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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Someone Should Build a Psychedelic Resort/Lab Seastead

While taking the train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen last night, I started chatting with Ruiting about seasteading, and before long I came up with what may possibly be the wackiest workable business model ever: a seastead focused on creating and experimenting with psychedelics, with a dual business model of psychedelic tourism, and patenting of newly discovered psychedelic-related psychotherapeutics.

I'm too busy trying to beat the Hong Kong stock market, create AGI and understand human aging to actually build such a seastead, so I'm hoping that one of you readers will take up the idea -- and then invite me to build a cabana on the outskirts of the psychedelic sea village ;-) ...

A bit of a prelude...


I've been chatting online recently with various folks about relatively inexpensive ways to make seasteads -- offshore living/working facilities, in international waters, beyond the rules of any national government.

For instance, Steve Rolland pointed out to me that there are many places in the world where, just a few dozen miles offshore, the ocean is only 20-30 feet deep.   In a place like that, it wouldn't be such a big trick to put some platforms on the ocean floor and build atop them.   I started thinking about the potential for concrete monolithic domes in this sort of setting, and found some cool musings online about floating concrete spheres.  Then I found that Shaun Waterford has a fully fleshed out design for a fully undersea concrete dome home, which he would like to build as part of an undersea tourist attraction for divers, and use to beat the world record for number of consecutive days spent undersea.

So on the train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen last night, I was musing on the following question: Barring the advent of some suitably-enthusiastic rich person, how might one get $$ to build such a seastead?  What might be a reasonable business model corresponding to such an endeavor?

The idea of a novelty dive park, or a mid-sea resort, makes lots of sense.  Yet it's a lot cheaper to do that stuff right offshore, and it's not clear how much benefit one gets from putting that sort of thing further out in the ocean.   So maybe an underwater dome as part of a dive park is a good idea, but not necessarily as part of a seasteading venture.

The idea of doing out-there medical and biological research on a seastead, away from the laws of any nation, seems cost of appealing.  Yet the cost of doing research mid-sea instead of on land seems potentially high -- and again, for almost any weird research you want to do, there's probably some country that will allow it....

So I scratched my head for a while... and then inspiration hit!

A Psychedelic Resort/Lab Seastead


OK, so imagine this:

  • An offshore village of concrete dome homes, on platforms interconnected by walkways, a dozen miles off the coast of Mexico (where the ocean's only 20-30 feet deep) ...
  • Some of the domes are private residences, some are cabanas for visitors; some are labs for brewing psychedelics like LSD and DMT, some are mushroom farms; a couple are psychopharmacology research labs; one holds some sensory deprivation tanks
  • No psychedelics are sold for use outside the village (to avoid conflict with governments of conventional land-bound countries)
  • The first-phase business model is psychedelic tourism: Folks will pay to come hang out in the resort, soak up the sun, swim in the beautiful ocean, and take the locally-created psychedelics in a safe & lovely environment.  This "psychedelic tourism" will generate enough revenue to keep the village operating
  • The second-phase business model is patenting of novel psychedelic psychotherapies -- that have been found in the village's research labs to have therapeutic value.   Note that research on psychedelics has basically halted worldwide, due to legal issues.  So there is a huge amount of research into psychedelic-related psychotherapeutic substances, that is begging to be done but remains unexplored for legal reasons.   Getting the patents ensuing from this research properly tested and approved for use in major nations will take some time, but once the approval comes, this could be a multibillion dollar moneymaker, as well as a beautiful thing for humanity.

Beautiful, right?   Clearly this would be for the good of the world!  It sounds incredibly wacky, yet the business model actually makes sense.  And different countries have all sorts of different drug laws, so I don't think any of the conventional nations is really going to worry too much about a few freaks out in the ocean brewing psychedelics for consumption on their own premises.

The only catch I can think of is, piracy might be an issue -- so you'd probably need a few thugs in gunboats out there alongside all the psychedelic freaks and psychopharmacologists...

How much would it cost?  Based on a bit of preliminary investigation, I'd roughly estimate the cost of putting a 750 square foot dome home on a platform in shallow ocean water, at roughly US$500K (assuming many are being built at once).   So for an initial village of, say, 30 domes, we'd be looking at US$15M total.   That's a lot more money than I currently have, yet I also know a number of individuals who could spare that amount without missing it at all.

And, hey -- if nobody actually does it, maybe I'll use it as a premise for a novel one day, if I ever get time for fiction writing again!














75 comments:

davidsblog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
davidsblog said...

In my mind there is flashing neon signage as you approach: "Turn off, tune out & dive in"

While I don't know anybody who could spare the sort of funding necessary to accomplish a grand mission of this type... but I've still forwarded it to some sympathetic heads.

I wonder about how you could integrate some experimental robot security instead of gunboats... and perhaps some sustainable research sphere? I imagine that sustainability will be a major concern when you start to be treated like Cuba or North Korea by a nearby, zealous nation.

And with that sustainability, robo-security & research focused populace such an offshore country or corporation could conceivably outlast a lot of other debt enshrined populations by selling off your pharmatech & access to cutting edge labs of all sorts.

You might be interested in the work of Paulo Soleri w/ regard to your Concrete Dome architecture.

Sounds like a party :)

Florent Berthet said...

I'd like to know Peter Thiel's opinion on this idea. Have you talked to him about it?

Billy said...

That sounds completely awesome.

Srigok said...

What about kickstarter?

Peter Koller said...

There was a recent article about Sealand, a platform offshore the british coast that failed to become a data haven like Neal Stephenson dreams it up in Cryptonomicon:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/03/sealand-and-havenco.ars

It will fail.

Someone is going to be pissed off and usually this will happen:

If you generate tax-free income, nations always have found and always will find a way to tax it.

If you find a loophole in a law to do something otherwise illegal legally they will close it (ie declare the funding of such businesses illegal or change the international sea law).

If you want to do something like that and cannot change people's negative minds about it you need to go to a place where governments have no access to: Space. And even then you'll need a decent ballistic defence grid.

Patrick said...

Homework assignment: watch "The Boat that Rocked".

Above commenter is kind of a downer but not out of line, but it would be ok if you kept your head low and ideally made some deals with one or all of the following soveriegn entities:

State of Isreal
City-State of Singapore
State of Chile
State of California (maybe?)

Now let's consider the long list of corporate or non-profit sponsors who might be helpful in hacking any counter-moves on the mainland.

If you just never do it because you assume the assholes will always win, then they win.

Trick is, marketing the cashflow biz of tourism aggressively will bring the hammer down faster and harder, so you'd need to keep it clandestine, word-of-mouth amidst all the HNWIs who work in Bay Area tech companies and make it to Burning Man each year.

You could probably raise the 15 mil through crowdfunding, on the premise that all funders will get a free pass to the village, and/or some profit share when the whale-sourced revenues come in (from HWNIs buying a 50k package for 2 weeks or the patented biotech IPs).

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Joe Blow said...

Hey Ben, if you don't mind, I'm going to post this in a few of the anarcho-Capitalist/Voluntaryist sites I frequent. They might not like the patent part. Many of them are anti-IP.


There was something I wanted to ask you. Someone brought up AI bots on social networking sites.

Mike M, from HHHS

Benjamin Goertzel said...

Mr. Blow -- feel free to re-post, sure ;)

I'm not a big fan of the patent system in principle either, but that was just a practical suggestion regarding how to fund such a project. Getting idealistic projects off the ground in the real world always seems to involve some compromises, and I don't feel that compromise would be fatal to the soul of the project...

Anonymous said...

One of the significant legal challenges your article addresses - that of exportation (or barring it to avoid conflict with most governments harsh drug laws). Unless I missed it upon cursory glance, I did not see the reciprocal problem addressed - that of importation.

Governments already restrict precursor chemicals used to make certain drugs, making them difficult to get a hold of (import) through legal channels, and it is likely that trend will continue further as government further restricts not just more "designer" drugs, but perhaps even some of the precursor chemicals for those, as well.

Governments may become even more inclined restrict precursor chemicals if they were made aware that an offshore drug paradise came into being. This restriction could take many forms. If it wasn't a direct domestic clampdown on the chemicals (of which many businessmen would rightly object to since it disrupts legitimate access to chemicals needed for lots of other products), they could at the very least implement narrow (maybe even broad) export restrictions such that it makes it a felony to ship chemicals with the intent of supplying your offfshore drug paradise, either via direct shipping or via indirect shipping by trying to route the chemical sales through an intermediary third party.

Regards, Anthony.

Anonymous said...

Also, your dome cost estimates (for an approximate 32 foot diameter dome) are way overestimated by a factor of at least 3, unless you were planning on either a monolithic dome or a hardshell type of dome.

From both a structural as well as a financial perspective, I don't see any reason why a hardshell dome would be necessary or desirable in contrast to a traditional canvas covered dome which so long as your project is situated well out of a hurricane zone, should be suitable.

Anonymous said...

^^^ Math error on my last post. Your dome estimates are off not by a factor of about 3, but upwards of 33!

A soft shell dome of the diameter I mentioned can be purchased for approximately $15,000 - 20,000 max.

even if you went with a hardshell, you are way overestimating the costs by an astounding margin, particularly if you are going to do a lot of the labor yourself, which for this kind of project I think would be a wise cost saving measure.

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