|This doesn't have much to do with
self-development, enlightenment, or brain and mind, so be forewarned.
by Bill Eichman copyright 1993
page 5 EXTROPY #12 (6:1) First quarter 1994
This is one of a number of illustrations that accompanied the
article. This is a trimaran community support ship, very stable, providing lots of
workspace and hauling capacity, constructed out of low cost salvage hulls.
This article was for Extropy, a Techno-Libertarian magazine, thus the political and social
speculations on Libertarian topics such as the "start your own country"
movement, with which the article begins. It's sort've science-fictiony, pretty speculative
and cyberpunk, but the technical stuff at the end is pretty reasonable.
The article began with a chart contrasting the dream and the reality of ocean
The Dream of Ocean Colonization
¯ Colonization of the Oceans-- The perennial dream of the red-blooded,
raised-on-frontier-stories, post-moonwalk, orbit-denied, SF-reading, technology-loving,
adventure hungry young male.
¯ The chance to face and develop a truly challenging frontier.
¯ Trillions of cubic feet of low-cost 'real estate'.
¯ 'Free Oceania', and the opportunity to start an entirely new nation.
¯ Freedom (hopefully) from the control of governments.
(Not from their influence -- this is a planet made small by the jet and rocket engine.)
¯ The chance to build a new, dramatically more sophisticated society,
relatively free of the territorial, economic, personal, and religious tyrannies of our
¯ The chance to live drunk on freedom; the freedom of the frontier. The chance to live as
a human being, away from the smell of obedience. The chance to make fortunes.
The Reality of Ocean Colonization
¯ The most corrosive environment on the planet.
¯ The most violent weather on the planet.
¯ Death by drowning an ever-present possibility.
¯ Rapid vertical pressure change.
¯ Political & Legal vulnerability. Military vulnerability.
¯ Extremely expensive infrastructure. High start-up cost.
¯ Extensive specialized knowledge and skills required.
¯ Psychologically threatening and physiologically sickening
(sea sickness, etc.).
I'm an ocean colonization hobbyist. I "waste" my leisure time
tinkering with the
complicated social and engineering puzzle of living on and under the planet's oceans. I'm
qualified to write for Extropy on the topic of ocean colonization primarily by default;
there exist no ocean colonization professionals.
The topic of ocean colonization seems inextricably mixed with the "Start your own
Country" movements and projects. This creates some very messy problems, in which law,
politics, common sense, engineering, and economic imperatives combine to trip up the
unwary social dreamer.
Let me make my prejudices clear. I do not believe that it is practically possible to
Your Own Country"; not, at least in the ways that are described in Strauss's book of
lar name, or are suggested in the "Oceania" advertisements that are appearing in
tarian net community. I would argue that the basic idea presented by the "Start Your
Own Country" proponents is flawed at the root. "Start Your Own Country"
enthusiasts appear to be operating from the axiom that if they can establish a new
physical and political terri-
tory, that they can then take advantage of that frontier to become wealthy and powerful;
whereas I think that the evidence of history is that the opposite is true, that is, that
if a people
becomes wealthy and powerful, then they can define and defend a new territory, and thus
create for themselves a new country.
If it were feasible and possible to easily and openly start a new, independent country,
why aren't the multinational corporations and multi-millionaires and billionaires already
doing it? Wouldn't the tax benefits alone be irresistible?
For all practical purposes, no attempt to form a new country will be allowed to stand,
either legally or physically, by the existing gangs of nations. It is intrinsically
interests of the existing countries to allow any new competitors to enter the
Game". There are only two things that matter in the game of nations -- real
wealth, in terms of resources, information, trained workers, and liquid capital; and
tive military force and an effective weapons technology and industry.
If you want to start a country, you must start by amassing a fortune, and building a
credible army. Anything less, including a move to "International Waters", is
an exercise in eccentricity that will be disassembled immediately if it ever becomes a
source of irritation for a genuine wealth-controlling, armed and armored nation. ( I'11
for another time discussions about new forms of wealth and new types of military supremacy
-- possibly the rapid and sweeping technological changes engulfing our planet will make
country-starting more feasible. Certainly I hope so; I'm as interested as the next fellow
escaping the totalitarian thugs who have effectively co-opted our planet' s governments,
if I'm entirely skeptical of the current "Start Your Own Country" movement and
cept of a "Free Oceania". ) However, it would definitely be possible
to increase the relative freedom from government interference in one's life by living at
very fringes of one's "Nation". Many taxes could be avoided, and many
cumvented, simply by living in a area and in a way which makes government enforce-
ment difficult, expensive, and inconsequential. This is true if you choose
to live in Northern Mexico or the Appalachian backwoods, and it would be
doubly true if your home was a mobile ocean platform. As long as you avoid
attracting large scale media attention, the odds are extremely high that you
would simply be ignored by the government.
The big problem with this relative freedom approach to ocean coloni-
zation is that it may not make much sense to try to establish a safe floating
ocean dwelling, which is likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and
still be quite spartan, when that same money spent in Northern Mexico or
the North American backwoods could build a fairly substantial estate -- an estate with no
worries about drowning, or sharks, or storms, or corrosion, which are every bit as real
dangerous an adversary as the taxman.
As far as I can determine, after many years of hobbyist study of ocean colonization,
there can be only one really plausible reason to pursue the realization of ocean living at
time; and that is the personal love for the idea, for the oceans, and for the frontier. To
for the pleasure of it, out of curiosity, and a desire to live a genuinely wild and
Please notice the disclaimer "...at this time." We can easily predict that
population pressures and mounting competition for natural resources might make ocean
colonization a virtual necessity over the course of the next five hundred years. It's
that getting in on the ground floor of ocean colonization now could leave hobbyist ocean
colonizers in possession of extremely valuable technical know-how in the future. Still,
you have a genuine love for the dream of ocean colonization, you would probably be wiser
invest your money in real estate, or mutual funds. There is however one possibility,
which 1 describe in the section "What can Extropians do?", which combines, in a
investment in real estate with ocean colonization, and this might prove to be a real
moneymaker within a few short decades.
Can the Dream be Realized?
If ocean colonization is such a good idea, why aren't the rich industrialists already do-
ing it? They've got the giant ships, the subs, the drilling platforms, floating factory
plexes, the whole works -- why aren't they colonizing already?
That's a good and important question.
Clearly, the answer is that there's not enough profit in it.
Even a very cursory examination of the topic of ocean colonization will reveal its
major weakness. Put simply, there are few, if any, economic incentives to live full time
the ocean environment. The current needs of industry, science, and politics are fairly
met through the use of our sophisticated fleets of ships and submarines. Only insatiable
human curiosity, political desperation, and an appreciation of the needs of future
appear to justify ocean colonization efforts in the next few decades; there is unlikely to
much money to be made through ocean colonization that cannot be more easily and effi-
ciently made through the use of our existing ocean technology of ships and drilling plat-
Note that I am saying that it is unlikely that there is enough money to be made to
justify ocean colonization. What this means is that there are few existing industrial
gathering or manufacturing processes that can be profitably carried out within an ocean
nization program. An ocean colony is unlikely to compete effectively by mining manganese
or oil, or harvesting fish, because the existing industrial base, established as it is in
ports, can carry out the whole process of harvesting, processing, and bringing the prod-
uct to market at a lower infrastructure and capital cost than that required to build an
equivalently productive ocean colony. In almost all cases, ocean living technology is
going to be significantly more expensive per cubic foot of dry living-and-work-space than
even the most extravagant of land-based buildings, homes, and factories. However, the
picture is not entirely grim. As expensive as ocean living is likely to be, there may
economic opportunities which could fund and support certain scales' of ocean colonies.
Examples of such potential economic opportunities include pharmaceuticals. medi-
cal care and technologies which are illegal or hard to obtain, the sale of ocean
and ocean telemetry, biotechnology, and perhaps most importantly, especially in the early
stages of ocean colonization, tourism. Other possibilities, of which I am somewhat more
doubtful, revolve around data-havens involved in international banking, data-piracy.
banking, and privacy and security services. (I'm doubtful of the utility of these
"piracy" strategies because if they are not mercilessly persecuted, they will
tend to become almost ubiquitous. Any ne'er-do-well with a computer and a cellular modem
would be able to
provide these services at a fraction of the overhead that an ocean colony would require.)
There is one other possibility which should at least be mentioned, and that is the
business of organized crime; especially, of course, the multi-billion-dollar industry of
manufacturing and smuggling illicit drugs. This is a proven money maker, and the type of
manufacturing involved could practically be carried out in an ocean-technology
environment. However, it would require enormous cleverness, organization, and guts (or
enormous stupidity) to build such a criminal empire, and the distribution network for such
a business -- which would of course have to operate on land -- would be a potentially
fatal weak link. The organized crime approach to ocean colonization is either the most
hardheadedly realistic, with its billions in profit potential, or the most ludicrously
science-fictional of schemes.
None of these economic potentials, with the exception of tourism, can be quickly and
easily implemented. All of them will require a considerable investment in equipment,
trained specialists, infrastructural support, and marketing. None of them (with the
to be continued....
EXTROPY #12 (6:1) First quarter 1994
Note: Due to technical problems, the remainder of this article is not available at this
Check back in a month or so.
[ Up ] [ Ocean Colonization 2 ]