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"Buy land. They've stopped making it."
Mark Twain

Here's an interesting diversion. If all the news about the current turmoil in financial markets is getting you down, perhaps you might consider really getting away from it all and going and living out at sea. The idea might not be as far removed from reality as we might think. According to the New York Times, Google has just filed a patent for "mobile data center platforms out at sea". The idea is for servers and data center modules to be housed on sea-borne floating platforms that are powered by the motion of the sea around them.

Whilst Google's idea might not be quite in the realm of James Bond, there are other related ideas that are not so far off. A few months back BLDGBLOG (my favourite architecture blog) posted about a Wired feature about "a small team of Silicon Valley millionaires" who hope to develop "a new option for global citizenship: A permanent, quasi-sovereign nation floating in international waters."

They call this 'Seasteading' (creating "permanent dwellings on the ocean – homesteading the high seas") and have launched The Seasteading Institute backed by $500,000 from PayPal founder Peter Thiel, and run by a Google engineer and a former Sun Microsystems programmer. The institute is dedicated to creating experimental ocean communities "with diverse social, political, and legal systems."

Why? "Because the world needs a new frontier, a place where those who are dissatisfied with our current civilization can go to build a different (and hopefully better) one":

"Currently, it is very difficult to experiment with alternative social systems on a small scale. Countries are so enormous that no individual can make much difference in how they work, and the powers-that-be are deeply entrenched. Seasteaders believe that government shouldn't be like the cellphone or operating system industries, with few choices and high customer-lock-in. Instead, they envision something more like web 2.0, where many small governments serve many niche markets, a dynamic system where small groups experiment, and everyone copies what works, discards what doesn't, and remixes the remainder to try again."

The institute speaks of bringing an "entrepreneurial, DIY mentality" to creating oceanic city-states. Sounds a bit like Society 2.0. Said Joe Lonsdale, the institute's chairman (and a principal at a multibillion-dollar hedge fund):

"There's a history of a lot of crazy people trying this sort of thing, and the idea is to do it in a way that's not crazy."

You can decide for yourself here.

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