Hosting a Seastead: the mission to find a home for the world’s first floating city

The Seasteading Institute, which is looking to establish a floating city by 2020, has commenced diplomatic discussions with several counties to find a host nation for its proposed floating community, also known as a seastead.

Although the institute declined to say which counties it was talking to while discussions were ongoing, it did confirm that those contacted were from a list of 20 that includes Ghana, Columbia, Hong Kong, Panama and Singapore.

The organisation assessed all nations with coastlines to establish a shortlist of countries that could provide safe waters for the floating city to exist in.

It eliminated all countries in hurricane or cyclone zones, as well as those in polar regions where extreme weather or frozen seas pose a threat. It also cut any countries where piracy is a problem, as well as those with politically volatile or dangerous environments.

floating-city-seastead

More unexpectedly, countries with United Nations Security Council or European Union membership were eliminated from the list due to the insitute’s desire to maintain high levels of autonomy.

The institute plans to establish a floating city that has political autonomy, but which exists under the umbrella of a sovereign nation.

This is vital to making the project successful as it provides both practical and political security for the city, but could present a problem for some countries as it would mean the city had its own rules and regulations that were distinct and separate from its host nation.

“Right now, there is no open space for experimenting with new societies,” explained the Seasteading Insitute’s chairman of the board Patri Friedman. “Currently, it is very difficult to experiment with alternative social systems on a small scale.

“Countries are so enormous that it is hard for an individual to make much difference.  The world needs a place where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to test out their ideas.  All land on Earth is already claimed, making the oceans humanity’s next frontier.”

The Seasteading Institute is a non-profit organisation looking to establish floating communities that provide a new approach to governance and community living.

While the idea may seem far-fetched, the engineering challenges of building such communities are being looked at carefully by Dutch aquatic design firm DeltaSync. Funding for the design of the first floating city was raised through Indiegogo last year in a campaign that generated $27,000.

The countries that the Seasteading Institute has shortlisted to host the floating city are Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Maldives, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Norfolk Islands, Palau, Panama, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Singapore, Suriname and Vanuatu.


Images courtesy of the Seasteading Institute.


Helping hand: The robot that can catch you when you’re falling

The old saying goes that you can’t teach an old robot new tricks, but this one is certainly bucking the trend by being taught how to catch items – and one day it might even be able to catch people who are in danger.

The robotic arm is already at a disadvantage to other robots as it only has four fingers, however this hasn’t stopped it from learning how to pluck five different objects out of the air when they’re flung in its direction.

Scientists at the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at EPFL, Switzerland, said the technology could be adapted so it is able to save lives in dangerous situations.

Aude Billard, who is the head of the lab, said: “This controller can be used for many other different applications typically catching people who are in danger of falling, catching objects that may fall onto people.

“That also applies to any controller for a vehicle robot, here you’re seeing in arm robots but it could also be in a car. A car needs to be able to react very rapidly to oncoming traffic.”

The robot has a little way to go before it is saving lives, however, but it has so far been able to catch a ball, an empty bottle, a half-full bottle, a hammer and a tennis racket.

The scientists who taught the robot everything it knows treated the robot like it was a human – by using trial and error as a learning tool.

They do not give the robot directions but show the robot examples of possible trajectories that items may come in at, which involves manually guiding the arm to the projected target and repeating this exercise several times.

In the first instance objects were thrown several times in the robot’s direction and through a series of cameras located around it the robot creates a model for the objects’ kinetics based on their movement.

The scientists then step in and translate it into an equation which then allows the robot to position itself very quickly in the right direction.

In the milliseconds from the object leaving the researcher’s hand the robot refines and corrects the trajectory so it is able to capture the object.

Aude Billard, who worked on the project, said that future robots will need to be able to react in real-time.

Aude said: “Increasingly present in our daily lives and used to perform various tasks, robots will be able to either catch or dodge complex objects in full-motion.”

“Not only do we need machines able to react on the spot, but also to predict the moving object’s dynamics and generate a movement in the opposite direction.”

In total the arm is about 1.5m long and keeps an upright position and it has three joints and a hand with four fingers.


Images courtesy of Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory