I’ve had mixed feelings about how closely Balaji Srinivasan’s recent ideas resemble my own work since he introduced the concept of The Network Union to the public last year, and now he even mentioned cancellation insurance as one of the many possibilities within his release of The Network State. On one hand, it’s an encouraging sign to frequently be on the same page as someone whose intelligence eclipses my own by a ridiculous margin; on the other hand, I obviously want to be the super special entrepreneur who blindsides everyone with my creativity to save the world from the scourge of Cancellation.
All right, obviously, these concepts have been floating around in many circles lately since they’re needed so badly, so I’m more than happy to settle for the first one. In any case, I found the possibilities of Network States unusually exciting and consequently felt compelled to add my own contributions to help future network states survive in a hostile environment that will only become more so the more successful they get. Why did I feel the need to militarize a concept that only just entered the general consciousness of the tech world? Because the reason states have militaries is due to the fact no matter how peaceful their intentions are, it’s ultimately not up to them whether or not they find themselves in a conflict- this will certainly manifest somewhat differently with network states than nation-states, but the general rule holds. I should make it abundantly clear that my “militarization” strictly refers to a subsection of non-kinetic warfare, primarily in the economic domain. Expansion from this subdomain into broader 5th-Gen Warfare capabilities is a conversation for another time and place.
To be fair, Balaji did touch on several ways for members of Network States to collectively defend themselves from outside attacks. However, I believe A: they will be insufficient for particularly “hot” targets i.e. groups doing the most important things B: the incumbent institutional order will be turning up the heat on everybody no matter what so everyone will need our defenses increased, and C: if network states do survive the initial challenges, we might as well prepare for when the most successful one truly draws the gaze of the Eye of Sauron until it possesses the ability to stare back and not blink until that obsolete, malicious, incompetent tower crumbles. Less dramatically, as Marshall McLuhan predicted, we are all in “a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation”, so if we’re going to live in a perpetual warzone while being members of networks, we might as well explore where exactly we find ourselves and what we might do about it.
Additionally, while I expect this should be somewhat obvious to some of you, when I refer to a “military” of a network state it is not a distinct entity within it nor one in relationship with the network from the outside. It’s still the same members, just provided with a specific set of interactions and/or transactions designed to provide the equivalent function to users willing to engage in non-kinetic mobilization- paramilitary service in a war you’ve already been conscripted into regardless of your thoughts on the matter. I’ll emphasize once more I am focused on the economic subdomain of this type of conflict.
Once we establish the background strategic framework and introduce a handful of tools that networks (state or no state) can use to maintain their sovereignty in a hostile environment, we’ll turn the ambition level up to 11. Not because it’s fun (though it is), but because that’s the only honest way to deal with the consequences of a world where multiple successful network states comprised of the most high-agency, talented citizens across a series of nation-states who joined to escape the unbearable suffocation of living under the dominant institutional framework find themselves in conflict with that framework. You know, the ones their inferiors across those nation-states still proudly preside over and intend to rule unrivaled in perpetuity.
Rival Insurance Policies & Achieving Strategic Parity
One of the reasons I suspected the solution for cancel culture would be significantly less impossible than people thought was the fact that it was so transparently ridiculous, I can easily see people in the future laughing at us for taking so long to figure it out. “So the vast majority of you were normal and didn’t want it to happen but repeatedly bent to the demands of an abrasive minority everyone hated even though the split in public opinion was roughly 92/8 and no one even believed any of the apologies and everyone knew it was retarded the whole time? Lmao you sucked”. This really does beg the question though- why is there some fundamental imbalance in power between the people perpetrating it and the population suffering from it? “Controlling institutions” doesn’t cut it- many groups have controlled a preponderance of institutions over the years, but that doesn’t mean they automatically had free reign to indulge every anti-social impulse they had and get away with it.
However, if you apply a rival insurance policy framework in terms of the rulers versus the ruled, it holds up surprisingly well. These two groups obviously exist in tension with one another- the rulers have more resources but they’re outnumbered, etc- and even when their relationship is healthy, there are prisoner’s dilemma-type game theoretic dynamics at play and they must each prepare for scenarios where one opts to not cooperate or betray the other. Beginning with a healthy, cohesive society, if the ruled don’t do what their rulers want, rulers can opt for their first insurance policy of “manipulating the ruled”, which is countered by the ruled’s insurance of quality education, a deeply ingrained ethos of independent thought i.e. not doing shit just because someone told them to, open scientific inquiry to test claims and political mechanisms that kept even the most silver-tongued in relative check (this was a while ago). To quickly skip to the end of this back and forth, the final insurance policy for rulers is “Fuck it we’ll make them do it by force, get the army”- which is honestly the last step for other countries, they just cross their fingers and hope that doesn’t happen. The genius of the Founding Fathers was to provide the citizenry with their own insurance policy of the 2nd Amendment: “If you use your insurance policy to try and coerce me by coming to my house with a gun, I will shoot you”. No one wants this interaction to happen, so it settles into a smaller-scale version of the MAD doctrine between the US & USSR. No one wants to get fucked up, so we’ll all chill in our Nash Equilibrium.
The problem is that the government (and when I say government, I mean the network of 20th Century institutions acting in concert with each other to secure their dominion over the 21st) has settled for one step short of physical confrontation- financial devastation. You donated $10 to the Canadian trucker protests, now you’re locked out of your bank account- even if you had a gun, what are you gonna do, shoot the bank? This. Thiiissss right here is the problem. The rulers have an attack just shy of physical and the ruled don’t have an insurance policy to repel them. Guns are the populous’ insurance policy for physical conflict; no one has yet devised a solution that provides the equivalent function for the financial step before that.
Now, it’s not surprising defensive financial capabilities that are as effective at countering financial tyranny as a loaded shotgun is for countering physical tyranny haven’t been developed yet - defensive capabilities traditionally if not always lag a half generation behind innovations in offensive capabilities in warfare before they eventually innovate enough to achieve strategic parity and settle the competing parties into a new equilibrium. Network-driven cancellation swarms started kicking into high gear around 5 years ago, and in the absence of the development of adequate defensive capabilities, have rocked everyone’s shit. It’s far past time for defensive innovations to close the gap, neutralize the threat, and bring everyone into a new equilibrium.
Here’s the thing- whether the above framing was in mind during the development or not, this was supposed to be one of the primary benefits of the crypto movement. The promise of crypto was to get out from under the leverage of the state, and while there’s been progress, we’re still very much under their thumb and banking is still the #1 tool to get people to comply so clearly it hasn’t been utilized properly. I don’t blame the tech for this- similar to China only using gunpowder for fireworks; the fault lies with us for not properly assessing the possibilities of the material on hand. I only hope to play a modest role in rectifying that problem.
Brief Summary of Selected (Mostly) Defensive Capacities
As I touched on earlier, 5th-Gen Warfare involves all sorts of non-economic measures, cyberattacks, psyops, and additional ways of manipulating the perceptions of large populations, and I have no hope or intention of trying to counter all of them. My reasoning on the matter is while the prevalence of lies can be increased on a whim and cooked up in any number of ways, their cumulative efficacy is inextricably tied to the successful suppression of the truth, which is accomplished in a much more limited selection of methods primarily based around the threat of financial and social penalization. It is through maintaining a laser focus on alleviating these penalties to increase the supply of truth that will destroy this endlessly well-funded web of lies of unparalleled sophistication we’re all working our way through. (Which is again- white pill- already failing).
The following is an abbreviated list of some of the functions I’ve been developing with a team behind closed doors, so forgive me if I don’t provide a full picture of an extremely monetizable elephant and settle for small glimpses from different angles instead- if they intrigue you enough to want to help with deploying a hell of an elephant, you’re welcome to email me. Now, let’s throw out a few toys that would empower nascent Network States while degrading the capacity of Nation-States that would seek to destroy them.
Conditional Funding Pools for Protection & Defection: The strategic allocation of potential resources for designated targets that are only transferred to these targets when pre-specified criteria are met, verified via voting mechanisms among the relevant parties. This can be used to both insulate members from costs associated with challenging the dominant institutional paradigm, as well as incentivize defection from it. No expense need be made until the transaction is approved and the smart contract executes- until then, no one needs to pay a cent, and yet the pool is there. I’ve covered protecting friends elsewhere, how about weakening enemies? Create a conditional pool of $500k that will only be made available for whistleblowers from your agency of choice and when someone comes forward, donors have no incentive to renege on their commitment. Then do that, like a lot of times. There are lots of agencies; there is a lot of corruption in those agencies; there are also lots of morally torn employees in those agencies. Give ‘em the padded landing they deserve.
Multi-Tiered Mutual Aid Funds and Liquid Philanthropy: Mutual aid funds within the networks are obvious, but there will be sub-populations within the network that have additional commonalities (shared profession, etc.) as well as people that are part of a handful of other networks, each with their own mutual aid mechanisms. It’ll be a bitch of a UI/UX problem, but layers of security are a good thing. With all of these pledges and/or donations flying around, it might be easier for some people to designate a certain amount of their money to someone they trust to disperse the funds in a manner they’d approve of- like Liquid Democracy, but instead of votes, it’s resources.
Quadratic Funding: Quadratic funding is a method to amplify donations toward public goods via central subsidies. Ideas and speech from divergent thinkers, along with courage and other high-demand pro-social behaviors can absolutely be considered public goods. There is so much cool shit we can do with this, but I’m not telling you here.
Retroactive Public Goods Funding: My first published draft intro’d the concept before immediately shutting the door, but I’ll crack it open a few inches to provide an abbreviated hypothetical. Let’s imagine a sub-population of Americans self-selected by their interest in restoring a virtuous elite were to cast preference-weighted votes every 3 months to allocate resources towards figures they felt conducted themselves in a manner befitting of worthy leadership over the previous 9 months. Maybe it doesn’t start that wide immediately- maybe this is a DAO or a Network State or some mix of the two among like-minded circles & companies. Find an ethos you all feel guides your actions and make superlatives to be rewarded on the basis of exemplifying that ethos. What virtues do you seek in others and wish to cultivate in yourself? Balaji’s faction in Silicon Valley is high status enough to where if enough of them took it seriously & those in adjacent spheres followed their lead, that could kick off a chain of widespread Mimetic Desire to cultivate the traits we desire in leadership that will be required to solve a great many problems.
Becoming The Strong Horse
I’m not going to totally rehash my views on what happens when emerging talent can survive the wrath of incumbent failures, but once you even out the playing field- or at least prevent superior players from being ejected from the board so they can continue to do what they do- the outcome is foreordained, it’s really just a matter of speed and orderliness. Entrenched powers use their power to shape the competitive terrain in their favor to artificially maintain that power when challenged. The Internet began to flatten this terrain, and it’s possible Network States will be able to upend the terrain so much that they could find themselves approaching the same elevation as nation-states. The point is that once the terrain begins to even out, the outcomes of battles between ruling institutions and their emerging rivals will become more natural (i.e. they’ll lose). We just need to start approaching that equilibrium.
It’s no secret where the talent lies, I’ll quote Balaji from “The Network State” directly:
The US establishment doesn’t yet understand how much better Satoshi Nakamoto or Vitalik Buterin is than every apparatchik they have in the Federal Reserve system. And they don’t understand that upward deviation is creating a more competent group of global leaders than the American establishment, a more meritocratically selected group than the nepotists of the East Coast.
He’s just more polite than I am, but reality is reality. I understand that Circulations of the Elite and network states potentially capturing whole or parts of nation-states may freak you out, but if it helps, you should know that nation-states have already been captured by something else and have been acting for that something’s benefit for some time now. Nothing conspiratorial about it, it’s an observable economic phenomenon that the interests of the ruling elites across different countries align with each other more than the people they represent and have continued to align more closely over time- if you use “interests” in it’s most narrow, selfish, short-term form. It appears to me that billions of people around the world find themselves in the same predicament: trying to avoid being ground up by machinery their leaders put into motion without their permission (or even knowledge, usually) that threatens to dispossess them of their property, rights, and culture. I see no reason why network states would be limited to positively changing the leadership of one or two countries. If it can work in the most important country everyone is thinking of reading this, how about we consider, oh idk… a couple dozen more? I frequently summarize my project as “anti-Cancel Culture” because that’s what people relate to, but it’s just a slang term for a specific strain of repression and totalitarianism in a particular time and place. Tools to combat our strain can be exported and modified as needed to combat other strains of totalitarianism (with a much quicker OODA loop than the totalitarians, I might add).
Seriously, why not? The relative uniformity in the ruling elite alone makes it reasonable to at least consider. Network States would have strength from self-selected membership based on loyalty to their value system, and should vigorously defend themselves like a citizen militia because they’re actually invested in it (which is why those militias use to work, btw). What type of investment do WEF dweebs leading the charge to “Build Back Better” have from the populations they’re counting on for support? The ones they sold out at every turn while hiding behind their flags to feign unity just to buy time for additional deceptions? It would be like the manager of a store counting on the security guard to protect him from Special Ops when he knows the manager has been fucking his wife. In summation, if I had to bet on the most talented members of society that are highly motivated in a high-trust culture versus the morons left in charge who are poorly motivated in a low-trust culture, my personal preference on the outcome isn’t necessary to make the call.
Okay, Hear Me Out
I find reading Marx to be quite tedious so I usually go off what I’ve read about his effect on history, but I’m under the impression that for a couple of decades there, there was genuine fear- not instigated/embellished by US propaganda for Cold War purposes later on, I mean fully developed countries being scared shitless- of an International Communist Revolution, and not without cause.
And that was when ideas were spread via pamphlet. The prospect of an International Communist Revolution was premised on the belief that working-class people around the world had more in common with each other than the people above them in their respective national social hierarchies. This failed for many reasons, including the level of capital-driven prosperity and the stubbornness of tribal ties within capitalist nations, but look how circumstances have changed. The international leadership classes do have more in common with each other than the populations they rule over, made it so of their own volition, and also can’t fall back on tribal ties to save them because they spend every waking moment castigating both their subjects and themselves for the sin of having ever felt any. Also that prosperity from capitalism, yeah it’s gone. Proletariats overthrowing the bourgeoisie is no good, but natural aristocracies with organic appeal replacing the petty tyrants, puppets, and bureaucrats nominally in charge of their societies by working in tandem with the masses also suffering under the inept boot of the aforementioned groups can actually work. I understand this is grandiose but isn’t allowing billions of people to interface with their natural representatives instead of subjecting them to the idiocy of actors whose scales are beginning to show through cracks in their makeup with increasing frequency a reasonable goal?
Another difference is communism threatened to overturn preciously distinct cultures and turn them into an undifferentiated mass, which current global leadership happily signed their populations up for on their behalf anyway after communism had supposedly been defeated. An international circulation of the elites would work towards the opposite goal and would have the support of the world because that’s what the vast majority of normal people across any culture want. Again, this isn’t me getting trigger happy- if multiple network states arising from mutual disdain for the dominant institutional framework exit their respective societies and start thriving, they will all come under attack anyway. The Eastern Bloc banned Levi’s and Rock & Roll because they knew if their citizens could openly interact with a more appealing culture, they were done for; the same rule will apply to whatever Network State has the happiest members, i.e. the one that deserves to be attacked the least.
It’ll be interesting at the very least, I can promise you that. Whereas international organizations cooperate to benefit each ruling class at the expense of the populations they rule over, utilizing developments in Web3 can ensure those populations can lend each other a hand against their respective tyrannies to ensure they get a say over the next century. The Irish mob used to run guns pretty casually for the IRA not too long ago- this is financial so there’s no need for that, but maybe the Canadians can fund a crypto-friendly government in the Philippines so Europeans can use their servers after the EU bans them. I’m literally just making scenarios up, but governments profit off regime changes all the time, it would be a nice change of pace for the people they supposedly represent to get in on the action of their own accord. I’m so excited at the prospect of dozens of countries around the world working together to exchange their current malicious, incompetent elites with at least partially decent, talented elites I even made a name for it: “The Great Replacement”. Catchy, isn’t it? Sure hope it isn’t taken.
Am I calling for a worldwide revolution? Of course not! I couldn’t help but notice the one that appears to be happening already, though.
I’m just trying to fast forward to the only ending that works. Either the ghouls driving global policy succeed in their quest to turn humanity into an interchangeable mass of compliant consumer-slaves before killing everyone by accident since they’re not nearly as smart as they think, or we draw upon the talents and energy of the billions of people who deserve better and steer the species through the bottleneck we’re rapidly approaching and avoid suffering the indignity of becoming some cosmic footnote a spacefaring species will eventually discover and categorize as yet another example that failed, as they take a moment of solemn pity before flying away.
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About 15 years ago, in “A History of the Future,” Jacques Attali predicted that insurance companies would supplant nation states by the middle of this century.
Here are converging scenarios relating to what you and @Balaji have set out –