Facebook top Why we may soon live in corporate island nations

Facebook top Why we may soon live in corporate island nations

Gregory Thomas August 29, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019 11:16 a.m. Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn Reddit Pinterest Comments Ephemerisle founder Patri FriedmanPhoto: Courtesy Patri Friedman

At a time when the Amazon rainforest is getting out of control, US political polarization is irreparable, technological development seems to be exploding, and climate change is an existential threat to our species, and it's hard not to speculate. humanity has soon undergone major changes. Maybe it's a zombie apocalypse, maybe a techno-utopia. Who to tell?

Patri Friedman has an idea. He has worked on a radical vision of the future of human civilization for more than two decades. The self-described anarchic capital who lives in the mountains above Los Gatos believes that some of us may soon live in a permanent offshore island nation, perhaps in those funded by large-scale FAANG companies.

I certainly see that at some point, corporate countries are doing well, and I know some people find it awful, Friedman said. I have such a fence question as to whether I like to live in an Apple top or a Google top, definitely not a Facebook top or a Netflix top.

As Friedman sees it, 21st century is fragmented sovereignty. Both tired and fearless countries around the world have begun to think about the possibility of creating new jurisdictions aimed at concealing rules and regulations. Sometimes it is an opportunity to rise from sea level, and other times to create economic opportunities.

Friedmann is interested in experimenting with sewing with new management structures. Assuming the construction of autonomous offshore territories in the ocean, this concept will make it possible to form new communities that will draw up their own charter. Future citizens would be able to choose which island country they prefer.

Friedman argues that, although this is not yet the practice, there is a worldwide interest in offering pockets. To implement this idea, a former Google engineer founded the Sansteading Institute in San Francisco in 2008, providing $ 500,000 to PayPal founder Peter Thiel. The Institute is a non-profit organization that consults with groups and countries around the world on proposals to design special zones to test new forms of governance.

To test his enduring hypothesis, Friedman founded an event in 2009 called Ephemerisle. The annual floating boat and ferry festival takes hundreds of people to the far estuary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta every summer. They hang out, party and bustle in small-scale world construction. Over the years, it has drawn on technology lighting, including Thiel and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Today, Friedman sits on the board of the Seasteading Institute and consults on sea science pilot projects wherever they occur. He said it was not long before countries would jump to the idea.

What we saw today, 2019, was well into the 21st century, and countries understand that such innovations and experiments are needed to succeed, Friedman says. So I give up my job at Google and work full time because of these projects because of the growing interest from countries.

I recently called Friedman over the phone to discuss the development of the demolition, his current work, and the development of Ephemerisle. The interview is transcribed below, edited for length and clarity. Listen to the Wild West podcast for the whole conversation.

Chronicle of San Francisco: I know you're currently working on a top-secret project that you can't discuss in detail, but can you give me a broad overview?

Friedman: What I'm working on right now is the idea of ​​working with governments to designate an ocean or land area with other laws that are somewhat different. And then a group of people, a community or a company creates a floating or land-based real estate development where people would move if they wanted better laws. So I consult with groups around the world doing this.

What are the benefits to the government of creating a new zone where people would live outside that government's control? How does this relationship work?

You can look at, for example, China's special economic zones or Dubai. The reason they do this is that it seems completely natural to me as a programmer. If I was on Google, if you don’t plan to make changes to Google’s web server, it won’t do it for everyone at once. You need to test it, and then maybe put one in a million users online, and then finally scale up and test one in a thousand users.

Another reason is corruption. It is really difficult to eradicate the culture of corruption. If you start on empty land and have a different group of people: laws, courts and the police are starting a new business, then the idea is to create a bubble of honest courts and non-corrupt officials, even in a corrupt country. Perhaps it would be easier to reform the country by creating these bubbles by moving parts of the country into them, instead of trying to change the culture of the whole country.

This is about temptation. It is a utopian idea that we could do better for society if we just had a clean slate to start over. Why should we believe we can do it better than we do now?

I think some kind of skepticism is great, and it really depends on what the goal is. I am very confident that we can make laws and governments better. But at the same time, I would like to say that these laws and governments would have many of the same problems as they do today.

As a programmer, we know that you can periodically make things better. Plus, you can make things a lot better by occasionally completely rewriting, if possible, simply by patching existing code that uses existing libraries.

So the idea that if we can copy the best-practice legal systems from around the world, and if we can make and test some of the purely formal rewrites that people choose and are initially only part of the law, we can definitely improve the progress of legal development. But never shy away from the major challenges and trade-offs that happen in any government.

It started with my interest in new nations and better systems of government, starting around 2000. Ephermerisle was actually part of early history, as I went to Burning Man and was impressed by how much energy people put into construction. own infrastructure and at the same time sad that it was all poured into a temporary, which was all demolished.

When I thought about the question of how you start new countries, I tied it together and thought that maybe you could start this festival where people went by boat to international waters and actually spent the week contracted, living under a different legal system.

And then, at the end of 2007, we were united by some people who worked for Peter Thiel, and he was really excited about the idea and made me a half-million-dollar donation in April 2008 to find a nonprofit. >

The Ephemeral is part of the earliest genesis of fermentation, the idea is, how can we create new countries? Well, we need to offer people to try new legal systems, and it may be easier to do it weekly than to move full-time.

I imagined the idea of ​​people gathering in international waters, forming different islands and signing agreements on what the legal system would be like for a week. But the ocean is rough and expensive, and ... there are no convenient international bodies of water nearby like Florida. So we said it's much easier to start nearby, but it's connected to the ocean.

A floating human island called Elysium in Ephemeris in 2019. The event will take place in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Photo: Gregory Thomas / San Francisco Chronicle

We chose the Sacramento delta. This is an area of ​​the Gulf region that many people do not know about. It's almost like a Louisiana Gulf dragon. We said everything was going to go there and make an island. We hired someone named Chicken John, an early Burner who did art raft projects. We rented all the houseboats out of the nearby Paradise Point marina and spent days left drilling and putting things together on art projects and platforms.

We could not anchor platforms and boats. Eventually we had to get ashore, which wasn't perfect. But again, the whole idea here is to design a learning arc.

So it was the first year. It was just very incredible. People came from all over the world. There were probably 100-150 of us just to play this idea of ​​rules and art on the water. There were enough of us to make the islands different. Instead of new laws, the focus was much more on simply being able to swim and eating and sleeping. But everyone came together in a way around the ideas.

(The first of the two axes) is the idea that different islands have different rules and cultures, that everyone can set up their own island and choose who unites them, and that we have real diversity. It went very well. There's the main island, Elysium, which is quite large and has a bunch of rules, and there are lots and lots of small islands.

The second axis is the move towards this vision, which aims to test new laws in a matter of weeks as far as possible from the current legal environment, if this world, the high seas, can be reached. Part of the Sacramento delta idea is its physical connection to the ocean. We thought we were learning to respond well to delta boating, then maybe go to the Sacramento River, then go to the bay ... and then go well to the open sea, or Half Moon Bay or the Bridge behind Golden Gate. Then find a reef or other protected place in international waters and keep the real offshore Ephemerisle there.

It's good on this axis, I think people have been great at assembling ships and platforms and have gained experience (but) the festival hasn't moved from its original location in ten years. So it does not show any signs of moving towards greater legal autonomy.

When I visited Ephemerisles this summer, I noticed one thing, an ongoing process where people were negotiating and making compromises with each other. You told me that the rules apply to Ephemerisle, as art is to a burning man. What did you mean by that?

Negotiations and compromises, and the constant debate about what the rules should be and, most importantly, that different rules apply in different places, are absolutely critical in the whole philosophy of competing governments. This is an attractive nature. And as far as this is happening in the Ephemeris, this vision has been realized. I find this very exciting.

What I mean by the rules is Ephemeris, because art is Burning Man, that Ephemeris is not just a burning man on the water. It is about playing with rules and culture, and having a number of sets of rules that will hopefully be very different from each other, and experiences that help to create rules and experience different rules and move to these little floating villages that are very different during the week. The whole point of sewing is that we need more diversity and experimentation with rules.

I personally come from the political philosophy of anarcho-capitalism that my father helped create. People sometimes say, oh, you're an anarchist. This must mean that you do not want any rules or kopecks. In fact, it is just the opposite. We think that rules are so important that instead of having just one set of rules that everyone lives under, we think it is critical to have a bunch of different sets of rules that have different pros and cons and that support different virtues.

For me, hell is the government of one world. No matter what the laws are, even if it is closest to what everyone in the world chooses for me together, it's hell because it's vulnerable. If everyone does things the same way, then one mistake, one weakness and everyone loses. What is most important to me is to see many different areas that are truly different. This is the spirit of ephemeris.

This question is difficult to answer briefly because it seems to me that the rules of the United States are so far from my ideal that I do not want to choose just one thing.

This is one where I often try to keep things at the meta level by sewing. We do not support a certain political system or certain rules, because that could lead people away. And the big idea is not whether it is a utopia or whether there is a set of rules that we think everyone should follow. The whole idea is that we need to play more with the rules. Rules should be part of the critical infrastructure of our world.

It's like code. You can copy and remix laws and move them from one place to another in a way you can't easily do with buildings, cities, and highways. However, we are not doing that. We are simply using our own rules developed on the ground, and we have terrible decision-making mechanisms, such as democracy in America, where the government gathers a few dozen bits of information about my preferences from me every few years. This is terrible. We now have half a century worth of Nobel Prize-winning economists in how democracy tends to develop laws that favor special interests for the masses, even though this is contrary to the philosophy it establishes.

I think meta-rules are so bad that it seems to me that much of the content of the laws is bad. Although I fear British common law and say that in these hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations, these general ideas and precedents for courts and treaties are, in my view, quite good.

There is a democratic analogy here, which is the indigenous community, which uses some decision-making process in cooperation to create the initial rules.

Then it is a kind of start-up model, which is that a small group of founders come together and their management is similar to a prototype or a company's mission or initial product, which is what they intend to rebuild.

And then there's the Special Economic Zone model, where you have a developer who distributes things to a business that is going to create this real estate project. So this is a process where the developer is trying to make money and negotiates with the government and with the anchor tenants.

In my opinion, sovereignty will fragment in the 21st century and become a commodity. Just look at the big internet companies, for example. They have considerable power over information that a sovereign would normally have possessed, precisely as a result of technological change.

I see that this makes the system more flexible, instead of dividing everything geographically into 150 units with those rigid laws that don't learn enough from each other and aren't tested. I just want to see a world more like software, where people regularly try to change and rewrite and copy new things and use new language and new modules. But then, for security reasons, they try them on a small scale, allowing people to use them voluntarily and only increasing them because they prove to be safe. I think it is absolutely sustainable and scalable.

What you're saying is that five or six years from now, when we see a press release saying that Mark Zuckerberg has launched a large platform off the Pacific coast as a private retreat center for Facebook's biggest shareholders, we shouldn't be surprised.

I certainly think that in the future there will be big companies that actually do them. I certainly see that at some point corporate countries are doing well, and I know that some people are so horrible. I have such a fence question as to whether I like to live in an Apple top or a Google top, definitely not a Facebook top or a Netflix top.

But the idea is that these are alternatives to go where you want, and if you don't like it, don't go there. It is the real core of our philosophy that these things should be selective. It is wrong to change the government of the people. But it is also very bad if there are no new governments to go to.

Gregory Thomas is the editor of Chronicle Lifestyle and Outdoors, focusing on California activities and destinations. He also hosts a Wild West podcast where he gets interviews with environmental thinkers and adventure athletes (order here). Prior to that, he was a senior editor at Outside magazine in New Mexico, where he edited news, company stories, and features in print and online. He worked in tech-media startups, advertised in major metro newspapers, wrote newspapers for national magazines and did his part in internships. He has a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and is on Twitter at @GregRThomas.

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