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The Network State Conference
Come to Amsterdam on October 30 to build the parallel establishment.
The first Network State Conference will be held on October 30 in Amsterdam. Speakers include Glenn Greenwald, Vitalik Buterin, Anatoly Yakovenko, Garry Tan, the Winklevosses, and Tyler Cowen — as well as founders and funders of startup societies from around the world.
And tickets are only $99, meaning that the only real cost is your time! So stop reading right now. Go reserve your seat at thenetworkstate.com/conference, book your flight to the Netherlands, and pick from one of Amsterdam’s many fine hotels. We already have 1000+ attendees, but by the time you read this there may still be a few spots left.
Ok, done? Now here’s why you should come.
This isn’t just another tech conference. Those are fine, but I wouldn’t see any point in organizing another just for the sake of it.
No, this is a meeting of all the people building the parallel establishment. That’s more than parallel money. It’s parallel media, parallel education, parallel science, parallel construction, and even parallel cities. It’s a gathering of the aspiring Satoshis creating Internet First alternatives to the current system and the aspiring Satyas seeking to reform it from within. And it’s a venue for all those who want to found, fund, and find new communities of like mind.
Let me explain.
The Limits of Technology
Technology is hitting the limits of what it can do solely with technology.
Because the traditional vehicle of the last few decades — the startup company — assumes a stable political environment that is no longer in evidence. For example, our literature on competition assumes founders are facing corporate rivals, not captured regulators. Our investment modeling assumes that some companies die over time from bankruptcy, not that many companies die at once from a failed banking system. And our theory around international expansion assumes that countries actually want economic growth, not that they’ll fight it with trade barriers, product bans, and regulations.
Even more fundamentally, if you’re in the West, you can no longer assume the power will be on, the roads will be open, the fires will be put out, or the crime will be put down. You can no longer assume your bank account will be there tomorrow, your passport will remain valid tomorrow, or that your speech will remain free tomorrow. You can’t just start a space company, or even a taxi company, without worrying about the politics of it all.
At a fundamental level, the political environment we grew up with is transforming from constant to variable. So the model of ignoring politics to focus on technology is no longer applicable. That model worked in its day, but today innovating in tech requires somehow gaining the ability to innovate in politics, without getting entangled with DC. We can’t assume Western institutions are going to keep basic infrastructure — like banking, law enforcement, or even electricity — working anymore. So what do we do next?
There are three main responses to the decline of Western institutions.
Establishment. Deny that anything much is broken. And for those “minor” problems that do exist, trust existing institutions to fix them.
Dissident. Prepare for collapse by tweeting, praying, prepping, holding Bitcoin, and/or moving to the safest place you can. Hope for the triumph of your favorite ideology, without much of a plan.
Communist. Capitulate to our new Chinese overlords. Join the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 2.0, willingly or grudgingly.
The first option is common among the establishment. The second option is common among Western dissidents of all stripes. And the third option is quite popular outside the West, where many countries large and small are already running China’s OS in lieu of Washington’s model. Now, I don’t like any of these options! So I propose a fourth:
Technologist. Build parallel societies and parallel institutions, based on Internet values, starting now.
Why “Internet values”? Well, the solution to the collapse of Western institutions won’t be found entirely within the West. The decline would have been arrested long ago if it were that simple. Some new idea is needed, some new blood, some new energy. And the most obvious source is the Internet.
After all, Musk used the Internet to uncensor speech, when the politicians were powerless. Kalanick used the Internet to deregulate taxis, when they’d been captured by corrupt regulators. Snowden used the Internet to expose the NSA, when they’d evaded democratic accountability by lying to Congress. And Satoshi used the Internet to build Bitcoin, as an alternative to a central banking cartel that no one ever voted for or could even vote against.
The Internet has thus succeeded where the Western political process has failed.
Moreover, the Internet is the basis for an entirely new global political coalition. It won’t be based on “Western values”, for the simple fact that (a) too many in the West itself reject those values, (b) most population, time, and even capital is increasingly on the Internet rather than in the West itself, (c) a huge proportion of technical talent nowadays actually comes from a background of Eastern values, and (d) the premises that underpin our most successful new institutions like Bitcoin are in fact Internet values like open source and peer-to-peer — not classical Western (or Eastern) values per se.
I mean, if you think about it, when you attend a tech conference in India or Dubai or Japan, invoking “Western values” doesn’t really make sense. Yet when people use this phrase they are gesturing at something real: the common culture the global tech community shares, namely Internet values.
The concept of building our new institutions on Internet values makes everything clear. Only by drawing on the global Internet can we summon the requisite capital, talent, and moral authority necessary to compete with powerful-but-failing Western institutions. This is both completely obvious — Twitter and Bitcoin are of course Internet First global networks! — and yet quite non-obvious.
The Parallel Establishment
OK, so if we’ve set ourselves the immense task of building alternatives to declining Western institutions on the basis of Internet values…how exactly do we go about it? That’s the focus of the Network State Conference. The good news is that we’ve already made quite a bit of progress here, even if it hasn’t been recognized as such.
At a high level we’re building the parallel establishment, which can be divided into physical parallel societies and digital parallel services.
The Parallel Societies. The physical parallel societies are the most novel part of the Network State Conference. They’re startup cities like Culdesac and Prospera, local communities like the Neighborhood NY and SF, and digital organizations like Vibecamp and Metacartel. These all have in-person components, ranging from meetups to buildings to full real estate developments. As these communities get larger, they’re setting up budgets for public goods, appointing their equivalents of mayors and governors, and in general engaging in de novo political innovation on a fully opt-in, Internet First basis.
The Parallel Services. The digital parallel services are more familiar, but we’re thinking about them in a new way. You can conceptualize many crypto protocols and tech companies as fixing individually failing Western institutions. For example, Ethereum and Solana are building parallel financial systems, Synthesis and Replit are providing parallel education, and Farcaster and Substack are developing parallel media ecosystems.
The Parallel Societies and the Parallel Services combine in interesting ways. Suppose you found a new startup society like Culdesac on the basis of car-free living (see below), which is an innovation in parallel transportation. You could import a parallel educational service (like Synthesis) to improve your K-12 education, or a parallel medical service (like Biograph) to complement your societal innovation in transportation.
By proving this out at small scale, and working out all the bugs before attracting large numbers of residents, we aren’t (a) blindly trusting the Western establishment, (b) passively waiting for the revolution, or (c) grudgingly capitulating to China, but (d) actively building the Internet-values-based future of society.
If that feels like something you’re interested in, you should come to Amsterdam on October 30 and check it out for yourself. Go get tickets and see the full program at thenetworkstate.com/conference.