In the latest episode of the 'What Bitcoin Did?' podcast, Balaji Srinivasan expounds on the potential perks of constructing fresh sovereign entities or network states, including those with foundations rooted in Bitcoin communities. He envisions a safe haven for individuals in volatile nations and attractive propositions for sovereign spirits yearning for "frontier" societies.
The Network State in One Thousand Words by Balaji Srinivasan
Technology has allowed us to start new companies, new communities, and new currencies. But can we use it to create new cities, or even new countries? A key concept is to go cloud first, land last — but not land never — by starting with an online community and then materializing it into the physical world. We get there in seven steps:
- Found a startup society. This is simply an online community with aspirations of something greater. Anyone can found one, just like anyone can found a company or cryptocurrency.2 And the founder’s legitimacy comes from whether people opt to follow them.
- Organize it into a group capable of collective action. Given a sufficiently dedicated online community, the next step is to organize it into a network union. Unlike a social network, a network union has a purpose: it coordinates its members for their mutual benefit. And unlike a traditional union, a network union is not set up solely in opposition to a particular corporation, so it can take a variety of different collective actions.3 Unionization is a key step because it turns an otherwise ineffective online community into a group of people working together for a common cause.
- Build trust offline and a cryptoeconomy online. Begin holding in-person meetups in the physical world, of increasing scale and duration, while simultaneously building an internal economy using cryptocurrency.
- Crowdfund physical nodes. Once sufficient trust has been built and funds have been accumulated, start crowdfunding apartments, houses, and even towns to bring digital citizens into the physical world within real co-living communities.
- Digitally connect physical communities. Link these physical nodes together into a network archipelago, a set of digitally connected physical territories distributed around the world. Nodes of the network archipelago range from one-person apartments to in-person communities of arbitrary size. Physical access is granted by holding a web3 cryptopassport, and mixed reality is used to seamlessly link the online and offline worlds.
- Conduct an on-chain census. As the society scales, run a cryptographically auditable census to demonstrate the growing size of your population, income, and real-estate footprint. This is how a startup society proves traction in the face of skepticism.
- Gain diplomatic recognition. A startup society with sufficient scale should eventually be able to negotiate for diplomatic recognition from at least one pre-existing government, and from there gradually increased sovereignty, slowly becoming a true network state.
The key idea is to populate the land from the cloud, and do so all over the earth. Unlike an ideologically disaligned and geographically centralized legacy state, which packs millions of disputants in one place, a network state is ideologically aligned but geographically decentralized. The people are spread around the world in clusters of varying size, but their hearts are in one place.
As the population and economy of a startup society grow comparable to that of a legacy state, with millions of citizens and billions in income, it should eventually4 be able to attain recognition from existing sovereigns — and ultimately the United Nations — just as Bitcoin has now become a bona fide national currency.
Srinivasan underscores the potential for significant economic gains (lightning-enabled bitcoin hubs and community buildings make the most sense here.) He also asserted that such ventures could surpass traditional social networks in profit-making, especially via community membership fees denominated in Bitcoin.
Srinivasan perspective intrigues me as someone whose life revolves around dedicated community service. This has been on my mind for over two years; it's the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing before I sleep. Beginning with Austin Bitcoin Club and now with PlebLab.
After the Spanish Flu of 1918:
The Spanish flu pandemic caused a significant disruption in social life as people isolated themselves to prevent the spread of the disease. Once the pandemic ended, people had to reestablish their social connections and communities, leading to the sociocultural phenomenon known as the "Roaring Twenties," characterized by economic prosperity, cultural dynamism, and a push towards modernity. The Roaring Twenties: A Historical Snapshop of Life in the 1920s" by Rodney P. Carlisle
But how do we get to what Balaji describes? I believe it starts with getting back to the basics.
Re-Introducing Friendships, Communities, and Hubs in the Digital Age
Each of our lives requires some sort of human connection, and each of our friendships holds a unique position. They stand as testaments to mutual respect, trust, and deep affection. This goes beyond being a bitcoiner to a unique blend of emotions that often transforms a mere acquaintance into a ride-or-die best friend.'
However, while creating new avenues of connection, the digital age has also birthed the phenomenon of "parasocial relationships."
The definition of a parasocial relationship is where a viewer or audience member becomes attached to and invested in a media character (be they real or fictional) who doesn't return the emotion...The potential to form parasocial relationships is in the DNA of sites like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You become a 'follower' or a 'subscriber' of someone who then shares their thoughts and talks apparently directly to you as an individual ("Hey guys!"). You can even reply, with the possibility of your reply being reciprocated (though it likely won't be). The Internet Is Obsessed With Parasocial Relationships
These one-sided bonds, where emotional energy and time are poured into a party completely oblivious of the investment, are slowly eroding the core value of genuine friendship.
The role of technology in relationships is a double-edged sword. While it serves as a tool for fostering connections, it also risks supplanting face-to-face interactions. The challenge lies in finding a balance where technology enhances rather than replaces traditional forms of engagement. The typical "Web 3 types" use Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) or unique digital avatars, spinning a narrative of community around pumping their bags. This alarming trend underscores the need for a revival of authentic, face-to-face interactions done correctly.
Contrastingly, the Bitcoin community extends an invitation not simply to be part of this digital frontier but to join a movement with a deeper, more magnanimous objective—participating in the rescue of our precious world. The beauty of this distinction is not just in its diversity but in the sincerity of its purpose—a beacon of hope.
One exciting aspect I love exploring is the potential to construct community-centric hubs integrating Bitcoin, like lightning-enabled doors and software for community buildings designed to stack & stream sats to individuals occupying space. These initiatives foster a stronger community and unlock new economic opportunities for all individuals involved.
This type of exploration into the nature of human connections via community-centric hubs emphasizes the value of genuine friendships and the importance of community building with bitcoin. It's the next natural progression where all this goes, and it only happens in the fostering stage of community growth. It also cautions against the pitfalls of technology in shaping relationships and advocates for a conscious and mindful use of ngu technology in fostering meaningful connections.
At the end of the day, we all want what's best for all individuals involved.
Because the incentives matter.
“The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?” ― Bob Marley