Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Of sovereignty and seasteading

There has been a lot of talk of 'sovereignty' of late:
Letters: The Supreme Court forces Parliament to exercise the sovereignty it surrendered in 1973 - Telegraph
The Supreme Court ruling, like the Brexit vote, has defended the sovereignty of parliament | Coffee House
You can have your sovereignty back, but only if you do what I say | The Independent

You might like to try setting up your own bit of space:
Futures Forum: P2P: working beyond the system
Futures Forum: Special development zones for East Devon...?

Or you might even want to try setting up your own sovereign state:
The Seasteading Institute | Opening humanity's next frontier
Seasteading - Wikipedia
Seasteading: living in international waters indefinitely

And it's already happening - although not everyone's happy:

Seasteading: tech leaders' plans for floating city trouble French Polynesians

As a Peter Thiel-funded group moves to build a colony in a local lagoon, residents fear wealthy Americans just want to use their home to avoid taxes

Monday 2 January 2017 
 in San Francisco

Afuturistic plan to build a floating techno-libertarian city in a French Polynesian lagoon has left some local residents worried they could be the next unsuspecting inhabitants of a peaceful planet in a science-fiction movie.
“It reminds me of the innocent Ewoks of the moon of Endor who saw in the Galactic Empire a providential manna,” said Tahitian TV host Alexandre Taliercio. “They let them build what they wanted on earth and in orbit, but that’s not to say that the Empire shared the blueprints of the Death Star with them.”
The proposal for a seastead – an autonomous oceanic colony; think homesteading, but wetter - took a significant step on Christmas Day, when a Silicon Valley group announced it had reached an agreement with the French Polynesian government, with officials poised to explore serving as the group’s host.

Seasteading: tech leaders' plans for floating city trouble French Polynesians | Technology | The Guardian

Or for a different perspective from the Foundation for Economic Education:

Techno-optimists and the Search for the Ultimate Exit

More Silicon Valley, less Washington, DC
The New Yorker, that bastion of capitalism, recently profiled venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and gave readers a glimpse into the minds of some of Silicon Valley’s finest VCs. The author suspends most of the snark we’ve come to expect from writers in the New York salon and allows the reader be as snarky or admiring as her inclination guides.
One passage sticks out for me in particular. The author quotes a New York VC named Andy Weisman:
Silicon Valley V.C.s are all techno-optimists. They have the arrogant belief that you can take a geography and remove all obstructions and have nothing but a free flow of capital and ideas, and that it’s good, it’s very good, to creatively destroy everything that has gone before.
One might quibble with “everything.” But there is a certain Schumpeterian delight we can take in seeing cars go driverless, Uber replace taxi cartels, and bitcoin replace dollars. Whatever gets left behind is what probably should be left behind – because we want it to be. That’s us, the market, not them, the elites.
Usually we think of creative destruction as an “is.” But increasingly, Silicon Valley VCs are thinking of creative destruction as an “ought.”
Some Silicon Valley V.C.s believe that these values would have greater sway if their community left America behind: Andreessen’s nerd nation with a charter and a geographic locale. Peter Thiel favors “seasteading,” establishing floating cities in the middle of the ocean. Balaji Srinivasan, until recently a general partner at a16z and now the chairman of one of its Bitcoin companies, has called for the “ultimate exit.”
Ultimate exit.
Yep. These guys think laws and norms – our social technology – need upgrades just like our operating systems or HTML standards. And why shouldn’t they? Any protocols for human interaction should be subject to the same competitive pressures as online products, systems, and apps.
Arguing that the United States is as fossilized as Microsoft, and that the Valley has become stronger than Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., combined, Srinivasan believes that its denizens should “build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.”
Maybe this is one of those passages put in there to chum the progressive waters. On the other hand, it might also offend more patriotic sensibilities.
Indeed, some of our own readers may not appreciate the decidedly cosmopolitan approach to finding and keeping freedom. But even those readers should ask themselves: If pioneering, tech-savvy people were to create a situation somewhere on earth that was more in-line with the vision of the American Founders, wouldn’t you want that place to exist?
We’d all like that place to be the United States. But that’s rather beside the point. And it’s hard to argue against more freedom in the world.
To get a better idea about how these guys think, check out the following videos...
Here’s VC Balaji Srinivasan from a 2013 Y Combinator talk:

Here’s my own talk from the prototype Voice & Exit event in 2013, from about six months prior:

And finally, here’s Joe Quirk expressing Peter Thiel’s vision at Voice & Exit2014.

There is something happening; a change in consciousness. These techno-optimists are incredibly resourceful people. In many ways, they’re developing an ethos along with their technologies – one closer to what we are used to reading in these pages. It’s a new human algorithm based less on power and more on persuasion.
If you are fascinated by this sort of pioneering spirit, come to Voice & Exit 2015 on June 20-21. FEE’s own Jeffrey Tucker will be speaking about how technology is liberating the world

Techno-optimists and the Search for the Ultimate Exit : Anything Peaceful : Foundation for Economic Education
Quadmaran-10, Toward Solar Boats for Ocean Living | Indiegogo

Wired's Failure of Imagination on Seasteading

A former Seasteading board member responds

Wired, like other magazines catering to mainstream tastes, seems at times to be regressing toward the mean. Once the center of techno-optimism, its authors more frequently operate with a kind of conservative 20/20 hindsight — or worse, a failure of imagination.
In this hit piece on seasteading, Wired demonstrates that a couple of comments by Peter Thiel can be spun into a grand narrative about the failure of special economic zones and what he calls “techie island fantasies.” But it’s just this sort of ex post naysaying that can come back to haunt those with who take lazy shots from the peanut gallery.
I was on the board of the Seasteading Institute in its early days. Everyone knew that because of challenges on the open seas that early versions were likely to be near-shore projects. None of this is new. There may well have been excessive media hype, but as far as I know none of the figures mentioned have had a fundamental change of heart: Long term, we will emphatically need jurisdictions that allow more innovation. Everyone involved has always known that one needs a good legal system in order to innovate.
Tom W. Bell, the legal scholar who worked with Patri Friedman on his Thiel-funded initiative to create a Startup City in Honduras and whose work is a resource for the Seasteading Institute, has been proposing Ulex, an open-source legal system for these projects based on the “Restatements of Law” and other mainstream common law sources, all of which have been proven in existing real world jurisdictions. (See here for one explanation of his Ulex concept,)

Bell also works with me on an entity that may develop a Honduran LEAP Zone.
The fact that an effective legal system is essential for commerce, prosperity, and innovation is a central theme of Hayek's 1960 work The Constitution of Liberty, often regarded as a libertarian classic.
Hayek's work in turn inspired much of New Institutionalist Economics (see the work of Nobel laureates Coase, North, Williamson, Ostrom), which has shown the importance of legal frameworks in prosperity in developing nations around the world.
For all of Wired’s ridicule of deregulation, the World Bank's Doing Business index has shown that poor nations are drowning in red tape and reforms that reduce the red tape increase prosperity.
Developing nations, in order to become prosperous, will also continue to need zones with fewer obstacles to business (a case can be made that special economic zones with reduced regulation led to broader prosperity in South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, China, Ireland, Mauritius, and others). For a video interview that goes into more depth on this issue see here,

This is almost certainly the most promising path for eliminating global poverty. Note that Chinese special economic zones have resulted in a 5x increase in average urban wages in the past 20 years, improving lives for some 700 million people. This must count as one of the greatest moral achievements in human history.
Finally, these new zones and jurisdictions will offer opportunities for creating better education, healthcare, and social services. My focus and expertise is on the entrepreneurial creation of better education and community formation, in part in order to create societies in which we have much more effective solutions to social problems than is the case in existing nation states.
Mancur Olson, one of the leading political scientists of the 20th century, first called attention to the fact that concentrated interests tend to win out over diffuse interests in democratic political systems. This widely accepted dynamic leads to the fact that regulatory systems typically favor established business interests while restricting opportunities for innovative new companies.
There are interesting and sophisticated arguments about how best to create legal and regulatory systems that are not biased towards incumbents. It would have been interesting if Wired had chosen to provide an informed perspective on the challenges and opportunities associated with creating less biased regulatory systems.
The initiatives proposed by Thiel, Friedman, Srinavasan, Page, and Andreessen could have been discussed intelligently and thoughtfully. It’s a shame they were not.
Meet Michael Strong at Voice & Exit 2015.

Wired's Failure of Imagination on Seasteading : Anything Peaceful : Foundation for Economic Education

See also:
Futures Forum: Futurists >>> and the promises of science and technology >>> Part one: "Emerging from wishful thinking"
Futures Forum: Futurists >>> and the promises of science and technology >>> Part two: "Approaching exponential innovation"
Futures Forum: Futurists >>> and the promises of science and technology >>> Part three: "Our naive innovation fetish"

Futures Forum: Silicon Valley Values @ Radio 4's Analysis
Futures Forum: The promises of information technology >>> or, spinning fables of info-liberation
Futures Forum: The promises of technological innovation >>> "The rise of the techno-libertarians: the five most socially-destructive aspects of Silicon Valley"

Futures Forum: The promises of technological innovation >>> "So, if networked communication and cybernetic technologies are so potentially liberating, why are they so authoritarian in the forms they currently take?"

Futures Forum: Techno-promises unfulfilled >>> Where did the future go?
Futures Forum: "Where are the flying cars?" or, "What happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects?"


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