Network State, Balaji Srinivasan (8/10)

An eclectic mish-mash of history, politics, tech, crypto, governance, and socioeconomics

Network State, Balaji Srinivasan (8/10)

Rating: 8/10

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🤔 Pre Read Exercise: What Do I Know About This Topic/Book?

  • Balaji’s a pretty famous guy online, and he’s got lots of musings, ramblings, tweets, and more about this topic. A bunch of my crypto friends who are generally quite libertarian-type folk have mentioned the book to me as essential reading. I kinda get the impression the book’s gonna be about some intersection of historical analysis, politics, crypto, DAOs, etc. to draw out a thesis similar to Cabin (one of our SCV portfolio projects).

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Balaji’s personal manifesto and vision for “network states” – communities organized around a particular vision of how to run their own society that start off as online clubs, but then build up more and more of a presence over time and eventually become large enough to seek political autonomy or even diplomatic recognition.
  2. An eclectic mish-mash of history, politics, tech, crypto, governance, and socioeconomics.
  3. Very thought-provoking and difficult to follow along at times.

🎨 Impressions

I like this book because it’s very eclectic and thought-provoking. It helped me question things I previously took for granted and opened my eyes to some of the forces behind the current tripolar politics of the world (China/CCP authoritarianism, the NYT/elites-led U.S. and other Western institutions and their fracturing unity, and the crypto world).

I also like this book because the Network State idea itself is very disruptive and it’s exciting to think and read about things on the cusp of the evolution of our socioeconomic and technological evolution.

I liked many of the mental models Balaji deploys and how he presents historical cycles of control. I also like that he outlines a few different future “if/then” scenarios.

One of the things that resonated most about this book to me was that the most powerful forces on earth are cultural. I recently read a fascinating post by Toby Shorin from Other Internet called Life after Lifestyle about how the 2010s were defined by companies selling products as a way of life, and it’s become increasingly clear to me that “community” will be a differentiator for organizations. On that basis, Balaji argues tech culture, start-up culture, and now BTC/web3 culture is becoming global culture.

I don’t like this book because there’s a lot of disparate rambling about history, often from a very libertarian / Bitcoin-maxi perspective, and it lacks a solid foundational structure and ongoing narrative.

In my opinion, the actual technological and social implementation of the main idea and many sub-ideas are not very well established, explained, or grounded.

I’d love to have, for example, seen many more concrete examples of the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchains in facilitating the Network State vision. I’d like to have Balaji elaborate more on the technical implementation of Soulbound tokens and NFTs in a Network State and why they are advantageous to regular token-weighted voting mechanisms.

I’d also like Balaji to have elaborated on why a cryptocurrency is even necessary for a Network State because, while his simple definition of Network State would likely be undisputed by many, the inclusion of a cryptocurrency in the more detailed definition, I feel, is more subjective and would receive pushback from many.

🔍 How I Discovered It

Balaji’s basically a famous guy online.

🥰 Who Would Like It?

People in crypto and tech who are interested in geopolitics and generally open-minded tech people.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

Opened my eyes to some of the historical and technologies forces behind geopolitics and helped me ask smarter questions when thinking about the future.

💬 My Top Quotes

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.

A network state is 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.