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Thoughts on the Network State

In the distant past of 1992, Neal Stephenson published a novel called Snow Crash. Then, in 1996, he published another called The Diamond Age. Among other things, these books suggested that geographic proximity would cease to be an organizing principle of society, and that people would organize themselves into far-flung pseudo-tribal enclaves based around shared interests. Stephenson calls these enclaves “Phyles”, from the ancient Greek word for clan.

To get an idea what I mean, picture North America. Now picture, say, New York City. In our own present, New York City is a sub-unit of New York State, which is in turn a sub-unit of the United States of America (for purposes of illustration, we will leave aside questions of New York City's size and wealth giving it an outsize degree of influence in the state). Imagine instead that there are a dozen different groups within NYC's physical bounds. These groups identify not with NYC or the US of A, but some larger and more far-flung group, say the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam, as far it is concerned, is a sovereign entity. It treats with other entities – such as the Black Panther party, the NYPD, or the US of A itself – as an equal. It controls certain resources. Some may be physical locations (temples, soup kitchens), but others may be less tangible – money, or the loyalty of its believers, for example. It maintains internal discipline through written codes of conduct and various bureaucratic enforcement mechanisms. The physical location of any NOI member is a matter of chance; whether he resides in Oakland, New York, or Corpus Christi, he is a citizen of the Nation first. Now, multiply that a dozen times over, substituting any kind of group you can think of for the NOI – the Industrial Workers of the World say, or the Rotarians. That is the future Stephenson envisions.

Stephenson paints this picture with his tongue firmly in cheek, but it's a serious concept. The Nation-State as the basic unit of social organization, defined by geography and political centralization, is a relatively recent development (For a good treatment of this topic, check out Martin Van Creveld's Rise and Decline of the State). Srinivasan's book, The Network State is largely an attempt to envision how recent technological developments – mostly, crypto – might enable the formation of alternative societies that look quite a bit like what Stephenson envisioned.

I'll say up front: Srinivasan's book is good. I think there's a decent chance it will be remembered as historically significant a few centuries from now. I'm going to critique it here, but that's just because there's not much point in me sitting here and repeating everything I agree with. If you have any interest in long-term societal evolution and possible future civilizations, you should read it. All credit to the man in the arena et cetera.

The gist of my critique is this: Srinivasan does a good job describing the structural factors that are currently eroding the Nation-State’s supremacy, and he does a pretty good job of describing possible alternatives – in the abstract. That last caveat is important, because Srinivasan doesn’t put much effort into describing what shared identity a network state could actually be built on or exactly how one would emerge. His “Network State” is as mathematical and abstract as Hobbes’ absolute sovereign. This is a case where the specifics matter. Additionally, he makes assumptions about the ways in which a network-state would be like an existing nation-state, assumptions that I don't think are necessarily true

He defines a network-state thusly: “a social network with a moral innovation, a sense of national consciousness, a recognized founder, a capacity for collective action, an in-person level of civility, an integrated cryptocurrency, a consensual government limited by a social smart contract, an archipelago of crowdfunded physical territories, a virtual capital, and an on-chain census that proves a large enough population, income, and real-estate footprint to attain a measure of diplomatic recognition.”

Most of the book is dedicated to hashing out what this means in greater detail. But my own steelman version of the books argument would be something like this: New communications and information technology, combined with a series of high-visibility blunders by institutional authority figures, have undermined popular faith in “the establishment”/”the status quo”/”elites”/whatever term you prefer. The Emperor has no clothes, or least, is wearing a lot less than he's supposed to be, and everyone is able to compare notes about this fact and confirm their mutual impression. The obvious historical parallel here is the printing press and the Protestant reformation, though Srinivasan doesn't refer to it. Srinivasan is of course not the first to make this observation about the effects of new information technology.

Not all is lost, however! New technologies – again, mostly this means widespread applied cryptographic protocols – offer users a potentially unique combination of transparency (the blockchain offer high a degree of assurance against possible forgery, since every transaction is recorded in a public ledger) and privacy (you don't have to reveal anything you're not comfortable revealing). This in turn can enable the construction of new institutions. Better institutions, in which the consent of the governed is not just rhetoric but an actual operational requirement for collective action. In time, these institutions could be popular and powerful enough to disrupt the nation-state status-quo.

As a liberal arts grad who dropped out of econ cuz he couldn't hack Calc, I'm not competent to fully evaluate Srinivasan’s claims about exactly how secure the blockchain is and what it can do. But his abstract description dovetails with my own equally-abstract understanding of it. I'll also note that while I think the combination of transparency and privacy, and the ability of users to re-negotiate that balance as circumstances dictate is the “killer app” of blockhain technologies, he doesn't articulate in exactly those terms, though I think he'd more or less agree with my interpretation of his argument.

After all this excellent buildup, I was a trifle disappointed to find that Srinivasan is largely agnostic about exactly what shared identity these new institutions could be built around. At one point, he brings up keto enthusiasts as a potential candidate. After all, they have a common identity and a moral commandment: carbs are bad, fats are generally good. I presume he's being slightly facetious here. Because after all, we're talking about a group with a strong enough sense of itself and enough capacity for collective action to challenge the status quo. This, to me, is implicit in his description of the network state as attaining “a measure of diplomatic recognition.” Those with a seat at the table only admit newcomers when they have no other choice. Historically, challenging the powers that be has been a very dicey business. It's meant being thrown to the lions at the Circus Maximus, burned at the stake for heresy, exiled to Siberia, shot by the firing squad. I suspect most people won't endure that for the sake of fewer carbs.

This omission is all the more glaring because after about five seconds, I could think of one group of people who were widely scattered across the globe for thousands of years, often subject to the political, religious, and cultural hegemony of alien societies. In spite of this, they retained enough shared identity and collective-action capacity to violently establish their own statehood in the face of significant opposition. And they did it all without crypto! These folks get nary a mention in The Network State. To be fair to Srinivasan though, I think this omission is most likely because it's beyond the scope of his book, indeed worthy of a dozen books in its own right. There are public intellectuals who are unwilling to ask serious questions about what sort of things people are willing to kill and die for, but Srinivasan doesn't strike me as one them.

This problem is certainly worthy of further consideration, but if it was beyond the scope of Srinivasan's book, it's certainly beyond the scope of this post. I will only say here that the general trend of modernity is to erode traditional shared identities, which I would characterize as relatively narrow and deep (your church/mosque, your clan, your village/town) and replace them with broader-but-shallower identities (facebook interest groups, the motte?). The modern world’s substitution of relatively weak ties for more deep-rooted identities is probably a big part of the reason so many alienated people keep trying to blow it up. In spite of this tendency though, certain social ties endure. More on that in a moment.

My second major critique is that Srinivasan seems to assume that these new institutions will mostly resemble existing nation-states in key respects. His hypothetical “network state” openly controls territory, enjoys diplomatic recognition, etc. I myself am skeptical of the term “network state” and prefer “networked society” precisely because I don't think these groups will be exactly state-like. I think its more likely that as existing nation-states gradually decline in legitimacy and state capacity their supremacy will increasingly be contested by non-state actors.

It is entirely possible for the apparatus of a nation-state to exist without actually exercising the functions of a nation-state. Imagine a bunch of petty bureaucrats, collecting a paycheck and gaming the metrics their career advancement depends on while remaining willfully ignorant of the second and third-order effects of the policy they uphold, and you have a pretty good picture of the pseudo-colonial disaster that was the Afghan war. When the nominal state fails to meet the needs of the populace (most importantly dispute resolution according to some sort of legible code of justice), the populace will look elsewhere. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all. My own suspicion is that the future is not one where network-states build shining cities on a hill and supplant their predecessors by a process of meritocratic evangelism. Rather, I suspect the future is one where increasingly dysfunctional states are cannibalized by sub-state actors; tumors in the body of Leviathan. The “Crypto-Mafia” may be far more literal than expected.

Stephenson actually anticipated this possibility as well. Amongst the the phyles of the Diamond Age is a group called CryptNet, which specializes in infiltrating other phyles while continuing to pursue their own agenda. The details of CryptNet are left vague, but they seem to be regarded as something between a terrorist group and an organized crime syndicate, something which has any number of real-world examples

The question remains: what sort of shared identity could people found a network state on? While cracks might be appearing in the western liberal consensus, no clear successor has emerged yet. It remains to be seen if any of the would-be contenders will gain enough critical mass to supplant the established order. Under this scenario, I can think of two broad kinds of network-actors that might be relevant.

The first kind, and probably the one that will be most familiar to Motte readers, is what Srinivasan calls a “proposition nation”, a group of people united by their shared quasi-religious beliefs. By “quasi-religious”, I don’t mean supernatural per se. I use the term because I don’t know of any good alternative; if someone offers one I’ll accept it. I mean by it a set of beliefs that purports to describe the nature of the world and the ultimately purpose of human existence. Perhaps a simpler way of saying it is a set of beliefs someone would be willing to die for. Traditional Christianity is one such belief system, but so is Revolutionary Marxism. Arguably so is Classical liberalism, if held sufficiently deeply. More contemporarily, I could imagine certain forms of deep ecology filling such a role.

I suspect that the most effective such proposition nations would be characterized by universalism and vanguardism. A universalist belief system is simply one whose message is to all mankind. Evangelical Christianity is probably the most obvious example. Because universalist belief systems have been common in the West for millennia, its easy to assume that they’re the norm, but this isn’t necessarily true. Orthodox Judaism, for example, is traditionally non-evangelical, and conversion is a difficult process. A universalist belief system would have a wider recruiting pool and would benefit from the relative “global flattening” of modern communications.

Vanguardism is simply the notion that a small but dedicated elite can effect powerful sociopolitical changes. Though usually associated with Marxists, the basic notion has been shared by diverse actors across the political spectrum. A politically-activist network society operating within the established order would probably be vanguardist by definition, and would be a potentially attractive option for the kind of frustrated would-be elites that Turchin describes.

The second kind of network actor would be united by little more than interpersonal loyalty in the pursuit of mutual-self interest. I speak, essentially, of organized crime. It turns out you don’t actually need a grand ideological vision to inspire people to cooperate against the state. Good old pack loyalty can do it.. Groups like the Yakuza and the Sinaloa Cartel have managed to assume (or usurp, depending on your point of view) government functions impelled by little other than market forces. So far as we have a good understanding of the internal dynamics of such organizations, they are held together by a combination of patron-client networks and fictive kinship. I can equally imagine a future in which the state has become a shambling zombie, with rival networks fighting each other for control of its organs. I suspect that such a situation would look like just one more oligarchy from the perspective of the man in the street. Possibly that’s why Srinivasan doesn’t give it much consideration. It’s boring, depressing even, to imagine a future that looks so much like our past. Between these two extremes, I think I prefer proposition nations. Ideological movements have their own problems, but they at least open the possibility of something beyond the status-quo.

Srinivasan's book, then, is practically begging for a sequel which considers these issues, whether from his own keyboard or some other's. That's not a dig. The most worthwhile books are the ones people are still responding to decades or centuries later. Part of my reason for writing this post is the hope that this will encourage someone to do that. I don't know what the future looks like. But I do know that there was a time before the nation-state, and I'm pretty sure there's gonna be a time after it. That's hard for us to imagine, but it would have been equally difficult for a Saxon peasant living under William the Conqueror to imagine liberal democracy. The Network State takes an admirable stab at that; I can only hope someone continues the work.

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Another stable state is the nation state, probably the most stable form of government on offer, and the less likely to disintegrate.

As a big fan of Neal Stephenson's works, I've thought about phyles a lot.

The question remains: what sort of shared identity could people found a network state on?

The issue disappears if you consider people adopting a set of identities, some minor, some major, maybe even a single dominant one. This would allow multiple ideologies to fill in the empty space in peoples' hearts, perhaps enough to allow them to park themselves in a nice comfy spot on some nice, white-picket-fence social graph somewhere. This would fall in line with what I think Srinivasan describes (haven't read his book), a world where everything is negotiable and subject to change.

The fact that the author, balajis srinivasan, hyped crypto, which did even worse than housing/banking stocks in 2007-2008 and has not even admitted to being wrong, costing almost everyone who took his advice money, makes me disinclined to trust his advice or take his philosophy seriously. Everyone gets things wrong, but to be so confident and wrong and then act like nothing happened reminds me of the ppl who hyped subprime and then walked away with bonusses . I sure as hell would not have made that mistake (I told people to stay away from crypto) yet this guy is somehow deemed smart and qualified to create a blueprint for society.

I think crypto is dumb as much as the next person but I don’t think comparing crypto from highs is the same as comparing to housing, and on many relevant timelines crypto is still a huge winner it’s just more volatile.

It goes up 10, then loses 80%. While housing maybe did 1-1.5 then corrected 40%

This type of networking reminds me of something @DaseindustriesLtd /u/DaseindustriesLtd mentioned, what things might look like at the other end of this development, though I think he imagines a singleton, I could see a sub-state globohomo ruling class distributed with contesting interests within their own Overton window that most Motte posters find themselves outside of.

What does moving past this sweet spot look like in practice? Are you saying the goal is to make us terrified of the incumbent Western state actors, so much so we lose the will to resist?

Adding to those posts: I think that this, in part, will be implemented as the infantilization of the populace framed for midwits as interdependence in modern economy, and the disappearance of people with «fuck you money». Ironically, it may look like the spread of practices typical for the super-rich down the social strata, but with one significant nuance: as your dependence on connections increases, your own agency and ability to decide whether someone else is connected does not, and indeed it degrades. Thus, a two-class system emerges: people who are connected and people who connect. Even the extremely rich plebeians, like Kanye, are but leafs of the graph; every link between them and the world with which they can affect it can be trivially snapped with or without a formal cause by even the lowest member of the patrician class, who is, in turn, able to fall back on an antifragile support system working on informal «understandings». Plebeian wealth is tied in contracts that can be canceled unilaterally if they misbehave, their social capital – on platforms with censors and politruks, hosted on vulnerable servers owned by people either terrified of another set of politruks or agreeing with them; their money in banks, ran by Bankmans, or in cargo-cultish meme assets like Bitcoin in a Coinbase wallet. We are being made into perpetual children, evaluated, tested and judged by the nebulous Adult Society, granted good boy points, credentials and access tokens which can be revoked at will.

I wonder what he might think.

I think this scenario gets interesting with multiple rival networks attempting to mobilize people in the name of a cause. Agree that a distributed globohomo ruling class scenario, of the kind @DaseIndustriesLtd seems to be talking about is less interesting. I'm a little bit skeptical of the ability of the ability of any ruling class to impose their will as totally as he seems to envision, however. I think on the whole there's a brittleness to such systems; they tend to result in people further down the hierarchy simply hacking the feedback loop to keep upper echelons off their backs. The illusion of legibility, if you will.

I did not read the book, but I did listen to his 8 hour interview with Lex. Excellent post, but I do think we have pretty good examples of how this would work in practice.

Civis Romanus. More serious, though also less fun, link. We have seen citizenships, not to Network states, but to unrelated nations, which bestow special protections. In fact, at times, American citizenship could be seen much the same, a protective bond, or at least as making an American too much of a hassle to arrest or harm. The basic elements to the application of the concept as seen in Paul's and Cicero's account, and in how Palmerston and The West Wing applied it later: you have 1) a power with overwhelming ability to retaliate against any slight, 2) Citizens of that power traveling around the world to places where other powers exercise the monopoly on legitimate violence. Network stats will function much the same way: a hypothetical network state would be a corporation which had the power to inflict enough damage/pain on any sovereign power that it wasn't worth it to mess with the citizen. It doesn't need a monopoly on violence, any more than Rome exercised a monopoly on violence in all its colonies in the early empire when subject kings were key to exercising power, or Britain exercised a monopoly on violence on Greece. It merely must be sufficiently inconvenient to enforce local laws on that individual.

On the other hand, it is pretty clear that the Network state would only accept those who were talented, or at least interesting, to the Network. Peasants need not apply, only coders and their friends/pets. This probably doesn't bother Balaji too much, he looks forward to a world where he is a separate, higher class than those around him. It holds very little appeal to people whose only claim on importance is raw existence and occupancy of a particular spot on Earth. Balaji might find it more convenient to be a world citizen, but he presumes he will get that citizenship. Where your average trailer-dweller will receive a citizenship that entitles him to significantly less consideration.

There is some precedent to corporate leaders being treated differently under the law. If Elon Musk weren't the only thing holding Tesla together, he would have been barred from any corporate office after the $420 affair. Of course, Elon is nearly unique in having that kind of pull. The rest of us fall somewhere below. This is at core an elitist saying "I should have citizenship based on talent, not on location with the losers I live near." Others may have significantly different feelings on the matter.

Thank you for the link. I think fear of retaliation is the heart of political bargaining power in this context, but I'm not sure that retaliation needs to be overwhelming per se. To return to the Afghanistan example, the Taliban couldn't go head to head with the US Army, but they could apply pressure on local officials attempting to enforce unpopular edicts. If you're a local official, you might not die, but you would be forced to ask yourself: how badly do I want to do X? Badly enough to risk assassination? If you're local law enforcement, are you willing to pursue lawbreakers into hostile territory? Probably all such decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. Network actors could alter the balance of power even if they never grow strong enough to actually overthrow the system.

Also, I guess you guys know something about Balaji I don't, but even if Balaji's personal Network-State Utopia is people only by 160 IQ STEM-Wizard Philosopher-Kings and their hangers-on - that needn't be the only game in town! I think you're operating off of a model where all crypto remains the realm of the tech-savvy shape rotators indefinitely. I don't think that will be the case. I think that over time, the tech will disseminate and become accessible to the layman, and they will apply it in new ways. The street finds its own uses for things.

To be practical it can't be on a case by case basis, it must be such that one is effectively untouchable without permission. The equivalent of being a made man. Untouchable without a meeting of the heads of the families. Case by case in second class citizenship.

I'm not arguing that only geniuses will be able to or interested in the network state, I'm arguing that only elites will have a network state interested in them. Right now I'm an American citizen because I was born here, and there's nothing anyone can do about it, to join a network state would require some kind of qualification process, and people might not qualify for the best states, or the state might not be interested in protecting them.

I guess I'm not sure what you mean by that first sentence? Practical for what exactly? What I'm arguing is that network-actors could provide an avenue for disaffected people to erode the power of the state, even if they don't replace the state entirely. Participation in such networks can create maneuver space, wiggle room for people who for one reason or another want to do something the state doesn't want them to do. I'm not really proposing any particular solution for any particular problem for any particular group, just trying to describe and extrapolate from a trend-line.

I also think the second part still remains to be seen. Actually, I think we're visualizing a network "state" (the more I think about it, the less I like the second term) in two very different ways. I think you're thinking of, basically, a bunch of educated elites, folks already fairly well-positioned in the scheme of things, organizing to increase their own bargaining power vis-a-vis the existing state. Skull-and-bonesmen with crypto, withdrawing into their towers and walled estates, communicating with each other through their secure channels and not participating in society at large more than strictly necessary. I'm visualizing network actors as a vector for a successful mass movement. A framework for mobilizing people around a common identity and shared cause. Put another way, I don't think the most successful network-actor is the one that successfully recruits all the wealthy, talented people (though they'll probably need some). The most effective network actor is the one who nails 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.

Paul was on Roman territory when he famously said Civis Romanus Sum. At the time of Palmerstone's speech, the British monopoly on violence extended to anywhere within range of a navigable waterway, except for the territory of a small number of rival Great Powers - hence Gunboat Diplomacy. This level of pre-eminent sea power is rare - whether the United States had it for parts of the late 20th century is a good internet ranting issue. Nobody else has ever had it on the oceans, although Tyre, Rome and Venice all came close within the confines of the Mediterranean.

I find the idea of a network state having soft power which rivals the hard power of the Royal Navy at its height somewhat implausible. Particularly if the network state is, as you point out Balaji wants to do, shirking civic obligations by exiting from the world normal people have to live in.

I might have my history wrong, but I thought at that time Judea was still a client state rather than a full province? I could be wrong on the dates/locations.

Judea was de jure incorporated into the Roman Empire in AD6 after Augustus lost patience with King Herod’s son’s incompetence. Pontius Pilate was the most famous Roman governor.

Ah, my bad. I thought it was still a client state with a distinct, if limited, capacity for violence at the time.

Does Balaji expand on whether (or how) network states will exercise a monopoly of violence? There are various quotes saying much the same thing including this one picked out by Vitalik:

A network state is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.

which imagine a DAO buying land on the territory of existing nation-states until it is eventually invited to join the UN. This is absurd. We are, of course, enjoying an object lesson from both sides of the Ukraine war that existing nation-states (even crappy ones) are very good at organised political violence compared to the alternatives. A so-called network state that crowdfunds land purchases is just WeWork on the blockchain, and exists at the pleasure of the real monopoly-on-violence-having states whose territory it exists in and who guarantee its land titles.

Balaji is currently one of the major public proponents of a dangerous right-wing technolibertarian ideology that originates with Peter Thiel, and The Network State is a way of pushing it. My hostile but serious summary of this ideology is that:

  • Good things come from a small group of special people (who in 2023 are almost all Silicon Valley founders and ex-founder VCs) who create the future.

  • The world would be a better place if littlepeople couldn't tell special people not to do things

  • The State is the main tool which littlepeople currently use to tell special people not to do things, and so is bad

  • Existing elites who are not Silicon Valley founders hanging out with Peter Thiel (referred to by Balaji as "East Coast elites" because of course the United States of America is the world and the Midwest is a desert) are actually littlepeople who just don't realise it yet

  • 90% of non-founder employees in Silicon Valley are also littlepeople and should be more grateful for the scraps the true elites toss in their direction (see the discussion of how it is a good thing that half of Twitter have been laid off and the other half are working harder for less money, summarised by NIMBY hypocrite Mark Andressen as "Nature heals itself").

  • Ergo Peter Thiel and his cabal of right-wing techbros should take over the world by (in effect) treating the United States of America as damage and routing around it.

Given that the fate of the littlepeople under this arrangement is somewhere between "You will live in the pod and eat the bugs and you will like it" and being paperclipped when some Y Combinator wunderkind builds an unaligned AI, I don't see how this works without the Curtis Yarvin scenario of a DAO with nuclear weapons (and sufficiently legibly bug-free secure code to be trusted with them, which is a 1=0 level achievement) and an army of killer robots.

The Dominic Cummings plan of using GPT-GOP to take over existing states by hacking the voters' ids seems like a more credible threat.

Dominic Cummings plan of using GPT-GOP

Did I miss this essay?

I am riffing on this one - based on Cummings’ other work the “predictive model of the electorate” that is the centre of his plan is a big ML model trained on opinion poll raw data - at the time he wrote the essay GPT-GOP was not technically feasible but it seems an obvious extension of other Cummings ideas now that it is.

I agree thats the biggest flaw in Balaji's thesis. More or less what I was alluding to when I talked about the historical consequences of challenging the status quo. I'm not sure Balaji is a libertarian, at least not in the ultra-capitalist/consumerist/individualist sense of the term. While I agree that he's an aspirational-elite in the Turchinian sense of the term and he certainly has no love lost for the current ruling class, I'm not sure he's as elitist as you're making him out to be. At least I don't get that from this book, which is the only thing by him I've read. But honestly, even if he is, so what? Major societal changes usually require some degree of elite participation. Purely popular uprisings tend not to have lasting effects. To paraphrase Snow Crash yet again, the world is full of waves; getting where you want to go is a matter of riding the right wave.

You already live in an oligarchical dictatorship of managers who consider you cattle. Those people literally originated the idea of the miserable bug eating future you're memeing about.

Little people never had a say in politics and they never will, by the nature of what politics are. Nor do they want a say really. What "the people" want is to be left alone in a non pathological society to live their lives. Power struggles are a thing elites do to each other. Masses are not organized and have therefore no power.

All that Thiel and his band propose to do is replace the current masters with themselves. And given the incompetence of the current masters I'm not sure that would be so terrible.

The rest is futurism which is ironically as naive as Balaji's stand alone vision that conveniently forgets the problem of violence. Voting IDs really? As if votes had any effect on the course of things at this point. Come on. I hold the reverse view, if anything. Yarvin's Blockchain nukes while unlikely and fanciful are actually possible and don't need the laws of politics to be suspended to work.

It's funny you should mention this, I wrote an article for a french philosophy magazine due to be published soon that points out just this association between Stephenson's "phyles" and the Network State idea (or indeed any such post-libertarian concepts like Patchwork).

I think the idea is actually older, and that Stephenson himself either got it from earlier works or it was independently rediscovered by a whole bunch of people.

I find the Network State idea compelling but it's definitely lacking in praxis or in a defined character as you say. In my article I connect this with elite theory and presume that if anyone is to found a meaningful new form of state it has to be from a sufficiently powerful alternative ruling class, and I identify technocapitalists as the most serious contenders for this at the moment. Your tech CEOs and "digital nomads" and basically the subset of tech workers that Elon Musk wanted to stay at his version of Twitter.

That said, the problem of the nature of the underlying bonds between members of this new State is still ill defined, and you're not the only person to notice this: Vitalik himself wrote about it last year. but he seemingly only identifies the safe and legal types of organizations one could mount (as is normal for someone like him).

I too want a sequel, and I want it to consider the full range of possible action.

I'd be interested in an english version, if available. I do agree that the techno-capitalists may be form the kernel of a rival elite to our current one. The very fact that they attract so much vitriol these days is a testament to this.

Re: your last point. If someone does devise a true grand vision along "the full range of possible action", we'll find out about it soon enough.

It's up now, and Deepl gives a fair enough translation (some assembly required), though it still fucks up Nick Land's idioms, ironically enough.

You won't find much new information in there though it's mostly an introduction to those ideas for that particular crowd. I'm tickled to try and explore what the "sequel" would contain though, like what a cryptobro Lenin would make of our current situation.

You allude to it several times in your post, and it coincides with my general view of Srinivasan.

He can be provocative and creative but I think he has a tendency to ask “technology” to do a lot of heavy lifting in ways that don’t make much sense to me.

A particularly striking example I’ll never forget is him describing (on a podcast somewhere I think) how a constitution should be a git repo and amendments are pull requests.

My response to that and many other things he says is “ok, and?”

He uses what I think of as like a tool theory or framing theory in contrast with mistake/conflict theory:

If we used the right (technological) tools or terms or framing the problem solves itself!

It’s a seductive way of thinking and can create very clever looking solutions, but I find it’s because the real problems are glossed over or not understood, which makes the solutions vacuous at best.

It sounds to me like this book is very much in that tradition of presenting a framing as though it solves something.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it though.

I haven't read enough of his writing to really know. In Network State he comes across as a guy with a technical background and mindset who perhaps doesn't have the same intuitive grasp of the rawer aspects of the human condition. Like, I think intellectually he has a model for nationalism, hunger, the thirst for vengeance and power, fanaticism, faith, prejudice, the whole glorious constellation of our savage species. He's just more comfortable dealing with the technical issues. I'll give him credit for at least acknowledging these things though. Plenty of people with similar background don't even do that much; their horizons end at Fully Automated Gay Luxury Space Communism.