Avantgrid: The off-grid archipelago

Instead of ledgers, what if we work with quotas pools of energy expenditure available to individuals? “As long as you stay within your quota, it’s fine?” (Think the scarcity of water in Dune and how that shapes social interaction).
Or will it conflict here?

Great example. On Arrakis, a desert world, a culture of preserving water is self-sustaining because of its obvious group-evolutionary advantages. But on Witness the scarcity of energy is likely to be the same for all Distrikts. And I imagine energy would be mostly abundant, we are pretty close to that already. Add to solar a fusion reactor or two, you’re good to go. Or?


This archipelago was built by a megacorporation in Libria. That corporation could pull off the feat of wiring 135 islands, but the very different Avantgrid system could not pull that off - and does not want to either. What you are left with is, perhaps, something similar to the Roman aqueduct system after the fall of the Empire - without the empire to support them, they fell apart even though they had obvious use. What you are left with is 135 islands that are made for habitation, but that now lack the electricity that was supposed to make that habitation comfortable.

Some Cantons have probably built good island-wide microgrids, but others may have opted against it or simply have not had the skills, resources or manpower.

Even if the population in all cantons of Avantgrid wanted good and instant connectivity, perhaps they couldn’t easily achieve it? Even in the high-tech social-democratic internet utopia of Sweden, there are islands in the outer reaches of the Stockholm archipelago where 4G connectivity is very patchy. It’s simply hard and expensive to achieve due to the topography of an archipelago - as anyone who has taken a ferry from Stockholm to Finland can tell you.

By the way, calling @zaunders, @kristofer, @matthias, @zelf to think about this!

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You’d not need trade agreements, but districts would rely exclusively on barter for inter-district trade. For simple, practical reasons: as very different economies, they’d all have very different types of money, which would be mutually considered worthless or at least technologically incompatible (one has a blockchain, others have seashells …).

Bartering goods directly still works, but is sufficiently difficult due to the “double coincidence of wants” problem, so it would not happen too often. If you want to make it somewhat easier, you can feature the PayCoupons circular bartering algorithm perhaps :grin:


Foreign trade is closer to barter than within-national economy. Int econ distinguishes between the balance of trade, which involves the moving of physical goods, and the current account, which includes the balance of trade but also purely financial transactions like investments and remits. International trade proper is seen as unambiguously good, based on comparative advantage theory; international finance is a very different ballgame, and it makes sense that Distrikts would try to control it. For example, the Assembly does this:

If you have international trade but not international finance, you have a sort of barter, but, like Matt says, networked rather than bilateral. To get what this would look like, go back to comparative advantage. For example, the Assembly, for historical reasons, has accumulated an advantage in autonomous small-batch production, so it is a “specialized supplier” distrikt:

The Covenant is strong in very high quality products made by the monks and things that require long-term investment and thinking to achieve; and in knockoffs made by the opportunistic capitalist companies “clustered around the monasteries”.


Ok, but then we have an inconsistency with the Assembly’s origin story. When their power grid went down, those guys pulled off energy autonomy. They could also do something similar for food production, but not for advanced manufacturing (echos of the failure of backyard furnaces in Mao’s China). If the Assembly can, so can the Avantgrid. Or maybe neither can?

IMO that would depend on the nature of the social contract. The Assembly is communitarian-anarchist.

@hugi, if I may: If Avantgrid’s origin story is essentially that of island penthouses that went wrong, there is now a potential narrative building up - wealthy libertarians who are highly suspicious of large collectives, and trade and barter with Libria and the Assembly for goods and services. So, might I suggest opening with:

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” - Marcus Aurelius

Basically, these would be the people who are libertarian to a point where even Libria thinks them a bit extreme. Then you can see them moving out to this mythic, almost Randian John Galt fantasy, and then everything collapsing, and having to build from scratch. Which then ties into the general datedness of the tech they use - they’d have to buy old stock, and from that would spring the desire to deliberately keep tech at a level where different Cantons can produce it themselves; and also resentment - a powerful force - that forms the backbone for the first eco-terrorists.

And THEN you have Dirk and Leo, bringing together the eco-pragmatists on top of a system that has skewed more towards individualism reaching an equilibrium with the environment, and less towards collective action.

I think there’s value looking at two examples that may not at first glance fit together: Indonesia and the cities of Second Life. Indonesia has a population split among seventeen thousand islands, with the bulk of them on a couple of those island; to the rest, more than central governance, it’s culture that keeps the whole thing connected.

Second Life: a situation where distance and physicality and other boring meatspace constraints are of no limit whatsoever. What happens? Oddly, a lot of people go between working on cities and living on private islands. Cities:

Private - owned land:

So I reckon you might see something like that with Cantons: one or two Cantons where the number of people per sq. km is significantly higher, probably for practical reasons (tech production? art commune?) and the rest rather thinly distributed.

If you like, happy to edit and ninja stuff in. Let me know!

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Yes, I like where this is going! Please go ahead and have a pass at this.

Yes, this is good! Libertarians always face the problem of the cyberpunk city of high-tech corporations being even more controlling than a centralized government in practice. This has, in our own history, created room for the ideologies of people like Ted Kaczynski and his brand of Anarcho-primitivism. These people are also drawn to places like Slab City - full of art-loving hippies but not an Assembly-style collectivist in sight.

I will need edit access. Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t have an edit option available for your post.

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I made it at wiki post - go ahead now!

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Thanks! I took a run at all the sections. Going by @alberto’s critique, I tilted the energy frugality towards more of a product of culture than of a planned top-down economic process, as the energy cost of maintaining ledgers and accurate energy accounting would be enormous. Plus it would require enforcement to preserve its sanctity.

So instead, belief. Very powerful behavorial process, after all, one that we should not discount when looking at how people might function. We generally have very libertarian outlook, self-government, Coasian bargaining where possible. I’ve preserved the original ideas of the ledger and the reverse-currency as an intellectual exercise with theors for and against it (as we are seeing here in the comments)

On the way, Hugi, you have become an entire school of aethnography. Accidents happen, I’m afraid. Congrats, you are now not a person but an entire institution focus on energy :stuck_out_tongue:

What do you think?

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Love the new direction, feels more coherent.

Oh dear…


Great story @hugi, loved reading and enjoyed the thoughts that come through on what might autonomous seasteading futures feel like.

I hope to take some time with more specifics, but what my eye sees first with this is what would happen if Avantgrid people would live with reverence to limits and place over time.

I’m thinking of how re-indiginization into humans in ocean and islands might look.

As lots of solar energy goes inte the water, some sort of 3D ocean horticulture practices ought to be central. Lots of food, fiber, fuel and minerals might come back out of the oceans and this might be a space where growing ecosystems could also add be in service to mainland areas so that possible trade would not be to unbalanced and extractive.

Likely carbonization and pyrolysis too in order to create soil carbon on the islands and desalinate water for summer vegetative growth. Here macroalgie would be a great biomass source.

As for keeping track of energy/industry used things like electronics, metals and stone would likely be less available in that kind of bioregion so activity that requires that kind of stuff i probably going to be measured and shared…


This is super-interesting and could perhaps be a driver of Avantgrid economy. Do you have any present-day examples or science fiction references of how these ‘3D ocean horticulture practices’ might look and how they work?

I like the idea of the frugal Avantgridians doing all sorts of things with algie! I bet there are plenty of interesting and futuristic examples available. I wonder if we could connect to a researcher somewhere who would be willing to speculate with us.

Yeah, I’ve found a few that are really exciting approaches being tried.

There is what Brian Von Herzen is calling Marine Permaculture that uses, wave or solar to drive very simple pumps in order to circulate colder (more nutrient dense) water into warmer areas and growing macroalgie in that flow. these enable kelp forests in otherwise unscaffolded ocean space. Those forests become ocean ecosystems for trophic levels up to large predatory fish.

There is also what Bren Smith is doing with Green Wave which is more intentionally integrating shellfish and often works closer to shore. Some of the benefits apart from biomass production (generally I’ve seen reported that photosynthesis from macroalgie is 4x higher in kelp than in grasslands on land) is that these 3D farms are helping reduce stormsurges, protecting and cleaning water for costal ecosystems.

Yeah, I think that it would be especially useful to combine composting and biochar from algie due to its super high granularity to begin with as well as biochars possibility of acting as aeration, un-chilating heavy metals and increasing the C/N ratios that algie otherwise might suffer from.

IBI would probably have research connections for gas, oil, char conversion of algie…


I made some edits and added a few things here.
What do you think?

I was thinking of how the basically small island Cantons relate to much bigger Akur, so I went more in the direction of Akur as the semi-capital/public gathering space for Avantgrid. Balancing the centrifugal force of Cantonal independence with something that the whole Distrikt shares as a centripetal force. Basically, what enables Avantgrid to stay a Distrikt rather than breaking into many small Micro-Distrikts? Cultural and religious things clearly. What about governance? Mutual self-defense?

Is it maybe some version of “Me against my brother; me and my brother against our cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger.”? My Canton against the others; The Cantons against Akur?; The Cantons and Akur against Witness and the Harvest Division ?
I’m don’t think that’s the right level of enmity/conflict.


Aha. I like the idea of meeting islands. And this gives a nice utility boost to Akur. Also a fan of “There are rumors of other methods of ‘repaying the debt’, including groups knocking chunks of other Distrikts off the Harvest grid for a time to help balance the ledgers. This may explain why the debate about island building is generally civil and why few extreme religious sects oppose the project outright,” although - why would this keep debate civil?

Private versus public face. From the outside it looks like the island-builders aren’t eco-fanatics since they’re using lots of energy to change bits of the planet. Therefore one would think that the eco-fanatics would fight this with a burning passion.

But they don’t, they only argue with it fairly reasonably. Why?
Because the island-builders are really much more eco-fanatical than they seem. They support and work to build islands, and they support and work to knock out the Harvest grid as part of the same eco-fanatical goal - lower human impact on the planet. So instead of it being explosive - fanatics against enemies, it’s low-level argument - we’re both basically doing the same thing, slightly different methods.

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Makes sense. Plus I assume the work of supporting and maintaining themselves, and their rather decentralized way of living, requires an almost Heinlein-ish view of the world:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

— Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

… and of course one cannot do all of these things and still find the time and energy to pick arbitrary fights for minimal gains within one’s small community. +1 from me. Great ideas, @Nightface.