picture this, I end up with a combination of the Fyre Festival (which is name checked in the article) and the Tom Hiddleston movie "High Rise".

There are distinct groups of people that want to be free of everyone and live away from the government. If you are in the survivalist camp, you can go out in the deep woods, build yourself a cabin and, as long as there's enough to hunt and fresh water, you can manage just fine with the right skill set.

But these tech bros that yearn for the same autonomy but with all the modern conveniences that require infrastructure are just shit out of luck.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:34 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


can you really say that you wouldn't turn on the water slides and take a ride just because you could?

At least in this case, the hired ship captain Harris turned on the waterslides for a day, so this is more of a story of an oblivious person who believes he has ultimate freedom by doing something his paid staff enabled as part of their job duties.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:35 AM on September 7 [15 favorites]


The Ocean Builders’ great freedom project, whose intrinsic purpose was to offer an escape from oppressive rules and bureaucracy,
For safety reasons, no one was allowed to have a microwave in their rooms
The answer linked to a separate document, containing a 14-point list of conditions including one that declared no animal should exceed 20lbs in weight, and any barking or loud noises could not last for longer than 10 minutes. If a pet repeatedly disturbed the peace – more than three times a month or five times in a year – it would no longer be allowed to live on board. “Any pet related conflict,” instructed point 13, “shall be resolved in accordance with Section V (F) of the Satoshi Purchase Agreement or Section IV (F) of the Satoshi Master Lease, where applicable.” Dogs would only be permitted in balcony cabins, and it was advised that owners buy a specific brand of “porch potty”, a basket of fake grass where your pet could relieve itself. (Pet waste thrown overboard would result in a $200 fine.)
In short, libertarian utopia is a land of contrasts.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:38 AM on September 7 [28 favorites]


This was disappointingly undisastrous. They bought a ship, realized that things weren't going to work out because of laws and stuff, and sold the ship before they could actually implement their crypto-dystopia. I want to read the article from the timeline where people actually moved in to this thing.
posted by jordemort at 7:39 AM on September 7 [22 favorites]


Like I cannot get over almost every libertarian utopia project just ends up being a glorified HOA trying to be a fiefdom run by a benevolent dictator and benefactor for life.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:40 AM on September 7 [24 favorites]


> I want to read the article from the timeline where people actually moved in to this thing.

In that timeline, they get it wedged across the Panama Canal, and accidentally break capitalism.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:44 AM on September 7 [48 favorites]


There is a part of me that **REALLY** wants one of these to get past the obvious scam phase and actually, for real, get a bunch of techno-libertarian people into a tightly cramped space where they can no longer dodge all the social questions they handwave away.

Then I remember that all their plans inevitably involve innocent and desperate people hired to be the staff keeping it all going and that those people would suffer along with the techbros.

An also a lot of the techbros have spouses and children who aren't really independent enough to say "no, I don't want to live in a hellhole with you until it collapses and might involve an actual shoot out".

So I recognize that my urge to watch them really try it out and melt down like we all know it would is a bad urge and I don't actually want it to happen. But the schadenfreude part of me is still giggling with glee at the idea.
posted by sotonohito at 7:47 AM on September 7 [28 favorites]


I wish Ayn Rand had written "The Gulch - A Libertarian Handbook" to illustrate how these titans of industry would live out their oh-so-free lives unfettered by moochers & mediocrity. Because every time some group tries to put things into practice it ends up being the Bob The Angry Flower cartoon over and over again.
posted by whatevernot at 7:50 AM on September 7 [25 favorites]


More on topic, I'm in full agreement with the people who note how the inevitable need in a sea or space setting for some supervisory agency with overall control would kind of kill a lot of the fantasy of independence.

I suppose they'd argue that it was all capitalism and competition so if you didn't like how their corporate quasi-government ran things you could just move somewhere else.

Oddly enough, Heinlein described such a setting in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and implied strongly that it was fine and great for his protagonist right up to the instant when management was bribed to capture him for the bad guys. But prior to that it was all low G ballet, gourmet meals, and blissful life free from all that evil government stuff.

THen agian, Heinlein always did tend to handwave away all the life support issues and the unavoidable need for a lot of supervision and control in artificial habitats. So that at least was nothing new for him.

I don't think the techbros would actually do any better if some government ceded them a few square kilometers to establish as their own utopia, but with the ability to import stuff more easily and a lack of the absolute survival need for some regulations they'd object to I suspect it'd be a bigger draw than the whole seasteading thing. It'd still collapse horribly, and no government would do it because you just know they'd solve their sewage problem by dumping it across their border.
posted by sotonohito at 7:52 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


This was disappointingly undisastrous. They bought a ship, realized that things weren't going to work out because of laws and stuff, and sold the ship before they could actually implement their crypto-dystopia.

All they did was attempt to make a dormitory at sea and they couldn't even do that. They failed at being late-capitalist landlords, the easiest of all the jobs. . .
posted by Think_Long at 7:55 AM on September 7 [20 favorites]


Security wasn’t mentioned but I would think a ship filled with of rich people might need its own small military to ward off hostile takeovers. It’s not like they expected a military from one of those over regulated, beaurocratic countries funded by tax paying sheep would come on in and defend them, right?
posted by waving at 8:01 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


This is hilarious. How is it freedom to live in a floating pod? It’s like what a prison cell in a dystopian novel would be.
posted by acantha at 8:05 AM on September 7 [21 favorites]


But.... The rent is affordable...
posted by Jacen at 8:14 AM on September 7


All they did was attempt to make a dormitory at sea and they couldn't even do that. They failed at being late-capitalist landlords, the easiest of all the jobs. . .

Hard agree.

Give me USD9.8M, which they spent on the hulk, and I'd have maybe a sweet trimaran, investments providing income to cover the maintenance thereof, and cash to spare for - well, all the things that I can't do, but rely upon society to provide.

Of course, I'd be paying tax to somewhere, because I'm not a sociopath, and that's not enough money to have an army (or navy).
posted by pompomtom at 8:16 AM on September 7 [4 favorites]


I always wonder: have libertarians never played a game before? Even the simplest children's game requires rules, but these bozos somehow think that a society can function without them.

See, though, deep inside every libertarian of this ilk is a belief that, of course!, they alone would be hailed as the obvious, logical leader of everything. That everyone would immediately see the wisdom of their rule-making.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


Within 10 years, he predicted, small communities would be permanently based on platforms out at sea. In a few decades, he hoped there would be floating cities “with millions of people pioneering different ways of living together”.

I think someone needs to spend a year or two on an oil platform or crewing a container ship to get a feel for what the sea is actually like way out there, away from civilization.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:34 AM on September 7 [30 favorites]


This crypto libertarian cruise liner debacle is maybe a nice cheap relatively humane approximation of what would happen with libertarianism vs space colonisation, where the failure modes are even nastier and there is even more need for people to cooperate and suppress individual freedom in order to avoid catastrophe for society.


It also reminds me of space colonization idiocy because it's the same old "you have a perfectly good place where humans can live and where we know how to live and instead of improving the already-successful place you have this idea that you'll go out somewhere dangerous where human life is tremendously riskier and more difficult and build from scratch". Like, there are very few floating societies and almost none in the open ocean - such floating societies as there are tend to be well integrated with shore communities and life tends to be pretty simple and time-tested, so you are pretty confident that you can fix anything that breaks .
posted by Frowner at 8:35 AM on September 7 [21 favorites]


Laugh all you want, but at least these guys solved the bear problem. Although I was disappointed it wasn’t a different Koch.
posted by TedW at 8:47 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


Also disregard for compressed experience - like, we know how to do a lot of stuff on land not because each of us individually worked it out or even because each of us individually was trained to do things but because of the compressed experience of generations that has socialized us in doing routine stuff. We don't need to figure out the rules for parking in parking lots or for using an elevator, etc, because we are socialized into those things before we're even conscious of it. When you introduce a huge number of radically new processes at once, you complicate things enormously and you need careful, intelligent people dedicated to a common project or you get chaos and disaster.
posted by Frowner at 8:52 AM on September 7 [19 favorites]


As far as the pirates issue goes I'd assume some combination of:

1) Didn't think of it.

2) They planned on a libertarian dream of no firearm controls so all the bold libertarian techbros, a class of people not renowned for their physical prowess, will clearly be able to hold off any pesky pirates.

3) They planned on setting up some security contract with Panama or another nation with enough naval deterrent to keep pirates away. Basically paying taxes without actually calling it taxes.


I'd bet that most of it was just not thinking of it, or if it did occurr to them handwaving it as not really a big issue by briefly considering both 2 & 3 then ignoring the problem.
posted by sotonohito at 9:04 AM on September 7 [5 favorites]


4) Hire Ragnar Danneskjöld.
posted by whatevernot at 9:06 AM on September 7 [6 favorites]


finally a boat ride I want to be on even less than the "Smooth Jazz" cruise
posted by thelonius at 9:08 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


I think someone needs to spend a year or two on an oil platform or crewing a container ship to get a feel for what the sea is actually like way out there, away from civilization.

Or at least read Big Dead Place.
posted by praemunire at 9:11 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


"Look at me. I am the Libertarian tech-bro now."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:17 AM on September 7 [15 favorites]


Naomi Kritzer had a series of short stories about seasteading published in F&SF that fills out the details on how a seastead would actually be staffed. Spoiler: it's as awful as you think.

Good stories, tho not a future I would want to experience.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:27 AM on September 7 [8 favorites]


take bunches of Randoid loons and trap them in rusting hulks they can't maintain

I think I might enjoy this new TV series. But maybe as a comedy, not horror, as it would be in real life.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:46 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


The Benny Hill theme song started playing in my head within the first paragraph of this article, making it a worthy companion to the libertarian bear thing from a few months ago. 11/10. Thank you for sharing it!
posted by snerson at 9:53 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of libertarians are unaware of how damn complex society is and how much stuff happens behind the scenes that is completely critical that they don't even know about and how even the stuff that they do know about has many more details of which they are completely unaware.

I'm reminded of the movie Locke, featuring Tom Hardy, which has, among other things, a lengthy discussion about types of concrete used in construction. After doing some googling I realized that concrete - CONCRETE - is much, much more complicated than I realized.

Multiply everything by that and you have modern society.

However, I'd love to see a serious attempt made at sea-steading. Mostly for the popcorn entertainment of it, but partially because maybe there are some great lessons to be learned and maybe there are new ways to organize society that might work better than the ones we have now. Admittedly, if it actually did get off the ground (and into the water) it would likely involve something not so far removed from actual slavery, but I suspect that it would all fall apart long before it got to that stage.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:53 AM on September 7 [15 favorites]


If you could take bunches of Randoid loons and trap them in rusting hulks they can't maintain, then push them out to sea, isn't that a net benefit to society?

That, or it's a new AMC series: Shipbreaking Bad
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:59 AM on September 7 [16 favorites]


That, or it's a new AMC series: Shipbreaking Bad

I said GOOD DAY, SIR.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:01 AM on September 7 [6 favorites]


One of the layered comedies of this sea-steading seavilization (good effort guys, but I don't think fetch is going to happen there term-wise) pipe dreams is that a functional ocean-borne polity would be a great test case for what would actually work for spaceborne polities that techbros with futurist fancies are excited about again. The irony because what would actually work are even more interconnected and interdependent systems with total committment to handling and overcoming intense logistics-webs challenges, all of which libertarianism "but what about less interconnectdness?!" is laughably incapable of even starting to address. As shown by the fact that even efforts that don't start off as transparent scams immediately fail before getting started.
posted by Drastic at 10:08 AM on September 7 [8 favorites]


Some of my reactions while reading this article:
Last year, three cryptocurrency enthusiasts bought a cruise ship. They named it the Satoshi, and dreamed of starting a floating libertarian utopia. It didn’t work out.
You don't say?!

The event was hosted by the Thiel Foundation, established four years earlier by the arch-libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel to “defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions”.
"Arch-libertarian" sounds a lot like "Arch-lich." Maybe Peter Thiel is a D&D monster? Also, which dimensions is he talking about? Height, length, depth?

He wanted to transform how and where we live, to abandon life on land and .... start a new city in the middle of the ocean.
Cue Homer Simpson: "There'll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans -- Under in the middle of the Seeeeeea!"

Why, he asked, in one of the most advanced countries in the world, were they still using systems of government from 1787?
That is an excellent point, and I totally agree!

Let’s think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers!”
Wait, what? No. (also, is that much different from what exists now?)

The difficulty in starting a new form of government... was simply a lack of space.
Uh, I think it's probably a bit more complicated than that

“Democracy,” the two men wrote, “would be upgraded to a system whereby the smallest minorities, including the individual, could vote with their houses.”
uhm... what?

But converting a cruise ship into a new society proved more challenging than envisaged.
You don't say!

Enraptured by his lifestyle, Romundt wondered why everyone wasn’t living this way.
Are you fucking kidding me. This is some "let them eat cake"-level idiocy.

So far, the Seasteading Institute had experienced variable, or zero, success with its projects.
That's some sweet shade thrown by the author.

Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl
Is that her real name? Come on, that's not her real name... is it?

“It takes a rare kind of person indeed to move your life on to a deserted cruise ship in Central America with so little information up front,” he told me.
I think by "rare" he means "unbelievably stupid but with a lot of money."

They were insured to sail her, and they could go on sailing her, but they didn’t want to run a travel company. They wanted to run a floating society of like-minded freedom-lovers arranged in the shape of the bitcoin B.
I can totally hear them, in Jerry Seinfeld's whiny voice: "But I don't WANNA run a travel company!" And then they pout in the corner like babies.

“We have lost this round. The New Normal, Great Reset gains another victim,”
Yeah, sure. It was all The System's fault. Not at all that you all are dipshits.

Koch spoke to Joe Quirk ... feeling regretful that the onboard hospital he’d planned to open to medical entrepreneurs would never come to life.
"Medical entrepreneurs"? Is that code for Mad Scientists?

Master key in hand, he wandered around the Satoshi, making sure to enter every room that said Do Not Enter.
Of course he did. (Although, to be fair, I probably would do the same.)

And I love the last photo, of a couple dudes on a leaning, shitty looking platform somewhere out on the water, with the simple description: "Previous attempts at seasteading had not been successful."
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:18 AM on September 7 [10 favorites]


can you really say that you wouldn't turn on the water slides and take a ride just because you could?

Sure, I would too... it's just the inherent ignorance in labeling himself "the King of the ship". King!? Of a ship? Admiral maybe... definitely owner...but kings rule kingdoms. On land. Except for Neptune.
posted by Rash at 10:23 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


Do libertarians in general get some credit for not buying into this very ill-judged project?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:30 AM on September 7


but kings rule kingdoms

They rule ships… of state!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:34 AM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Do libertarians in general get some credit for not buying into this very ill-judged project?

Fair point. Even libertarians don't trust other libertarians.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:40 AM on September 7 [11 favorites]


Seriously worried about doing permanent damage to by eyeballs, what with the amount of rolling they were doing after each and every sentence. Was also kind of hoping the article would have ended with the last sentence of Moby Dick:

"Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago."
posted by gwint at 10:45 AM on September 7 [17 favorites]


> I think a lot of libertarians are unaware of how damn complex society is and how much stuff happens behind the scenes that is completely critical that they don't even know about and how even the stuff that they do know about has many more details of which they are completely unaware.

You know those guys online who are like, "My profession is a difficult, complex field and only brilliant people like me can become masters of it; your profession has no problems that I couldn't solve in a tweet pointing out that one obvious thing I believe you overlooked."

That's the libertarian approach to politics, society, public works, and so on. And has been since the days Ayn Rand was sponging off midcentury billionaires by praising their unappreciated genius.
posted by at by at 10:52 AM on September 7 [23 favorites]


And I love the last photo, of a couple dudes on a leaning, shitty looking platform somewhere out on the water, with the simple description: "Previous attempts at seasteading had not been successful."

That looks like it would dubious to spend an afternoon on, let alone to live on indefinitely.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:06 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]


Well a ship is optimized to travel from port to port. A community does not need the massive keel. Some of the seasteaders have designs for a group of barges tied loosely together. That could perhaps work near the equator -- basically no hurricanes. But there is little steady wind no power from wind and well hot hot hot.

Even then ship hulls need to be repaired, salt is just corrosive. Perhaps fiberglass bottomed homes? But need to get under and scrape the growy things pretty regularly.

Maybe just get a little sailboat and anchor in an isolated cove. Fair number of folks just do that now.
posted by sammyo at 11:14 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


This is a great piece of writing. She's just constantly subtly taking the piss without tipping her hand. Like this passage:

An attempt to create a floating island prototype in French Polynesia in 2017 met with fairly fierce resistance from the people of French Polynesia

The repetition of "French Polynesia" is so much funnier than if she had just written "An attempt to create a floating island prototype in French Polynesia in 2017 met with fairly fierce resistance from the locals" or something like that.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:18 AM on September 7 [27 favorites]


After now reading the article and seeing the pictures, I really wonder about the psychology of these people. The pod things and the cruise ship are both so alienating. Do these people really believe that they can have a full, human life living alone on pods, or crammed together on a boat? Where do you get a pint of milk? Exactly… what do you do if you have a stroke? Being at sea, where do you get the needed visual variety our brains need? It’s as if their need for total freedom makes them think that they can survive alone away from all those needless regulations. I can sit here in my apartment and think and say anything I want. I can’t do anything - set things on fire, make lots of noise, etc. But who cares? I can go outside and four blocks away buy food and drink. A mile or so away is a hospital. I once worked with a couple rabid libertarians, one of whom foisted various tracts on me to read. None of it had any appeal. Reading this leads me to believe that they are really just a sad lot, looking for some personal kingdom, where they can be king, and do whatever they want, no matter how silly, because it’s what they want to do. Curious, there was no mention of Dramamine in the article or comments here.
posted by njohnson23 at 11:20 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Übermensch have no need for Dramamine. Plus it's 723 nautical miles to the drugstore.
posted by whatevernot at 11:24 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]


Just get a fleet of Amazon drones out there to airdrop meds. Collectivist problem solved!
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:40 AM on September 7 [2 favorites]


It's also interesting that other than a brief mention of one of the guy's girlfriends, and a reference a potential renter makes to "the wife;" the only female character to appear in this unusual story is the ship itself. The idea of families or children also seems to be far from anyone's mind. It's as if their utopia consists of tiny honeycombed cells with a single man each all living inside a vast, inanimate she-creature.
posted by acantha at 11:45 AM on September 7 [25 favorites]


I was joking earlier about sea piracy, but it is fairly prevalent around the world — even near the US — and I kind of wonder if these guys really do think the high seas are an open, unpopulated expanse.

Perhaps they went that one time on their bosses' bosses' company yacht outside the Bay Area, back when they worked at Google? They don't seem too curious about the world they want to get away from, to know much about it.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:49 AM on September 7 [6 favorites]


It's as if their utopia consists of tiny honeycombed cells with a single man each all living inside a vast, inanimate she-creature.

So what if The Machine Stops... at sea?
posted by Rash at 11:50 AM on September 7 [4 favorites]


If these folks want to know what living on an ocean-faring city might be like, they'd probably get a lot more practical advice from China Mieville's The Scar than Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:04 PM on September 7 [9 favorites]


these guys dodged a major bullet by failing so quickly. had they actually tried to live together on this thing, by which i mean people who are not accustomed to that lifestyle but want to join for ideological reasons, it wouldve ended far worse. someone would probably have gotten hurt in an accident or fight, sued or got arrested by coast guard, and triggered a much bigger fiasco.

utopian communities tend to work better--in the rare cases they work at all--when the participants are drawn together by a lifestyle and experience in living that life, not by abstract ideals. cooperation without hierarchy works best as an emergent phenomenon based on a shared community, not something that you choose in advance and go do. i mean, one can do it the other way, but then it ends up more like a cult.
posted by wibari at 12:07 PM on September 7 [6 favorites]


Libertarianism is the homeopathic medicine of governing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:26 PM on September 7 [52 favorites]


A lot of the premises are so off it is laughable. Some things I don't really laugh at, like cutting a hole into the side of the ship to get the engine out. Why? The Navy has done incredible things under pressure. The USS Yorktown was infamously repaired after three days.

That said a lot of their ideas were just well wrong. The idea that marginalized groups could just move their ships if they didn't like living somewhere is like telling people in southern Louisiana to just move out of a hurricane zone. Let us break down why it is wrong:

- People do not generally out of their own volition move somewhere. That's a really rich person thing to do. "Let us move to a ship with no natural resources, no natural resources and no economy except unless we're connected to a power supply and satellite internet!" Do they think that the underclasses just willed themselves in their positions or should have put money into bitcoin instead of you know, eating for that day?

- Even if we had a Waterworld scenario where people were forced to live on this Bioshock cruise, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a modern utopia where people could just move. There'd be all kinds of spoken and unspoken rules. Surely the "King of the Cruise Ship" wouldn't want the help saddling up next to his bunk. I mean he gave them free booze (but three drinks a day! a benevolent king!), but didn't invite him to his cabin.

- Well I was going to keep making a list but I should have stopped reading this when I heard it was the brainchild of Peter Thiel. When do we start punishing these god-kings to let them remind them they're mortal?

I'm totally down with creating a bunch of NFTs of this and selling back to them.
posted by geoff. at 12:26 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


...trap them in rusting hulks they can't maintain, then push them out to sea, isn't that a net benefit to society?

We could call it "Ark Fleet Ship B," or just "B Ark" for brevity.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:33 PM on September 7 [20 favorites]


MetaFilter: met with fairly fierce resistance from the people of French Polynesia.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:41 PM on September 7 [12 favorites]


Didn’t they try floating communes in the hippy days? Ended poorly.
posted by thelonius at 12:44 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


it's just the inherent ignorance in labeling himself "the King of the ship". King!? Of a ship? Admiral maybe... definitely owner...but kings rule kingdoms.

Monarchist symbolism seems to be big in Libertarianism these days; Elon Musk (either officially or unofficially) gave himself the title of “Technoking” at Tesla.

You can probably blame Mencius Moldbug and/or Nick Land for that.
posted by acb at 12:46 PM on September 7 [6 favorites]


Maritime Insurance Rep: "Yes...and none of you have any experience at sea? No naval experience, experience commanding or crewing a large vessel, licenses and certifications, that sort of thing? I see, I see...

Now, about this whole crypto-currency business...can you explain this to me? Yes...hmm...mm-hmm...yes...I see...

Get the hell out out of my office."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:00 PM on September 7 [17 favorites]


Exactly… what do you do if you have a stroke?

The article made mention of a group of "medical entrepreneurs" so as long as your stroke was somehow profitable I'm sure someone would address it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:00 PM on September 7 [24 favorites]


Let me see if I got this right. The article mentions that just basic maintenance on the ship alone can be a million dollars a month when docked. The most expensive maintenance fee mentioned on the site is $719 for the balconies, but $1,000,000 split between 777 cabins alone works out to $1,287… I think they were going to be in for an expensive surprise if they had ever managed to get people to live on the ship! Let alone the cost of their own private police and military force, or a full compliment of staff - 660 individuals back when it was a cruise ship.

Seriously, these libertarians are the political underpants gnomes…
posted by rambling wanderlust at 1:01 PM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Curious, there was no mention of Dramamine in the article or comments here.

The whole setup seems like the ideal rig to mine it, if drama were a coin.
posted by otherchaz at 1:02 PM on September 7 [10 favorites]


Eerily similar to the world building of bioshock.
posted by dazed_one at 1:17 PM on September 7


> I like the part where they talk about metering electrical use per cabin [...] Bet the cost of administering the billing costs more than electrical power provided.

Potentially not just an exercise in petty tyranny. How else are you going to prevent a ship full of cryptocurrency millionaires from setting up their money makers where the power is free?

There is room in my withered heart for the irony of banning coin mining on a ship named after Bitcoin's founder.
posted by at by at 1:18 PM on September 7 [9 favorites]


The kind of crypto mining rig that you can set up in a tiny cruise ship cabin is not the kind of crypto mining rig that anyone is making money off of these days. Cryptocoin millionaires don't make their money from mining, and haven't for years now. (They make it from scamming or from dumb luck.)
posted by heatherlogan at 1:22 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


You can probably blame Mencius Moldbug and/or Nick Land for that.

I don't read libertarian Chick Tracts so maybe I'm wrong, but monarchist symbolism ought to be utterly antithetical to them, but I mean, fuck, an awful lot of them go to sleep one night as libertarians and wake up the next morning as vanilla neo-nazis. The pipeline is pretty well established:

washpost: "Weeping Nazi" Christopher Cantwell went from libertarian to fascist — and he's not alone
salon: Libertarians have more in common with the alt-right than they want you to think

It's a hollow ethos.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:26 PM on September 7 [13 favorites]


As per usual, the price of living in a society free of rules is a list of rules an order of magnitude longer than the rules the society was founded to avoid.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:27 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


I think that a lot of Libertarians are coming around to realizing that their philosophy is essentially Monarchy (if you allow capital to accumulate and extract more value from an operation than labor, the long-term result is Monarchy), even if not consciously. So they're going for the "benevolent king" role, which is why Musk is trying out that symbolism.

Pre-the last Presidential cycle of the twenty teens, when I started radically culling my social contacts, I was on a couple of "Seasteading" adjacent mailing lists, Facebook groups and Meetups, and I was always amazed at the level of wide-eyed wonder and lack of experience with homeownership. The number of "hey, check out this cheap boat on Craigslist" posts (the hull is a liability, so of course they want you to take that free), the number of people who got themselves in over their heads (most famously, The Aurora)...

There's a general vibe that I get from a lot of tech people, particularly graduates of a certain engineering institute, that leads to models that strip away a lot of the competing forces, and leads them to think in very simplified models that only have a few inputs. And then they adopt that model over reality. And it can be extremely successful in the tech business, ignore the externalities, push the business off to investors, hand it off to the people who actually have the acumen to keep the venture running.

But, yeah, I often see people who haven't divided out the basic expenses of running the business by the number of customers, because if they can get to scale everything else works out.

And somehow the investors who got lucky once keep buying lottery tickets.
posted by straw at 2:05 PM on September 7 [4 favorites]


clearly the Noah we deserve?

I got nothin
posted by elkevelvet at 2:08 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Another issue is the best part of the ocean is the coast. That's where the fish are, offshore it's a somewhat a desert, flying fish are not a delicacy. I do wonder if a fish farm way out in the ocean could be a possibility, perhaps a small community that used solar powered motors to move slowly across some route that was healthful to the fish and reduced the chance of dangerous weather. So something of value and a good life for the community.
posted by sammyo at 2:26 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


There once was a ship that put to sea
The name of the ship was the Santoshi
The market blew up, Bitcoin went down
Oh woe, my techbros, woe (huh)

Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll tuck our tails and go

She'd not been two weeks from shore
When down on her the Coast Guard bore
The captain laughed and shrugged and swore
The owners shrunk to the back door (huh)

Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll tuck our tails and go

Before the boat had hit the waters
French Polynesia caught her
Collectivists all, a bunch of squatters
When Satoshi dived down low (huh)

Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll tuck our tails and go

No line was cut, no bro was freed
Despite Elwartowski's greed
And while he belonged to the Peter Thiel creed
Gordon Wilson took that ship in tow (huh)

Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll tuck our tails and go

But as far as I've heard, the plan's still on
The SeaPod's not cut, and the funding's not gone
Thiel is in it for the long haul
To encourage libertarians and techbros all (huh)

Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll curse all of crypto

posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:55 PM on September 7 [26 favorites]


Didn’t they try floating communes in the hippy days? Ended poorly.

I dunno. L. Ron Hubbard actually pulled it off for most of a decade. It was really weird, but mostly not in the ways you probably imagine. Anyway, he was more successful than these guys.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:05 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


Didn't Hubbard also start Scientology after Ayn Rand bet him that he couldn't start a religion and make money out of it?
posted by acb at 3:07 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


I thought it was Heinlein, but…?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:13 PM on September 7


The one positive thing I can say about this is that it’s seems sincere, rather than another grift
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


The usual story about the religion bet involves Heinlein, not Rand. Harlan Ellison is one source for the story. According to that link the story is probably not true.

The Hubbard seasteading referenced is Sea Org: Scientology offshored for awhile in the 60s and 70s when some legal stuff got, um, complicated. Working for Sea Org is no joke; you sign a billion year contract promising to come back in any future spirit form you may manifest.

Scientology is the opposite of libertarianism of course, although it does have that monarchy aspect we've been discussing here.
posted by Nelson at 3:16 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


*lights a candle for Stan Rogers, who perished aboard Air Canada Flight 797, in an accident that led to a number of new aviation safety regulations*

Oh, the year was two thousand twenty one
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
A notion of seasteading seemed just the thing
On the scummiest vessel I'd ever seen

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

Oh, Grant Romundt, cried the town
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
For twenty brave men all libertarians who
Would make for him the Santoshi's crew

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

The Santoshi sloop was a sickening sight,
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
She'd a list to the port and her sails in rags
And the cook in scuppers with the staggers and jags

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

On Ayn Rand's birthday we put to sea,
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
We were 91 days to Montego Bay
Pumping like madmen all the way

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

On the 96th day we sailed again
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
When a coast guard boat hove in sight
With our Bitcoin rigs we made to fight

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

Then at length we stood two cables away
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
Our Bitcoin wallet seemed awful thin
And maritime regulations did us in

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

The Santoshi shook and pitched on her side
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
Bitcoin couldn't buy us any eggs
Food poisoning carried off both me legs

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

So here I lay in my 23rd year
(How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!)
The public healthcare I voted against?
Seems like it would've been the best defence!

God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for Bitcoin gold
We'd fire no guns
Shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Panama pier
The last of Bitcoin's Privateers

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:24 PM on September 7 [26 favorites]


Three rations of grog for mandolin conspiracy!
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:41 PM on September 7 [8 favorites]


*hoists tankard*

"You know why this grog won't kill us outright, at least tonight? REGULATIONS!"
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:03 PM on September 7 [8 favorites]


Soon may the repo men come
When there's no more custom
One day, when there's no income
We'll tuck our tails and go


The Wellerman filks are always complete. here is but a shard of Xanadu.

On Ambience did Google Bro
A seavilization decree
For Randians who rigs always ran
Algorithms incalculable to man
To mine cryptocurrency
posted by otherchaz at 4:05 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


Didn’t they try floating communes in the hippy days? Ended poorly.

Cite? All I've got is the community of houseboats north of the Golden Gate bridge, which was probably more like a counter-cultural yacht club, back in the day.
posted by Rash at 4:28 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


Utopian endeavors are often half baked, but I'm actually surprised how much so this one was. This was junior high level vision, with corresponding level of sophistication and planning. The brain trust truly had no idea what they were getting into.

It seems they all got off reasonably mildly for all their efforts. I wonder if they realize how fucking lucky they are, forever able to blame The Man for this failure. Deep pockets make wonderful cushions.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:40 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, dude didn’t try to just ignore the insurance and licensing requirements and keep sailing, which puts him a couple notches of common sense above some people.
posted by clew at 5:07 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


Exactly… what do you do if you have a stroke?

These people are almost universally without major health complications or disabilities. And they seem to consider health problems to be the result of moral failings so they consider themselves immune.
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on September 7 [7 favorites]


From what I understand, yacht insurance is usually a huge PITA for cruisers sailing abroad. I imagine this kind of thing generates an order of magnitude more nopes.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:33 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


I don’t understand how this even got past the first PowerPoint slide. Cruise ship cabins are tiny. I’ve seen walk in closets that are larger than a cabin. And an interior cabin? It’s fine for a week’s cruise when you’re going to spend all day at the bar on the aft deck but to live in? So I thought maybe this is somehow just their legal address and where they park their crypto-spinning-wheel while they live back in the real world. None of this made sense.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:40 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


I don’t think they were selling a lifestyle but a way to make money without paying taxes. That is all. Current or future regulations in mind.
posted by waving at 6:49 PM on September 7


I imagine this kind of thing generates an order of magnitude more nopes.

You might like the part of the article that talks about how the inability to get insurance was a major factor in them giving up.
posted by Nelson at 6:54 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


Having sadly missed the bus on gentrifying mobile homes (tiny houses!!), this group decided that a floating New York co-op was a marvelous idea that everyone in their social circles would be talking about for aaaaages.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 8:49 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the helmet shaped houses are bearproof. You could … put them on poles in the New Hampshire woods…
posted by clew at 10:18 PM on September 7


Cite?

I'm sorry, I have only a vague memory of an article about some Boomer who roped a bunch of followers onto a small yacht and ran it like a half-assed cult.
posted by thelonius at 1:07 AM on September 8


(not El Ron)
posted by thelonius at 1:08 AM on September 8


The dome houses also don't appear to have much in the way of working facilities (for storing nets, gutting fish, and so on) among their clean designer lines. Presumably the residents are expected to get their food from UberEats drone delivery or something, paid for with buttcoins or whatever.

In short, they're not a viable living settlement, in the way that a pontoon village would be, but a showcase for wealth from somewhere else.
posted by acb at 2:39 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I will be rich on my boat
Just watch me float
For a small monthly fee
You can join me on the sea
If you have a sister or an ex
Ask her to send food
posted by romanb at 4:14 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


It feels like the problem with seasteading isn't the residences, it's the auxillary support - the stuff people get from land. If I was a multi-bajillionaire and wanted seasteading to move forward, I'd make the approximate to a floating gas station. Fuel, groceries, maybe a (as fast as possible) high-speed internet connection. Then, you charge boats a small fee to dock and use your provisions.

I can think of a speculative bubble where most of the people who got rich were those supplying the miners, not the miners themselves.
posted by kersplunk at 5:09 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Exactly… what do you do if you have a stroke?

These people are almost universally without major health complications or disabilities. And they seem to consider health problems to be the result of moral failings so they consider themselves immune.


Heh. I used to have a coworker who would have looked at this story with interest (and been totally oblivious to the Guardian’s shade). Among the many beliefs she held was exactly what you say: over lunch one day she proclaimed she had read “an article by a German doctor” that proved that “all disease was the result of sin.”

I responded that this seemed unlikely, not least because people’s view of sin varies hugely from place to place and over the years*. I allowed that if you were engaged in long term conduct that conflicted with your society’s laws or moral stance, that would probably put you in a state of ongoing anxiety, which might have a physiological effect on your immune system, but the basic idea was unsound.

She repeated her thesis that sin —> disease. I mentioned that I have a cousin who was born with cerebral palsy. What sins did he commit in utero? She informed me it must have been something, and did what she thought was reinforcing her argument by adding that an also unnamed Russian doctor had come to the same conclusion.

*I lived for a decade or so in Toronto, a famously churchy city a century or more back. The legislation known as the Lord’s Day Act meant you could do nothing on the Sabbath** save worship — no restaurants, no stores, no live theatre or cinemas. Shop windows had curtains in them to be drawn on Saturday nights to halt window shopping. Swings in playgrounds were chained up by city workers in Saturday night. This stuff was in the decline by my day, but nothing bigger than convenience stores were open on Sundays until the late eighties. I think writer Morley Callaghan once in the fifties wrote despairingly, “When it comes time for me to die, I hope and pray the Good Lord sees fit to take me on a Saturday, to spare me one more goddamn Sunday in Toronto. Callaghan died in Toronto on August 25, 1990. Which was a Saturday.

** I initially wrote “Sunday” but then I recalled that in an attempt at being ecumenical, city council eventually allowed Jewish merchants to close on Saturday and operate on Sunday.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:16 AM on September 8 [9 favorites]


Of course, the real problem with a bunch of tech-bros deciding to live at sea: No dames!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:29 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


She repeated her thesis that sin —> disease. I mentioned that I have a cousin who was born with cerebral palsy. What sins did he commit in utero? She informed me it must have been something, and did what she thought was reinforcing her argument by adding that an also unnamed Russian doctor had come to the same conclusion.

yeah I had to give a friend of some 20 years the heave-ho when he declared that my recently deceased father deserved to die because if he wasn't rich enough to have better health insurance then he was merely a useless drain on society. I've spent the last 10 years telling this story to all of our mutual friends which I'm sure he thinks is desperately unfair and cruel.

motherfucker is lucky I didn't take out every last one of his teeth and feed them back to him.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:27 AM on September 8 [19 favorites]


With apologies to ricochet biscuit:

MetaFilter: met with fairly fierce resistance from the people of MetaFilter.
posted by ChrisR at 7:30 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


King of the ship??? Are you this many fingers old?!?

I immediately jumped to the episode of “South Park” where Cartman bought an amusement park, and enjoyed all the rides alone. For a while.
posted by panglos at 7:50 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


Just to say, when I saw this piece in the Guardian, my first thought was "ooh I bet there's a good convo about this over on the blue." And I was right!
posted by PandaMomentum at 7:51 AM on September 8


At least it seems this was an example of sheer mediocre white male unearned confidence, rather than an actual scam.
posted by signal at 8:18 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


no mention of Dramamine in the article

Interestingly, that was the original name on the ship that they painted over.
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:25 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the helmet shaped houses are bearproof. You could … put them on poles in the New Hampshire woods…

The world of seasteaders/cryptocurrency enthusiasts seems sufficiently polarized that if the sea pods got built, a rival group would outfit bears with aqualungs.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:25 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I think my favorite part of this is how even the best-case scenario sounds like a major bummer. I mean, you live on a cruise ship, which by definition is like a gigantic hotel you can never leave. You live in a tiny room that's smaller than any Manhattan studio I've ever lived in. And the boat doesn't even go anywhere, so it's not like you can stop off at random islands to lay on the beach and buy overpriced trinkets. Sure, there's no government there to stop you from doing things ... but stop you from doing what exactly? You've already effectively stopped yourself from doing most of the things!
posted by panama joe at 9:01 AM on September 8 [16 favorites]


So the floating seastead was a supposedly fun thing they'll never do again.
posted by a Rrose by any other name at 9:20 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: Just the kind of rich smug entitled jerks you'd expect.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:10 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


stop you from doing what exactly?

Wasn’t the original goal to start a new nation and stop paying taxes to the existing ones?

bears with aqualungs.

Instead of anchored pods, powered ones like a cross between a barge and a Segway. Give them to the polar bears, save polar bears, keep the coastal Arctic wild.
posted by clew at 10:24 AM on September 8


From the article:
"Google engineer Patri Friedman sketched out the future of humanity. The event was hosted by the Thiel Foundation (emphasis mine), established four years earlier by the arch-libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel to “defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions”. From behind a large lectern, Friedman – grandson of Milton Friedman (emphasis mine), one of the most influential free-market economists of the last century – laid out his plan."

LOL, the grandson of Milton Friedman was/is a Google engineer and was given $500,000 from the Thiel Foundation to fund this idiotic idea. What a world!
posted by nikoniko at 11:37 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Feeling alone
The pods are up the beach
Salvation you can smell just out of reach
Aqualung, my friend
Don't you start away uneasy
You poor old bear
You see, it's only Thiel
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:51 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Stages of Libertarian Utopias (draft, in progress)

Stage 1: Discussion. Never gets past internet forums.
Stage 2: Expedition. Wealthy true believers foot the bill for a cruise ship / a plot of remote land (probably a gulch) / a warehouse of parts to be used to assemble a moon rocket.
Stage 3: Early adopters. Five or six people flock from around the world to heed the call of a life unburdened by laws, taxes, reality.
Stage 4: Strife. Tension builds as ad-hoc rules are imposed out of a dire need to survive. This isn't what we signed up for, man.
Stage 5: Perserverance. Problems arise. Nobody planned for food / oxygen / shark repellant. At this point, a wealthy true believer may opt to deus-ex-machina a solution, at tremendous expense, for a while.
Stage 6: Disillusion. The more reality-based participants pack up their Bitcoin mining rigs and go home. This just furthers the resolve of those who remain.
Stage 7: Lord of the Flies
Stage 8: Bioshock
Stage 9: History channel retrospective

It's probably for the best that these guys only made it to Stage 2, while providing a pandemic jobs program for a crew of 40. Without passengers, this was surely the best cruise that crew ever had.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:05 PM on September 8 [14 favorites]


"Thiel Foundation" - what I love about this is that Peter Thiel wangled Kiwi citizenship (Larry Page also turns out to have residency in NZ). So an arch-libertarian got citizenship in a parliamentary democracy, arguably with a strong socialist/progressive bent. Always amusing to see where these people consider to be a safe bolt-hole as they tear down civilisation in search of bank.
posted by phigmov at 12:22 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I want to read the article from the timeline where people actually moved in to this thing.

If it helps, imagine Gilligan's Island, except everyone on the island is Mr. Howell.
posted by Naberius at 5:50 PM on September 8 [11 favorites]


Seems you might have a vested interest in this though PANAMA JOE!
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 6:11 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: right about the constraints needed for space-gong.
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:37 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Gilligan's Island

Whoah! I remembered just the other day that you can sing the GI theme song to "In The Court Of The Crimson King", and now it comes up again.
posted by thelonius at 5:06 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


phigmov, did you also know that a large part of Thiel's fortune is in a Roth IRA? So all of those billions he's gained from his PayPal stock will be completely tax-free. Thiel is just a real piece of work. Like Kurzweil he also wants to live forever.
posted by drstrangelove at 6:04 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I strongly suspect that the reason so many of the techbros pick New Zealand is because it's a) English speaking and b) they think of it as being populated by just white people.

Clearly the Maori exist, but I think Thiel and his ilk either don't know that, or see the Maori as "the good ones", or imagine that come the revolution they can just kill them all.

Also never forget that Thiel's plan to live forever, right now, is to be a sort of high tech vampire getting endless transfusions of blood from young poor people. Yes, really.
posted by sotonohito at 6:12 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Sure, there's no government there to stop you from doing things ... but stop you from doing what exactly? You've already effectively stopped yourself from doing most of the things!

I am never clear on what these people even want to do apart from never ever give a cent of their money to anyone else, and possibly occasionally fondle a gun or own a woman (or man! but the woman owning is the one that gets all the internet traction). All of which is possible to do on their weird ship nation.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:18 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Whoah! I remembered just the other day that you can sing the GI theme song to "In The Court Of The Crimson King", and now it comes up again.

It's ballad meter - you can also sing every Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of the GI theme song.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:04 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]




From acb's link
you could put that entire article in the dictionary next to the word "malarkey" and feel perfectly at peace with the world.
posted by Mitheral at 10:26 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


You've already effectively stopped yourself from doing most of the things!

Has no one ever wanted to find an isolated cubicle in the middle of the ocean to just kick back, relax, and... mine Bitcoin alone?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:47 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


This story is even funnier from the point of view of someone who knows about maritime law.

If only they had hired Chareth Cutestory, Pirate Lawyer.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:26 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I always wonder: have libertarians never played a game before? Even the simplest children's game requires rules, but these bozos somehow think that a society can function without them.

As someone with a momentary infatuation with libertarianism as a teen I can tell you the answer is that they played monopoly and when they were the banker they cheated.
posted by srboisvert at 4:41 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Most actualized libertarian schemes (even if actualized amounts only to this trainwreck) are like games of Calvinball except all rules are forever rather than only being used once. And they start out as a blank slate and then have to pile on the rules as the shortcomings pop up.
posted by Mitheral at 6:56 AM on September 10


And they start out as a blank slate and then have to pile on the rules as the shortcomings pop up.

Much like the rest of civilization has been doing since before Hammurabi. But we have a 3000 year head start.
posted by TedW at 11:28 AM on September 11


As someone said about cryptocurrencies, it's fascinating to watch libertarians speedrun the last few millennia's object lessons in why regulations exist.
posted by acb at 3:27 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I sold a domain name to a Bitcoin trading company two years ago. The name had the word "bit" in it, so I guess it was valuable enough to them to buy it.

By pure happenstance, I found out today that its CEO was arrested and charged by the FBI in early 2020 with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transfer business, and he ended up facing 30 years in prison.

In the process of finding this out, I found out that a significant number of these cryptoscrip startups' execs seem to get nicked by the feds for one or another crime involving ripping off people's balances.

Make sure you get paid in real money, if you are ever involved in any business with these crooks. I hope the crew and captain of the Santoshi got paid in real money — I know I'm glad I did.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:58 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


you can also sing every Emily Dickinson poem to the tune of the GI theme song.

Also "Yellow Rose of Texas"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:01 PM on October 2


« Older A game that was unbeatable for forty years just...   |   Genetics and Environment or a Middle Path? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments