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Incrementalism as a strategy means trying to achieve your goal by means of small steps. The overall scale of a seastead design influences many aspects, among which are financial, engineering and societal.

  • Financial: The most direct aspect in which scale manifests itself is the financial. All proven concepts for living out on the ocean are large structures. From oil platforms to cruise ships, they are all huge, with corresponding price-tags of a hundred million dollars and upwards. (link to list of examples: cruise ship, residensea, flotel, clubstead). These capital costs clash with the notion of small incremental steps. Ideally, the sea would be directly competitive with land, where a single individual house could be bought at a similar price as on land.
  • Engineering: Big structures may have a reasonable price per unit floor area, but we would rather start with a small scale version of such a concept. Can we scale down these concepts? The answer seems to be no: their size is a feature of their design. Scale down a cruise ship, and you get a small boat. Being on a small boat on the open ocean only works when the weather plays nice. Scale down a platform with a given clearance from the waves, and it will no longer have said clearance from the waves. Scale down a spar that extends far into the water undisturbed by waves, and you have a structure that is right in the middle of the wave action. When considering any type of structure with the overall dimensions of a house, there are some fundamental issues with making it a nice place to live on, out on the ocean. Big waves are big, and small seasteads are small. If your seastead is small relative to a big wave, the wave is going to have its way with it.
  • Socio-political: Dynamic geography rests on the premise of being able to move your house. If your house/apartment is locked into a big structure, your physical location relative to your direct neighbors is fixed. You still get dynamic geography on the scale of the vessel you are on, but ideally, we would like to see DG enabled on as fine-grained a scale as possible. When dealing with a multi-hundred million dollar vessel, this will require pooling a large amount of money, which raises all kinds of questions. What will the position of the investor be within this community? Such a model is perfectly compatible with some models of anarcho-capitalism, such as Heathian anarchism, but essentially rules out bottom-up grassroots community building.

In conclusion: there are compelling reasons to aim for a small scale incremental seastead design; it is easier to get off the ground, and it leaves more options open as far as socio-political aspects are concerned. On the other hand, it increases the engineering difficulty. All proven concepts for living on the ocean are squarely in the large scale regime; not only does that imply venturing into uncharted terrain; theoretical arguments insist that it is hard, if not impossible to design small scale structures, that will meet comfort requirements out in the open ocean.

While it might not be technically/financially possible to attain the ideal of the single-family seastead, investigating how closely it can be approximated is still worthwhile.