Cloud Countries

I.

Is it possible to create a country?

Balaji Srinivasan thinks that it is.

But why start a country?

Balaji writes-

We want to be able to peacefully start a new country for the same reason we want a bare plot of earth, a blank sheet of paper, an empty text buffer, a fresh startup, or a clean slate. Because we want to build something new without historical constraint.

Balaji S

As a writer who creates worlds for a living, the possibilities of creating a world that is not just fictional but functional holds limitless possibilities. I could go on and on, and perhaps I would in a future post about what I’d want my perfect country to have, but what is most important is having the ability to do so.

Without the ability to start a country peacefully, all of these remain as pleasurable thought experiments. This is not to say that no one has the ability to start a country. Powerful people in the world do. People with elected power, people with financial power, and people with a mixture of both.

That is the old way. Balaji highlights six of these ways in his post. The three conventional methods are-

  • Election – Involves winning the majority vote(in most cases), rewriting existing laws or creating new ones from scratch, and hoping the majority accepts the new rules.
  • Revolution – This can extend to momentous elections. It usually isn’t a peaceful affair and often involves significant bloodshed.
  • War – Winning a war is the third conventional way of creating a country, but the cost is rather too high for me to endorse this method.

The unconventional methods are-

  • Micronations- When people stake a flag in a disputed land and call themselves the leader of nothing, states usually don’t bother much. If you’re really far off on an island that produces little resources, they may even let you pretend to be the leader of that place. In the middle of nowhere, it is also difficult to organise a military (unless you have a lot of obedient monkeys at your disposal). Very few governments would take this seriously, but if you do pose a threat, you can expect the real army to show up with real guns and tanks ready to take you and admit you to a mental asylum.
  • Seasteading – International waters are controlled by no one, and cruise ships exist. Combine those two you can verifiably live on your own country ship (with frequent docking). There is still no working example of this method.
  • Space – No one controls the space. Rockets and international space stations exist. A large enough space station could be a country if you’re ambitious enough, and very well off. Elon Musk, with his SpaceX rockets, might just be the first Technoking of Mars if he happens to reach it soon.

This brings us to the NEW way of creating countries, a way in which anyone can start a country of their own. Balaji has termed this new way, Cloud Countries.

II.

The new way involves technology, and technology has always evened the playing field for the rest of us. This new way is not only possible, it is possible to start right now. Years from now, this might even seem obvious. Remember when the first person created a digital currency and everyone laughed at the concept saying it’d never be considered seriously?

Yeah, who is laughing now?

The cloud country starts off on the cloud. The decentralized internet holds us first, and then we expand to holding territory on land.

Balaji has briefly outlined how we may go about starting this-

Step 1. Using the internet, we find like-minded people who want to start a virtual social network, a virtual city-town-and eventually a country. We organize an internal economy based on remote work, preferably transacting with each other, or contacts related to each other. This whole thing starts out as an open source project, open to anyone willing to contribute their time or resources in making this happen.

Step 2. We create art/literature relevant to our culture or beyond. We spread it freely online, leading to quasi-promotion of our country as a whole. We simulate our architecture in VR, simulate roles and responsibilities, simulate holidays and occasions, and this develops the country as a whole.

Step 3. Over time, we would crowdfund territories and migrate to land. The territories don’t have to be contiguous territories, meaning we don’t all have to be in the same place. The internet allows us to be connected worldwide, so a cloud country migrating onto land shouldn’t be any different. Over time, people of our country could migrate and acquire land near the chosen territory, if they choose to do so.

Now, one might contend that this seems very similar to someone LARPing and staking a flag on a piece of disputed land and declaring themselves leader of the new land and defining a country out of nowhere. It is, but because this is extensive and scalable, there are no limits to where this could go. All it needs, like all a currency needed, is faith.

It is only a matter of time before the UN recognizes such a cloud country as a country capable of self determination. Once this belief is shared by a sufficient number of people, the possibilities are endless. Sure, there would be backlash in the beginning against it. All good ideas have that. But in the long term, such a cloud country would not only be possible- cloud countries would become necessary.

III.

Here are a few reasons why Cloud Countries deserve more importance-

  1. Countries built using technology first, and physical manifestations second, would bypass most problems that come with governance. Blockchains and smart contracts would make for a trustless government, a truly open source world where one cannot claim total power or preach totalitarian solution even if one wants to.
  2. Most people, in the first generation of cloud countries, would be able to choose this cloud country voluntarily. All they’d need is access to the internet.
  3. People will be joining this new country and start new countries from the comfort of their own homes. Just like anyone with sufficient knowledge can start a currency these days, creating cloud countries will be commonplace in the future.
  4. Abundance of options, niche cultures and global communities can unite in cloud countries, aid in the common economic exchange and thereby make for a fairer and richer future world.
  5. No wars. No geo-political bloodshed. Cloud countries will achieve the world peace we’ve always been dreaming about.
  6. Integration of tech and creating countries on top of a tech stack would pave the way for an entire sector of innovation. What could AI integrated in such an environment achieve? Will an AI government ever exist, and if it does, is it too hard to imagine how efficient that might be?
  7. Building on the last point, cloud countries would also take the apply-first approach to new technologies. Because the downsides are limited, new technologies like AI, VR-simulations, Blockchain governance, etc. which cannot be tested on the real world, would be tested on cloud countries and the superior innovations, innovations which would’ve otherwise been restricted because of government interventions, will be tried and tested and stick for the long term.
  8. Leaders won’t be chosen through inefficient means like elections. The purpose of a democracy isn’t to choose the right person. It is to kick out the wrong person. That is why democracies work. But in the long term, wasting years and years to find the right person would turn out to be an elaborate waste of time and resources. Instead, algorithms, reputational logistics, and proper credential matching would make it efficient to select the right leader (if there’s ever a cloud country that needed one). This would save money, and most importantly, time.

Given that we have all of these important reasons and advantages of starting new cloud countries, it is no surprise that there will significant backlash when we do. But then again, the first wave of backlash will come from the non-believers and not the outright deniers. Non-believers include those who think that starting a cloud country is crazy. Deniers are those who would try to restrict us from doing so. Non-believers include your friendly neighbor, parents, and significant other. Deniers include your national government. By the time governments notice this, however, we would have enough practicing cloud countries that they won’t be able to stop it.

Thanks to technology, the future is bright. All we need is faith.


This was my review of Balaji’s post here.

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