In the Days of the Seasteaders, part 5: Vril Mythos of the Detritivores

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But the things they valued more than anything was dirt, had to get really dirty, rub it all over you, swim in mud, spend some time in a greenhouse where the air is thick with yeasts and spores, let a good old hum build up on you, grow your toenails long and natural, rejection is the ultimate form of sophistication, showing you’re above the accumulation impulse. A lot of people had their stink genes crispr’d out in the ‘thirties and boy did they live to regret it.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The 1815 volcanic eruption of mount Tambora on Sumbawa island, Indonesia was one of the largest in recorded history – the eruption plume sent some 10 billion tonnes of pumice ash into the stratosphere,[1] ultimately resulting in a period of temporary climate change and the second coldest year on record.[2] 1816 was known as the ‘Year Without a Summer’ and its effect can be seen in the cultural output of that time. JMW Turner’s pink and orange sunsets are said to have been influenced by those which were common in 1816 due to the high levels of Tephra in the atmosphere.[3] That year also saw the gathering of Mary Shelley, John William Polidori and Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, with the darkness inspiring the writing contest that resulted in Frankenstein, The Vampyre and Byron’s poem Darkness that records the pervading gloom of the time:

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light…[4]

The episode of climate change also resulted in widespread crop failure and famine throughout Europe, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths and grain riots.[5] The crisis in European agriculture led to a widespread search for new effective fertilisers, with one popular source source being phosphate-rich bones scoured from the recent Napoleonic wars in central Europe, some estimates placing the number of human skeletons imported to England for use as fertiliser at over three million. [6] The German chemist Justus von Liebig, who was a child at the time of the famine and resulting turmoil, was outraged by this macabre trade in human remains:

‘England is robbing all other countries of their fertility. Already In her eagerness for bones, she has turned up the battlefields of Leipsic and Waterloo and of the Crimea… Annually she removes from the shores of other countries to her own the manurial equivalent of three million and a half men…Like a vampire she hangs from the neck of Europe, nay the whole world, and sucks the heart blood from nations.’[7]

The primary advantage of Phosphate-rich bones was in encouraging the growth of Turnips, a crop that helped to improve farming efficiency and speed the progress of surplus agricultural workers into the growing cities.[8] Industrial England was thus raised up on a diet of Turnips infused with the bones of the dead, a Detritivore tendency to feast upon and process the waste products of the deceased. Other sources of phosphate-grist to the industrial grindstone include a huge mass of fossilised saurian remains unearthed largely in East Anglia[9] and a consignment of 180,000 mummified cats imported from Egypt and sold at auction in Liverpool to a fertiliser merchant.[10]

This bone-crunching, detritivore tendency in European industrial history gets an occasional outing in trope form in popular culture, such as Richard Fleischer‘s 1973 film Soylent Green.[11] The film’s Malthusian vision of an overpopulated nihilistic America in 2022 positions lack of food as the primary social aggravator. The titular foodstuff is supposedly made of processed Plankton (pre-echoes of the Seasteaders algaculture projects) by the de-facto government of the Soylent Corporation. In reality Soylent provides a convenient outlet for disposal of excess human bodies, with those willing to submit to voluntary euthanasia receiving the only compassion and luxury available in an otherwise unrelentingly grim society. The bodies are dumped into a pool of black oil like liquid at the processing plant, re-emerging as a conveyer belt of green tiles of Soylent.

Soylent Green watched in 2018 [and 2019] bears a shifted Weird charge to Soylent Green of 1973, the Hyperstitial potency of date as a narrative device becoming all too apparent. In the terms of The Weird outlined by Mark Fisher these temporal hiccups are integral to generating this affect, where the Weird ‘implies twisted forms of time and causality that are alien to ordinary perception.’[12] The resonating coded marker of date allows the work to shift and live on in new and weirder forms. As these work of Science Fiction (so too with real world speculative projects such as that of Seasteading Institute) set in the near future find and pass their expected date of arrival they become a parallel present, or maybe a history we have chosen to forget through an act of mass traumatic repression.

soylent
Fig.6, Still from Soylent Green, Dir. Richard Fleischer, 1973

The European famine of the early 1800’s prompted Justus Von Liebig to effectively invent the modern science of chemistry, including the development of new non-skeletal fertilisers and the invention of a process for extracting proteins from meat remnants, in order to provide a cheap and nutritious protein source for Europe’s working poor. Liebig’s chemistry laid the foundations for contemporary food science, for other sources of industrialised Geophagy such as the soil-dwelling fungal biomass Fusarium venenatum better known in its commercial form as the Quorn meat substitute.[13] Liebig’s Extract of Meat was the progenitor of OXO, Marmite (itself an accretion of deceased Yeast microbes) and BOVRIL, the company set up by John Lawson Johnston, an early exponent of dietetic nutritional science. BOVRIL takes its name from ‘Vril’,[14] the esoteric life force devised by novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his 1871 novel ‘The Coming Race’.[15]

Originally published anonymously, The Coming Race was a sensation in its time with many readers believing its first-hand account to be a true story.[16] The novel is a mixture of classic romanticist mine-fantasy and Hollow Earth utopian tract, with the action taking place far below the surface of the earth, where the un-named narrator has become stranded after descending down a mineshaft. The novel draws heavily from the aesthetics of the Romantic novel, echoing texts such as E.T.A Hoffman’s The Mines of Falun in Bulwer-Lytton’s description of the bowels of the earth, an almost textbook piece of sublime hyperbole:

“Wild and solemn beauty impossible to describe:- the vast ranges of precipitous rock which formed the distant background, the intermediate valleys of mystic many-coloured herbiage, the flash of waters, many of them like streams of roseate flame, the serene lustre diffused over all by myriads of lamps, combined to form a whole of which no words of mine can convey adequate description; so splendid was it, yet so sombre; so lovely yet so awful”[17]

The saurian-like Vril-Ya people have a developed social structure and advanced technology – their domestic needs are attended by automata, Bulwer-Lytton’s description of their sophisticated visual art comes close to a prediction of Analytic Cubism: “the effect was vague, scattered, confused, bewildering…like heterogenous fragments of a dream of art.”[18] The Vril-Ya’s advancement is due to their discovery and harnessing of the unifying force ‘Vril’ – described as being similar to electricity, magnestism and galvanism, able both to heal and destroy. Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril follows in the Hegelian tradition of searching for a unifying vital force with echoes throughout the emerging sciences, including Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge’s 1821 work ‘The Genesis of Human Magnestism’ which posited a universal magnetic force present in all materials and beings.[19]r

Through their mastery of Vril, the Vril-Ya have attained ascendancy over more primitive subterranean races, who are “contented to grope their way in the dark.” The Vril-Ya’s ascendency has been won through a process of eugenic selection and inherited evolutionary advantage:

“…since in the competition a vast number must perish, nature selects for preservation only the strongest specimens. With our race, therefore, even before the discovery of vril, only the highest organisations were preserved … in order to perfect our condition and attain to the purest elimination of our species by the severity of the struggles our forefathers underwent; and that, when our education shall become finally completed, we are destined to return to the upper world, and supplant all the inferior races now existing Therein.”[20]

Through Bulwer-Lytton’s initially anonymous authorship, Vril took on the quality of a mythos, entering the wider culture of late 19th century Europe, including the canon of the Theosophy society, with William Scott-Elliot using the term in his The Story of Atlantis (1896)[21] with Vril both an electro-magnetic resource capable of powering airships and an inner potential energy to be harnessed by the cultivated subject. Where Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril is the engine for a utopian tract presented in conventional prose form, Scott-Elliot’s Atlantis and Lemuria is a description of visions or more specifically, remembered images accessed from alternate inhuman durations. His descriptions hover disembodied in a state of pre-filmic omnipotence, offering memories of a pre-historic lost future.

From Scott-Elliott onwards, Vril descends into true Mythos-conspiracy territory, via the Theosophy-inspired Vril Society founded by the mystic Maria Orsic in Weimar Germany,[22] incorporated by Hitler into the canon of the Nazi occult. Scientific research is undertaken to locate Vril as a possible energy source for Nazi flying saucers, snippets arise in unlikely locations, former Nazi rocket scientist Willy Ley alludes to the Vril society in a 1947 issue of the Astounding Science Fiction[23]. Vril then appears to have become important to the Neo-Volkisch and occultist Neo-Nazi movements proper[24], the Vrillon hijack a transmitter and make a broadcast to viewers of English Southern television in 1977 calling for nuclear disarmamament.[25] Snippets spiral out towards the darker ends of the internet, lacking solid source material, rumours built upon rumours.

[Next Time: Conclusion – Para-Necro-Biotics]

[1] Richard B. Stothers, “The Great Tambora Eruption in 1815 and Its Aftermath,” Science no.224 (1984) pp.1191-1198

[2] Clive Oppenheimer, “Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano (Indonesia) 1815,” Progress in Physical Geography no.27 (2003) pp. 230–259.

[3] “Tephra,” Michigan Technological University, accessed 30 April, 2018, http://www.geo.mtu.edu/volcanoes/hazards/primer/tephra.html

[4] Lord Byron “Darkness”, 1816 https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43825/darkness-56d222aeeee1b

[5] Linda Richter, “Could You Not Turn Your Back on This Hunger Country?: Food in the Migration Process of German Emigrants, 1816-1856” Aspeers no.5 (2012) p.19

[6] “The Origins of the Fertiliser Industry,” Bernard O Connor, accessed April 30, 2018 http://www.bernardoconnor.org.uk/Coprolites/Cambcops/Duxford.htm

[7] George Scott Robertson, Basic Slags and Rock Phosphates, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), 1

[8] Sir Edward John Russell, The Fertility of the Soil (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Michigan University Press, 1913) 58/59

[9] “The Origins of the Fertiliser Industry,” Bernard O Connor, accessed April 30, 2018 http://www.bernardoconnor.org.uk/Coprolites/Cambcops/Duxford.htm

[10] “Cat Mummy Head, Ancient Egypt collection,” Liverpool Museums, accessed April 30, 2018, http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/collections/antiquities/ancient-egypt/item-456390.aspx

[11] Soylent Green. Directed by Richard Fleischer. New York: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973

[12] Mark Fisher, The Weird and The Eerie (London: Repeater, 2016) 12

[13] TJA Finnigan, “Mycoprotein: origins, production and properties.” In Handbook of Food Proteins (Sawston: Woodhead Publishing, 2012), pp 335–352

[14] “Bovril: a very beefy (and British) love affair,” University of Cambridge, accessed April 30, 2018 https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/bovril-a-very-beefy-and-british-love-affair

[15] Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race, (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1871) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1951/1951-h/1951-h.htm

[16] Julian Strube “Vril: Eine okkulte Urkraft in Theosophie und esoterischem Neonazismus,” Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism no.2 (2013) pp. 55–123.

[17] Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race, p.19

[18] Ibid. p.18

[19] Esther Leslie, Synthetic Worlds, Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry, p.18

[20] Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race, p.59

[21] William Scott-Elliott, The Story of Atlantis & The Lost Lemuria

[22] “Thule Gesseleschaft and the Vril Society,” Grey Falcon, accessed April 30, 2018

http://black.greyfalcon.us/

[23] Willy Ley “Pseudoscience in Naziland,” in Astounding Science Fiction no.39 (1947) pp.90-98

[24] Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2012)

[25] Burton Paulu, Television and Radio in the United Kingdom, (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1981), 179

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In the Days of the Seasteaders part 4: Extropians on the Playa of Immanence 

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Supposedly there was just platforms of solid soil floating out there, just like a pristine ploughed field on a raft, or sand, flat little desert islands where the CEOs only knew about them, go out there and live out their little Robinson Crusoe kinks. The soil would be algae solids, pass it through the digestive tract of a Brandling worm. But its what they did with it after that – some of them would eat it straight up, spooning it in, sometimes they would put it in tablets and you’d take a cure, a ‘Loam Cure’ they called it.  

That’s where the Vril cults made their credits, making the soil. I think maybe Vril was something to do with the worm, when it passes through it picks up a bit of magic. So the worm was like a God to them, it was a revered, sacred animal. We humans aren’t as independent as we like to think, we’re parasites, gotta feed off something, or pick up someone else’s waste to get by.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The accepted narrative of Seasteading’s history states that the idea came to Patri Friedman at the 2002 Burning Man festival[1] – Freidman is a long-term devotee of the festival, where he belongs to the ‘Future Camp’ community – ‘a group of futurists and transhumanists.’[2] Over the last decade Burning Man has become a ubiquitous part of the culture of silicon valley’s elite, somewhere for them to kick back and engage their atavistic desires. Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have all attended, with Musk going so far as to state that “Burning man is Silicon Valley.”[3] The presence of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs has met with widespread ire from long-term attendees, who criticise their closed compounds, yurts, air-conditioned R.V’s and celebrity chefs[4] as a perceived contradiction of the festival’s countercultural heritage.

burning_man_aerial
Fig.4, Aerial Photograph of ‘Black Rock City’ – Burning Man Festival (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_Man#/media/File:Burning_Man_aerial.jpg)

Burning Man describes itself as “a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” The week long festival culminates in the dionesiac spectacle of ‘burning the man’ – the large central outdoor sculpture at the centre of BRC, and a symbolic standin for ‘the Man’ – the authoritarian Hippy/Liberal iteration of Lacan’s ‘Big Other’. The festival, which has grown exponentially since being established in 1986, now attracts nearly 70,000 visitors (known as ‘Burners’) and takes place in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, on a dry flat lake bed referred to as the ‘Playa’.[5] The vast semi-circular form of the festival is known as ‘Black Rock City’ or BRC, and functions as a sort of temporary autonomous zone for the period of the festival.[6] Nothing can be bought at the festival except for coffee and ice, participants are expected to bring everything they need and to provide for others freely.[7]

Burning Man is where Silicon Valley does its hiring and firing, (a google employee: “How do you think I ended up working at Google? I met Larry and Sergey on the playa…running around in full spandex bodysuits”[8]) it is where new startups secure seed funding, and the closest iteration of the Valley’s Libertarian-utopian values made flesh. The festival’s aesthetic is New-Age counterculture via Mad Max patchwork multiplicity, a nomadic anhedonia of weekend steampunks, endlessly searching the playa for social media-worthy photo opportunities. Yuri Pattison’s 2017 work context, collapse, sheltered (burning man edition), took a a piece of digitally augmented webcam footage of BRC, a disparate plane dotted with semi-constructed shelters, an occasional reveller criss-crossing the playa in ornate costume on a dune bike as the evening sunlight casts yellow through a dust cloud – the footage could be of refugees migrating out of a collapsing middle eastern state, except that no-one appears to know the right direction to take.

The footage is overlayed it with a rolling news ticker of algorithmically garbled psuedo-news and ‘bot generated hashtags, playing out on a screen sheltered within an upholstered privacy booth, the corporate furniture of blurred work/play. The setup shrewdly captures the contradictions of the Silicon Valley startup subculture, the booth perhaps offering the next logical step from the air conditioned R.V for executives seeking a more vicarious engagement with the festival.

5.-context-collapse_-installation-view-of-monitor_context-collapse-sheltered-burning-man-edition_copyright-the-artist-and-mothers-tankstation-limited-678x1024
Fig.5, Yuri Pattison. context, collapse, sheltered (burning man edition), 2017. Vitra Alcove Cabin, Networked Digital Signage monitors & media players, colour temperature adjustable LED panels, mineral oil, scale models, found footage, live news feed data, text processing algorithm, 137 x 230 x 154 cm. Unistrut support structure dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and mother’s tankstation limited, Dublin & London.

For the Silicon Valley Burners, the Playa is Deleuze’s Plane of Immanence complete with “disparate things and signs mov[ing] upon it…the plane of consistency is the abolition of all metaphor; all that consists is Real.”[9] – the background to the conditions in which new ideas are born, new lines of flight instantiated. The Playa is to the valley Burners what Negrastani’s desert is to radical Jihadis: “an ideal battlefield…the desert as militant horizontality.”[10] The burning of ‘The Man’ is their equivalent to the Jihadi’s purging of all erected structures, the Playa “a desert where no idol can be erected and all elevations must be burned down…If oil runs toward the desert, so does everything that is dissolved in it,”[11] – through the intertwining of High Frequency Trading software and accelerated hyper-capitalism the Valley’s Techno-Libertarians are most certainly dissolved in Oil.

Burning Man’s Playa represents the realm of the possible that techno-capitalism has internalised into its Mythos, an ideal space for play unrestricted by the interference of central government – the place where the Valley became Libertarian. Google/Alphabet CEO Larry Page echoed the sentiments of the Seasteaders when he made the case that tech firms should be granted special allowances at a 2013 Q&A:

we should set aside a small part of the world, like going to Burning Man, for example…As technologists, we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things and figure out what is the effect on society, what is the effect on people without having to deploy it into the normal world.[12]

While some see these libertarian tendencies creeping into the world of the American counterculture as a new and negative influence[13], the two have historically been far from mutually exclusive. Josephine Armistead sees the roots of NRx in Bill Gates’ 1976 Open Letter to Hobbyists, in which Gates moved to commodify and privatise the hacker/hobbyist world of computing, leading to a startup culture that “relied on a heirarchical, dictatorial model,”[14] sentiments echoed by Peter Thiel who has stated that: “A startup is basically structured as a monarchy. We don’t call it that … but the truth is that startups and founders lean toward the dictatorial side because that structure works better.”[15]

The wider American New-age and Hippy counterculture from which Burning Man and Silicon Valley takes its cues has long held a libertarian-compatible notion of Freedom, including freedom of speech and the right to transgression at its core. Angela Nagle traces the origins of the current alt-right neo-conservative moment back to the provocative impulse stretching through ‘60s happenings, ‘70s performance art and punk, with some internet trolls claiming their doxxing and harassment practices as a form of performance art.[16]

Silicon Valley primarily finds the outlet for its esoteric impulse in Transhumanism of the specifically self-improving kind. Thiel has invested heavily in anti-aging research including ‘Parabiosis’ startups offering therapeutic blood transfusion[17] whereby the blood of the young is used to combat ageing and disease in an older recipient.[18] Patri Friedman is a board member of the Transhumanist think tank Humanity+[19] (formally the world transhumanist association) and an advocate of ultra-monogamy – he and his wife taking vows “committing to marriage for multiple human lifetimes.”[20] Friedman and Thiel’s brand of Transhumanism falls within the Right-Libertarian leaning ‘Extropian’ school, those seeking to combat the entropy of the body, and break beyond the cybernetic temporality that in the CCRU’s terms “ensures that all human experience is of–and in-time.”[21] The Extropian school of thought is the reverse of the impulse found in the process of accelerated Hydrocarbon production, applied to the human body – in these processes of speeding up and slowing down we see a continuing tendency in contemporary techno-capitalism not to accept temporalities as a given.

If we are to see Silicon Valley’s NRx-tinged projects such as Seasteading as an act of Hyperstition ultimately serving a Landian acceleration of capital, then in the terms defined by the CCRU, it requires a mythos. The collaborative hyperstition blog from which the term was born bears a definition page entitled “Polytics: Elements of Hyperstition”, with the second element being:

Mythos. Comprehensive attribution of all signal (discoveries, theories, problems and approaches) to artificial agencies, allegiances, cultures and continentities. The proliferation of “carriers” (“Who says this?”) – multiplying perspectives and narrative fragments – produces a coherent but inherently disintegrated hyperstitional mythos while effecting a positive destruction of identity, authority and credibility.[22]

O’Sullivan identifies mythos as the critical aspect that delineates left and right-accelerationisms, where “myth is often at the service of a reactionary Right rather than a progressive Left,”[23] with the left’s rejection of mythos as too ‘folk’, too anti-empirical, perhaps being the factor which has thus far served to stymy efforts to accelerate and break capitalism. O’Sullivan sets up a delineation between those forms of mythos which have fascistic potential “the ‘blood and fire’ myth-system of the Nazis (the “master-race”), or indeed any mythos premised on exclusion (a ‘them and us’ logic)” and those with true liberatory potential ”more open myths – includes the stuttering and stammering minorities of Deleuze and Guattari’s minor literature (here the people-to come ‘belong’ together because they do not belong anywhere else)”[24] The Mythos of Extropian Transhumanism into which Silicon Valley and the Seasteading Institute tap is one which stretches back through modernism, finding perhaps its purest and most Geopoetically charged iteration in the cult of Vril.

[Next Time: Vril Tangent]

[1] Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller, “The Seasteaders” (2018), Video,

[2] “A Commitment for More Than One Lifetime,” The New York Times, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/fashion/weddings/a-commitment-for-more-than-one-lifetime.html

[3] “Elon Musk is Right, Burning Man is Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, accessed April 30 2018 https://techcrunch.com/2014/09/04/elon-musk-is-right-burning-man-is-silicon-valley/

[4] Keith A. Spencer “Why The Rich Love Burning Man,” Jacobin, last modified August 25, 2015 https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/08/burning-man-one-percent-silicon-valley-tech/

[5] “Glossary,” Burning Man, accessed April 30, 2018 https://burningman.org/culture/glossary/

[6] Keith A. Spencer “Why The Rich Love Burning Man,” Jacobin, last modified August 25, 2015 https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/08/burning-man-one-percent-silicon-valley-tech/

[7] “Glossary,” Burning Man, accessed April 30, 2018 https://burningman.org/culture/glossary/

[8] “Burning Man becomes a hot spot for tech titans,” SFGate, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.sfgate.com/style/article/Burning-Man-becomes-a-hot-spot-for-tech-titans-4756482.php#photo-8612683

[9] Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 69

[10] Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia, complicity with anonymous materials p.34

[11] Ibid. p.37

[12] Mobilegeeks.de, “Larry Page Google CEO Complete Q & A at Google I/O 2013,” released May 15, 2013, video, 24:32, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfK8h73bb-o

[13] Keith A. Spencer “Why The Rich Love Burning Man,” Jacobin, last modified August 25, 2015 https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/08/burning-man-one-percent-silicon-valley-tech/

[14] Josephine Armistead, “The Silicon Ideology,” last modified May 18, 2016, p.11, https://archive.org/stream/the-silicon-ideology#page/n0/mode/2up/search/adam+smith

[15] Brophy World “Peter Thiel on Dictatorships in Business,” last modified July 22, 2012, http://brophyworld.com/thiel-dictatorships/

[16] Angela Nagle Kill All Normies: The Online Culture Wars from Tumblr and 4chan to the alt-right and Trump, (Winchester: Zero Books, 2017), 30

[17] “Questionable “Young Blood” Transfusions Offered in U.S as Anti-Aging Remedy,” MIT Technology Review, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603242/questionable-young-blood-transfusions-offered-in-us-as-anti-aging-remedy/

[18] “Home,” Ambrosia Plasma, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.ambrosiaplasma.com/

[19] “Staff/Board/Advisors,” Seasteading Institute, accessed April 30, 2018 https://www.seasteading.org/about/staff-board-advisors/

[20] “A Commitment for More Than One Lifetime,” The New York Times, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/10/fashion/weddings/a-commitment-for-more-than-one-lifetime.html

[21] CCRU, “Lemurian Time War” in CCRU Writings 1997-2003, (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017), 43

[22] “Hyperstition: Polytics,” CCRU, accessed April 30, 2018, http://hyperstition.abstractdynamics.org/archives/006777.html

[23] Simon O’Sullivan “Accelerationism, Hyperstition and Myth-Science,” Cyclops Journal no.2 (2017) p.19

[24] Ibid. p.30

In the Days of the Seasteaders, Part 3: Weaponised Simulacra

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Every stead had its own ‘corps, couldn’t be too careful, I don’t think the peace and love days lasted too long. Lots of stem cell pirates waiting out in international waters, and once the laws got repealed it was all fair game. Only the indentured Flesh used skiffs to get around, anyone blue collar and upwards would use a blimp. People pretty much stayed put in reality though, blending in to a new ‘stead wasn’t easy, after a while it just gets easier to stick to your own, that’s how the gene pool started dwindling, that’s why they had to find new ways to mix it up.

Anyway a bit further out, away from the big pharma and petro-steads, that’s where things started to get a bit weirder, some of the old communo-steads, the kibbutzim, the free floating loners managed to cling on and make it work, and once you’ve been out there long enough, once you’ve got a generation who never lived on land, that’s when things start getting spooky.

~ ~ ~ ~

Since the S.I’s moment in the spotlight around the time of its establishment in 2008, the momentum of the movement seems to have slowed somewhat, with Peter Thiel stating in early 2017 that Seasteading is currently “not quite feasible from an engineering perspective,” and that the project’s outcome is “still very far in the future.”[1] Scaling back from it’s initial vision of autonomous seastead communities, the second generation S.I led by president and part-time science fiction writer Joe Quirk and managing director Randy Hencken seems to have lost its ideological bite somewhat since Patri Friedman’s transfer to the more ceremonial role of chair of trustees. The institute’s current focus [as of early 2018] is on the ‘Blue Frontiers’ project, which aims to establish a semi-autonomous community hosted by the state of French Polynesia, in the form of what Quirk calls “three little practice islands to demonstrate that this will be beautiful,”[2] – the islands would be exempt from the Polynesian tax system but bound by its criminal law. The trade-off for Polynesia will come in the form of “diversification of the Polynesian economy” and help to “develop technologies needed to maintain populations threatened by rising sea levels.”[3]

In May 2017 the S.I held a conference in Tahiti, French Polynesia, aimed at building support amongst the local population. The artists Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller attended the conference to produce a 30 minute documentary film entitled ‘The Seasteaders’ for release through the online art and video platform dis.art. Permission to film was granted on the condition that the S.I would have access to the original footage and permission to reuse and re-contextualise the artists’ work, which it did by producing its own re-edited set of short videos also entitled ‘The Seasteaders’, released eight days prior to the artists’ film and aimed at confusing and obscuring the artists’ work.[4]

Hurwitz-Goodman and Keller’s fly-on-the-wall style film is relatively innocuous, portraying the seasteaders as a set of hapless red-faced tourists, being bussed around the island of Tahiti and looking slightly listless in a perpetual cycle of enforced leisure, conference buffets and performances of indigenous song and dance, like a Libertarian retirement community. The overwhelming impression is of the Seasteading Institute as a largely male collective, driven by a masculinist colonising impulse, in which women play the role of wives and partners who need to be persuaded to give up life on dry land. S.I director Randy Hencken is filmed talking to his wife about the need to: “ask the ‘She-Steaders’ what they would want on a seastead to make it more appealing,” chairman Joe Quirk describes how “nobody wants to move to the seastead and find there’s no women there… I’m talking to artists who want to make a beautiful statue and call it ‘Floating Woman.” At one point the camera lingers on a reproduction Gauguin painting hanging in the hotel stairwell, silently highlighting the problematic history of European colonial and cultural intervention in the Pacific.

Some of the most illuminating passages come in the form of interviews in a darkened room with a volunteer economist with the project named Caleb Sturges – significantly younger than the rest of the community he opens up about his right-wing political beliefs and disenfranchisement from his upbringing in a left wing Christian commune. He cites NRx and the Dark Enlightenment as having been influential on him politically along with some ‘pretty sketchy’ subreddits, before realising that he has perhaps said too much: “I don’t know how much I should talk about this,” he says with a knowing smile that seems to acknowledge the S.I’s public distancing from right-wing political stances. The film ends in a suddenly heightened, nightmarish fashion, interspersing footage of a Polynesian dancer with smart-phone pictures of sections of glacier melting and falling into the ocean – the implication seemingly that the S.I’s promises of boosted environmental sustainability to the Polynesian people will never materialise, and that the project will ultimately only exacerbate accelerated climate change.

The S.I’s re-edit of the film instead takes the form of a set of bland corporate promotional clips, interspersing soundbites taken from speakers at the conference with footage of mostly female and Polynesian attendees. Caleb Sturges does not feature, nor does John Vance, a prominent character in the artist’s film who describes himself as a ‘Futurist Republican’ working in ‘Natural Resources’ (i.e. Oil). No mention or credit is given to the artists as the producers of the footage which simply becomes stock content in the hands of the S.I. The tactic of releasing the re-edit in an attempt to obscure Hurwitz-Goodman and Keller’s work seems to reveal the extent to which, while the S.I may outwardly distance itself from NRx, it’s tactics and and approaches owe much to the alt-right – a form of Corporate P.R Doxxing. The two films exist in a post-truth tension – the S.I’s alternative facts edit as weaponised simulacra.

Theo Reeves-Evison addresses these ideas of Simulacra in relation to the contemporary political landscape stating that “exposing a lie does not necessarily diminish its affective power” and that “reveal[ing] an act of deception is not the same as revealing the truth that it conceals.”[5] – that acknowledged fictions can still bear a political weight, if not a heightened appeal to a populace that is disorientated and fractured. Reeves-Evison points to a pervading texture of ‘truthiness’ in the contemporary political landscape, of statements that are just plausible enough to carry the required affective charge and Deleuze’s definition of the true simulacra as “not a degraded copy, rather it contains a positive power which negates both original and copy, both model and reproduction.”[6] The proposals of the S.I are perhaps simulacric in their very nature – can we be sure whether they really believe the rhetoric of environmental sustainability, or do they simply desire a holiday resort-cum-tax haven? Their harnessing and subversion of narrative forms, in their Sci Fi-like promotional rhetoric and presentation of alternative timelines suggest an underlying affinity with temporal complexity – a templexity that ultimately serves to feed their hyperstitional project.

[Next Time: Burning Man Festival]

[1] “Peter Thiel on Trump, Seasteading and making futures more like the Jetsons or Star Trek”, Next Big Future, accessed April 30, 2018 https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/peter-thiel-on-trump-seasteading-and.html

[2] Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and Daniel Keller, “The Seasteaders” (2018), Video,

[3] “FAQ” Blue frontiers, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.blue-frontiers.com/en/frenchpolynesia

[4] “The Life Aquatic,” Rhizome, accessed April 30, 2018 https://rhizome.org/editorial/2018/jan/31/seasteading/

[5] Theo Reeves-Evison “Surface Fictions” in Futures & Fictions, (London: Repeater Books 2017) 203

[6] Gilles Deleuze, “Plato and the Simulacra,” October no.27 (1983) p.53

In the Days of the Seasteaders, Part 2: The Hyperstitional project of Accelerated Catagenesis

~ ~ ~

I mean the real company headquarters were all still based in city states, Singapore or Manhattan or wherever, less risky. Some of the CEOs had sealegs though, got to like being out on the waves, just depends whether you like the power trip, being king of the castle. Yeah, Thiel was out there, long time, might still be, just hanging out in a dark room getting topped up from his private supply of nubile blood-serfs. Knew a guy who saw him once in the mall, must have been about ninety years old at that point, but said he could have passed for fifty, if you didn’t get close enough to see where the stitches were coming loose. That parabiotic blush doesn’t look too convincing after a while.

 Most people got a bit icky about getting blood from the source around the ‘forties, preferred to skip that step once they synthesised a reliable algaenate alternative – I mean that’s where it all comes from in the beginning anyway, bottom of the food chain, the Porphyrins, in the Algae, the blood. Some people would go for the total oil change. Open the valve, drain it off, let a fresh new flow of Vrilicious green get all round you, that’s one surefire way to achieve bestself. Thiel was oldschool, liked the personal touch. Most of that generation are long gone.

~ ~ ~

Much of the infrastructural framework of the S.I’s proposed communities rests on algaculture – the controlled growth and harvesting of microalgae, to provide the economic sustainability and workforce population for the newly established colonies. The S.I describe Algae as “the keystone in the global carbon cycle, if we make algae the basis of our global economy, humanity will live in harmony with nature.”[1] The Liberal vision of the S.I is one in which the Earth’s displaced populations are welcomed to seasteads with open arms, clear echoes of the ‘huddled masses’ and ‘wretched refuse’ of Emma Lazarus’ New Colossus[2] in their declaration that:

The first to seek jobs on ocean farms will be the poorest billion on earth. They will come to the blue frontier because floating societies will require refugees to survive economically… Seasteading will restore the environment, enrich the poor, and liberate humanity from politicians.[3]

The economic miracle that the S.I envision rests primarily on the use of microalgae as a renewable biomass fuel source, and macroalgae such as Kelps and Seaweeds as a valuable commercial product in nutritional supplements, cosmetics, toothpaste, foodstuffs, animal feed and fertiliser.[4] Use of MicroAlgae as a fuel source has particular commercial potential with research published in 2010 stating that “Microalgae appear to be the only source of renewable biodiesel that is capable of meeting the global demand for transport fuels.”[5]Additional benefits of using Algae include its ability to grow in seawater, mitigating its likelihood to be affected by impending global freshwater shortages and its ability to thrive on waste material from domestic and industrial waste processing.[6]

The use of algae as a fuel is by no means a novel application – Crude Oil is an accretion of algae and plankton that has undergone the process of catagenesis, acted upon by anaerobic bacterial digestion and the extreme heat and pressure of geological strata over the course of millions of years.[7] Petrochemical corporations including ExxonMobil continue to invest heavily in research to scale up biomass fuel production to industrial levels, working with Synthetic Genomics Inc. to optimise extraction of oil by producing genetically modified strains of the algae Nannochloropsis gaditana that produce a 40% higher lipid yield.[8] Additionally, recently developed processing technologies can replicate the process of catagenesis in laboratory conditions to produce ‘Bio-Crude’ from Algae in as little as 30 minutes, from which Hydrocarbons such as gasoline can be extracted.[9]

These processes of accelerated catagenesis and over-coded genomes are an attempt to re-articulate geological time – to overcome the chemical and geological rhythms dromologically embedded in the extraction of oil as the bottom speed limit of global markets, the top speed being the rate of trading, machinically enhanced beyond human control through High Frequency Trading software. The accelerated Hydrocarbons currently existing in laboratory beakers (but imminently to be found in petrol pumps) are hyperstitional in an overtly literal sense, the Algae they are composed of should not have existed as oil until a million years in the future, their effect when burned as fuel in the present will be to accelerate climate change. The process of accelerated catagenesis feels like Nick Land’s ‘Templexity’ in action, Deleuze and Guattari’s call to ‘accelerate the process’[10] given empirical bite.

To the S.I this step of industry harnessing and taking over geological process from the earth is the vital step in the instigation of a new era of Hyper-capital, stating that:

“When fuel derived from new algae becomes cheaper than fuel derived from ancient algae, the Blue Economy will begin, and it will fuel itself not with the carbon stored in the ground but with the carbon stored in the atmosphere and oceans. The Blue economy will be based on nature’s bioeconomy…”[11]

 The economies of the earth are therein separated into a dialectic of that which is under the ground (Old Capital, a presumed geo-economy, reliant on the extraction of existing resource) and the new ‘Blue’ Bio-economy of nature (that which is above ground, in the ocean and atmosphere, capable of infinite growth). The S.I tap in to a dream of scarcity overcome, the echoes of the ancient belief that precious metals would regrow if allowed time,[12] and a reversal of the folkloric trope that time passes more slowly under the ground and in the mines.[13] Instead time and money can move quicker above ground – geological time is just too slow for the hyper-growth required by accelerated machinic capital.

The untimely hydrocarbons will take on true hyperstional agency, and in the terms defined by the CCRU:

“manufacture realities for themselves: realities whose potency often depends upon the stupefaction, subjugation and enslavement of populations, and whose existence is in conflict with other ‘reality programs’”

– the other ‘reality programs’ in this instance being the time-bound old geo-economy. In turn, Humanity will be freed from the control of the ‘One God Universe’/Cathedral, ordinarily bound by stratified geological time “by formatting the most basic biological processes of the organism in terms of temporality, Control ensures that all human experience is of–and in-time.”[14]

This process echoes Reza Negarestani’s conception of Oil as a ‘narrative lube’ helping to speed along techno-capitalism. Negarestani sees Oil as “an autonomous chemical weapon belonging to earth as both sentient entity and an event,”[15] – the monster waiting to be unleashed from below the desert to pray upon and consume mankind, and therefore “in the wake of oil as an autonomous terrestrial conspirator, capitalism is not a human symptom but rather a planetary inevitability. In other words, Capitalism was here even before human existence, waiting for a host.”[16] The act of accelerated catagenesis is the demon of capital willingly summoned from above ground. In the terms of hyperstition proposed by the CCRU wherein “fiction is not opposed to the real. Rather it is understood to be composed of fictions,”[17] accelerated ‘BioCrude’ is the narrative lube required to ease Seasteading and competitive governance into existence.

[Next Time: Weaponised Simulacra]

[1] Seasteading, “Feed The Hungry” released January 6, 2014, video, 4:12,

[2] Emma Lazarus “The New Collosus”, 1883
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46550/the-new-colossus

[3] BBC, “Does humanity’s future lie out at sea?” released April 5, 2018, video, 1:28,
https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/does-humanitys-future-lie-out-at-sea/p0639hl5?playlist=newtopias

[4] “Algaculture,” Simona, accessed April 30, 2018
http://www.simona.de/en/applications/chemical-process-industry/algaculture/

[5] Ayhan Demirbas, “Use of algae as biofuel sources,” Energy Conversion and Management vol.51 (2010) pp.2738-2749

[6] TED, “Jonathan Trent: Energy from Floating Algae Pods,” released September 28, 2012, video, 2:30, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-HE4Hfa-OY

[7] Christopher Helman “Green Oil: Scientists Turn Algae Into Petroleum In 30 Minutes,” Forbes, last modified December 23, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/12/23/green-oil-scientists-turn-algae-into-petroleum-in-30-minutes/

[8] “Advanced Biofuels,” ExxonMobil, accessed 30 April, 201,8 http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/energy/research-and-development/advanced-biofuels/advanced-biofuels-overview

[9] Christopher Helman “Green Oil: Scientists Turn Algae Into Petroleum In 30 Minutes,” Forbes, last modified December 23, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/12/23/green-oil-scientists-turn-algae-into-petroleum-in-30-minutes/

[10] Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley (New York, New York: Viking Press, 1977), 240

[11] Seasteading, “Feed The Hungry” released January 6, 2014, video, 4:12,

[12] Theodore Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and Its Institutions, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990), 29

[13] Esther Leslie, Synthetic Worlds, Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry, (London: Reaktion Books, 2005), 44

[14] CCRU, “Lemurian Time War” in CCRU Writings 1997-2003, (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017), 43

[15] Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia, complicity with anonymous materials (Melbourne: re.press) 43

[16] Ibid.

[17] CCRU, CCRU Writings 1997-2003, p.35

In the Days of the Seasteaders, or, How the Extropian Detritivores Broke Capitalism

[This essay was written in March/April 2018 as part of the Geopoetics seminar at Goldsmiths College, I have decided to serialise it in 6 parts and post it here weekly so that it can live on and maybe be useful to someone, rather than sitting on a USB stick.

Some of the details around Seasteading are now out of date – please bear the date of writing in mind, also some footnotes might lead through to broken links, apologies.

I may at some point get round to writing an addendum to this essay that takes into consideration recent developments, in the meantime I suggest having a look at Xenogothic’s recent posts on the subject for more up-to-date and thorough reading.]

~

 At that time the Seasteaders were still relying on Algaculture to bring in credits. They would grow the Microalgae in these bioreactor pouches floating three deep in the brine – harvesting it wild out of the sea was too risky, not enough control over the quality of the bloom. Why not just grow it indoors? Something to do with the motion of the sea and the waves makes it grow better, its got some memories, needs to be finessed. Every ‘stead had its own farm attached but maybe a mile or two away from the main platforms, that’s where the working flesh lived.

 At first the workers flowed in just the way they said they would, the displaced and the bored – promise of a new life on the Blue Frontier, plenty of work to do, wages better than what they could make back home too. The workers were technically allowed onto the main ‘stead, they could eat in the same chain outlets, shop in the same malls, and the execs would smile in their faces too, wide liberal smiles. But the barriers were always there, came down to one thing – cryptocreds – if you had some jangling around on your chip then the smiles got wider…

 ~
The Seasteading Institute is a US based non-profit organisation, established in 2008 by Patri Friedman and Wayne Gramlich with the aim of “establish[ing] permanent, autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse social, political, and legal systems.”[1] The Institute’s vision is of a future in which citizens can choose where they live and what form of governance they wish to live under. To the Seasteading Institute (S.I), the world’s oceans represent a vast prospect of under-utilised space, where potential colonists, or ‘Sea-steaders’ – a term harking back to the ‘Manifest Destiny’ of the American homestead frontiersman – will be able to start anew and build micro-nations free from the stalemates and compromise inherent to democratic government.

mini-living-seasteading-institute_dezeen_2364_col_0Fig.1, Seastead Concept Design, Seasteading Institute, (source: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/07/24/seasteading-institute-floating-cities-designed-for-unregulated-innovation-architecture-mini-living-initiative/)

The S.I envision seasteads as floating sovereign states, based around oil rig-like modular platforms or free floating vessels able to coalesce in communities of the politically like-minded, or disperse when opinions diverge. The project of the S.I draws upon recent advances in additive construction, nanochemistry and Silicon Valley information technologies to propose a vision that owes much to science fiction, describing an environmentally aware, carbon neutral utopia of

seashell cities grown organically using 3D printed Bio-rock … seascrapers will produce a superabundance of electricity, through the magic of ocean thermal energy conversion … ocean gardens will sprout in a fountain of life. Vast seaweed farms will absorb megatons of carbonic acid, reducing ocean acidity to feed the world with environmentally restorative food.[2]

The S.I’s vision of the isolated island as a cradle for a new age of mankind is by no means a novel ambition, it is merely the latest expression of the Atlantean/Lemurian utopia expressed throughout European literary history, from Plato’s Timaeus in which Atlantis is the birthplace of the ‘finest and best of all races of mankind’[3] through the Theosophists and their lost Atlantean and Lemurian races as antecedents of humanity.[4] Multiple projects throughout the 20th century attempted to achieve similar outcomes including Marshall Savage’s The Millenial Project,[5] The 1972 Republic of Minerva[6] and The Freedom Ship[7], most of which failed due to disputes over territory with existing governments or lack of financial backing.

The project of the S.I however is not so much about a wish to live independently on the sea, as a desire to reach certain political objectives which could have a societal effect beyond the seastead. The Seasteaders’ project also contains an unwillingness to accept the unifying temporal forces encoded within democratic neoliberalism, and an attempt to create multiplicities and temporal folds that are hyperstitional in nature. The project exists within a wider continuum stretching back through industrialised Capitalism that incorporates both microscopic forms of life and the Geo-tectonic landscape. This relationship can be traced through a Capitalist subculture with its origins in the European Romantic tradition through to the present moment of Silicon Valley Transhumanist Libertarianism.

~ ~

 The lab would be on the main part of the ‘stead, run by, say Pfizer, Exxon, Unilever, whoever, yeah all the big Pharma and Nutri states got in on Algae in a big way. Patented some synthesised algaenate dopamines to get the Flesh hooked, trickle them out at the right price, invent some ailments – sealegs in a pill. The processing would happen there on the ‘stead, sieve it, filter out the oil and then press and dry whatever was left, mostly for the newfoods, tasty treats for the flesh and animal feed. Fresh water was in short supply on land so anything grown in brine was a lot cheaper. All that stuff was just pocket money really though, the oil was the main thing, would go through some process and come out really quickly as sticky brown goop, same stuff they used to drill for, even further back in time. Refine it, get your gasoline, your ethanol. Get your rocket fuel, that’s the main one – thats where they made most of the credits because things were hotting up in that area at the same time.

~ ~

Towards a Cambrian Explosion in Government

Co-founder and current chair of trustees of the Seasteading Institute Patri Friedman is a writer, political activist[8] and grandson of Milton Friedman – from whom his principles of Freedom of Choice and Competition have been genetically inherited. Patri started the S.I in his spare time while working as a software engineer at Google, after growing disenfranchised with the efforts of the Libertarian party to effect change through democratic politics.[9] In an essay for Cato Unbound, the journal of the Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute in 2009, Friedman wrote that:

Government is just another industry, where countries offer services to citizens, but it has some unfortunate features. It is a geographically segmented monopoly, and since all land is taken, the industry has an enormous barrier to entry. To start a new government you have to beat an old one, which means winning a war, an election, or a revolution. And it has very high customer lock-in: there are barriers to emigration and immigration, and switching countries involves both high financial and emotional costs. These characteristics result in a horribly uncompetitive industry, so it is no surprise that existing firms tend to exploit customers instead of innovating to attract them.[10]

The Seasteading institute was Friedman’s answer to these issues of ‘customer lock-in’, to create a technological and legal model that would “dramatically lower the barrier to entry for forming a new government,”[11] – a model of ‘competitive governance’, enabling proliferation of ‘startup societies’. Friedman’s favourite phrase is “a Cambrian explosion in forms of government,”[12] invoking the collision of enlightenment-era Geology, Darwinian natural selection and classical Liberalism. This new Cambrian explosion will be an attempt to avoid societal recapitulationism – if we could see the bones of these new states as they grow their second trimester is a set of TED talk powerpoint slides, infographics and 3D rendered models of repurposed oil platforms that attempt to shun the pre-trodden evolutionary stages of historic democratic states.

The S.I do not however proscribe which forms of governance they envision thriving on water – the PR image is of an enabling Liberal platform that will allow the disenfranchised to “try new ways of living together which they believe will make them happier. Some seasteads might want to try a universal basic income, while others might prefer free market solutions.”[13] However, the most vocal supporters of the platform thus far have certainly come from the right of the political spectrum – the S.I has received investment of $1.7million to date from Republican-Libertarian Peter Thiel.[14] The Seasteaders’ project resonates clearly with Thiel’s motivations as a co-founder of PayPal, where he sought “the creation of a new world currency, free from all government control and dilution — the end of monetary sovereignty.”[15]

The Seasteading project has entered the Overton window of the alt-right/Neo-Conservative/ Neo-Reactionary millieu, meeting with equal degrees of support and derision from Mencius Moldbug[16]. The S.I project comes close to Moldbug’s proposed ideal model of government – Neo-Cameralism,[17] whereby the state would take the form of a company with an appointed CEO or as leader (possibly human or an Artificial Intelligence), and the country become the property of that company. While this notion may seem overtly dystopian in a world where the value of Democracy often is considered unshakeable, Moldbug’s Neocameralism has garnered support from some mainstream political influencers, including the director of think tank The Adam Smith Institute – architects of successive UK neoliberal governments’ privatization programmes from the 1980s onwards.[18]

Seasteading also enters into the millieu of Nick Land’s NRx-oriented Xenosystems blog, alongside other models of competitive governance such as Paul Romer’s ‘Charter Cities’[19] which seek to replicate the success of capitalist free states such Hong Kong and Singapore. Land’s interest in these models is the product of a more thanatoid impulse than Moldbug however, with competitive governance ultimately seen as a useful technology to stimulate the inhuman intelligence of capitalism as a machinic entity, leading to Land’s future vision of “nanotechnological apocalypse in which the entire terrestrial surface is reprocessed into seething slime…humanity melting down into an inorganic molecular morass.”[20]

In an echo of Friedman’s ‘Cambrian explosion in Governments’, Simon O’Sullivan identifies Lands project as

A future vision of a capitalism that has begun re-engineering its very origins…[NRx] is concerned with these future feedback circuits, but also…more retroactive trajectories. It is, to quote Land from his blog, a ‘time-twisted vector that spirals forwards into the past, and backwards into the future’, a project in which the contemporary moment – dominated by the democratic Cathedral – is torn apart by other forces.[21]

To the writers of NRx, Seasteading becomes a literal, spatial iteration of the politics of ‘exit over voice’ – that is better to walk away from an unpalatable political climate than try to effect change through democratic voice. While the politics of the S.I and sentiments of Patri Friedman in particular fall wholly within the remit of NRx, the S.I have sought to publicly distance themselves from the movement. Friedman called for a “more politically correct dark enlightenment”[22] and took issue with Moldbug’s tactics which often involve personal attacks upon those he disagrees with.[23] NRx’s ‘Human Biological Diversity’ rhetoric is ultimately too tinged with controversy for the S.I to be associated with whilst it attempts to achieve mainstream political legitimation, and in the eyes of NRx, the S.I is seen as too egalitarian, perhaps too beholden to the Neoliberal ‘Cathedral’, its designs too far-fetched or impractical to bear imminent results.

At best Seasteading provides the NRx writers with a useful thought experiment – an island as the ‘philosophically normal’ deserted space imagined by Gilles Deleuze in his 1953 essay Desert Islands. In the opposition of islands set up by Deleuze it is not immediately apparent where the Seastead would fit – it is neither a Continental island, ‘born of disarticulation’, nor is it truly an Oceanic or originary island born from ‘movement from the lowest depths’.[24] In Deleuze’s conception the island itself can never truly be deserted, instead the island has

…pushed its desert outside. What is deserted is the ocean around it … from the deserted island it is not creation but re-creation, not the beginning but a re-beginning that takes place. The deserted island is the origin, but a second origin. From it everything begins anew.[25]

It is this potential of the enclosing desert as a site for rebirth that draws the seasteaders out into the open ocean. The individual seastead is not a fixed prospect – it would never have been discovered in deserted form, but the political model it harbours may be deserted at any time, sustaining the perennial threat of ideological erosion, resulting in a dispersal of sub-continents and sub-ideologies.

[Next time: Synthesised Hydrocarbons]

Footnotes:

[1] “Introducing the Seasteading Institute”, Seasteading Institute, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.seasteading.org/2008/04/introducing-the-seasteading-institute/

[2] BBC, “Does humanity’s future lie out at sea?” released April 5, 2018, video, 0:11,
https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/does-humanitys-future-lie-out-at-sea/p0639hl5?playlist=newtopias

[3] Plato, Timaeus, trans. Donald J. Zeyl (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Hackett Classics, 2000), 1231

[4] William Scott-Elliott, The Story of Atlantis & The Lost Lemuria, (London: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1896) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21796/21796-h/21796-h.htm

[5] Marshall Savage, The Millennial Project, (Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown & Company, 1992)

[6] Doug Jenkins, “A true record of the Minerva Reef saga of 1972 and the part played by the Tongan Shipping Company Vessel Olovaha”, accessed April 30, 2018, http://www.queenoftheisles.com/HTML/Republic%20of%20Minerva.html

[7] “The City at Sea”, Freedom Ship International, accessed April 30, 2018, http://freedomship.com/

[8] “Patri’s World”, Patri Friedman, accessed April 30, 2018, http://patrifriedman.com/

[9] Patri Friedman, “Beyond Folk Activism,” Cato Unbound, last modified April 6, 2009 https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/06/patri-friedman/beyond-folk-activism

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “About,” A Thousand Nations, accessed April 30, 2018 https://athousandnations.com/about/

[13] “Frequently Asked Questions”, The Seasteading Institute, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.seasteading.org/frequently-asked-questions/

[14] “Peter Thiel on Trump, Seasteading and making futures more like the Jetsons or Star Trek”, Next Big Future, accessed April 30, 2018 https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/peter-thiel-on-trump-seasteading-and.html

[15] Peter Thiel, “The Education of a Libertarian,” Cato Unbound, last modified April 13, 2009 https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian

[16] Mencius Moldbug, “Seasteading, without that warm glow”, Unqualified Reservations, last modified September 24, 2009 http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/seasteading-without-that-warm-glow.html

[17] Mencius Moldbug, “Neocameralism and the escalator of massarchy”, Unqualified Reservations, last modified December 20, 2007 http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/neocameralism-and-escalator-of.html

[18] Josephine Armistead, “The Silicon Ideology,” last modified May 18, 2016, p.18, https://archive.org/stream/the-silicon-ideology#page/n0/mode/2up/search/adam+smith

[19] “Charter Cities,” Paul Romer, accessed April 30, 2018, https://paulromer.net/tag/charter-cities/

[20] Nick Land, “Odds and Ends: On Ultimate Risk,” Collapse no.8 (2014), p.379

[21] Simon O’Sullivan “Accelerationism, Hyperstition and Myth-Science,” Cyclops Journal no.2 (2017) pp.26-7

[22] Patri Friedman “Status Update, 26 January 2014”, Facebook, last modified 26 January 2014,

[23] “Conference Schedule, Ground Rules, The Market For Ideas, and Reality,” The Seasteading Institute, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.seasteading.org/2009/09/conference-schedule-ground-rules-the-market-for-ideas-and-reality/

[24] Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974 trans. Michael Taormina (Los Angeles, California: Semiotext(e), 2004), 9

[25] Ibid p.11

 

Assessment of the Sentient

The sentient’s surface is covered by 71 percent liquid water. The water is a chemical compound of two hydrogen molecules and one water molecule, supplemented as a solution with dissolved chloride and sodium. The water is believed to originate in the organism’s process of formation where it is expelled onto the surface – these birthing waters remain as part of the main body, consumed and excreted cyclically throughout the creature’s life cycle as a pseudo-component of the entity.

The whole sentient comprises the main bodily mass and a much smaller parasitic body (possibly its offspring) that remains in close proximity but never in contact with the parent. This smaller body is more or less totally dry – this could be the origin point of the birth waters, or the water may be transferred totally from the larger to smaller body at point of death (termination is yet to be observed or recorded).   

The consciousness is able to manipulate its liquid surface into contours and smooth planes at will in response to external stimuli, possibly as a defence mechanism or camouflaging technique, achieved through subcutaneous manipulation and the interplay between the larger and smaller bodies. Water is therefore the sentient’s primary method of expression, a kind of voice box with which it gargles, also permitting it a primitive form of faciality.

By observing the movements and impulses of the sentient we have been able to discern its lexicon, which seems primarily directed toward the myriad micro-organisms that dwell on its surface. It is our belief that the sentient attempts to manipulate this microbiome with the ultimate aim of shedding the excess eukaryotes into the atmosphere. The techniques utilised to these ends are nuanced and nefarious, and it is the belief of this organisation that the entity is not to be trusted, and should be approached with extreme caution – particularly around the fluid regions of the surface.

Borborygmus

Sound echoes out
Sound echoes back

Building up image
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The terrain is mapped incrementally
One line at a time
Tentative measurements
Interior space envisioned –
visioned in light, full colour spectrum
Organs ham coloured.

Actually all dark.
Creases, folds, support structures
(Dance floor Sea floor Pelvic floor)
Dark with flashes of light
Down the tunnel
Unless something goes wrong
And the flap has to be lifted

Envisioned through sound
And creaking
Shifting movements
Borborygmus

The water is cloudy with silt and muck
You reach in a hand, lying down on the grassy bank
Your shirt sleeve is rolled up high as it will go
Near the shoulder
Tentative
Tentative
At first sloshing around, free floating
Your fingers graze the bottom
It is soft
Then it moves.