two weeks To RE:WIRED Green, our campaign on climate change and the power of human ingenuity to combat climate change. We have speakers on food technology and food waste, extinction, glaciology, intergenerational activism, right to repair, community farming, nuclear energy and more – including ocean explorer Sylvia Earle, restaurateur Kayla Abbe, paleontologist Kenneth Lacovala and artificial meat pioneer Isha Datar. Join us in San Francisco on September 28. As a WIRED subscriber, you can use the discount code HOTWIRED30 when you sign up to get 30% off your tickets. Now, here’s this month’s update.
Silicon Valley Exceptionalism
As a melting pot of new technologies, Silicon Valley has long been an incubator of political ideas. I find it interesting—though not surprising in hindsight—that the Bay Area’s spirit of individualism and self-actualization led to two very different directions at the same time. On the one hand, tech companies broadly embrace progressive values such as abortion and LGBTQ rights; on the other, Silicon Valley is the birthplace of a liberal movement against government regulation and social interference.
Our cover story this month is Anthony Lydgate’s profile on Balaji Srinivasan, one of the movement’s standard bearers. If you haven’t heard of Srinivasan, one possible reason is that he is hostile to journalists, who in turn tend to avoid writing about him. (I think you’ll like the way Anthony handles this in his story.) Srinivasan certainly isn’t as well known as some of the others in his circle — a group of wealthy anti-establishmentists gathered around the PayPal founder And around Trump supporter Peter Thiel – but he is rising in popularity and has recently published a book called network statusearlier this year (on Independence Day, no less).
The culmination of years of Srinivasan’s political thought, including a 2013 article he wrote for Wired magazine, the book called for people to abandon traditional forms of governance in favor of new virtual states instead of Connected by geography but by whatever shared values they like. You might choose a state that offers universal health care, mandates veganism, or lets you genetically engineer your kids, and if you don’t like what’s going on there, you can simply raise the ante and, numerically, move to a Jurisdictions are different.
This may seem crazy to you – or it may seem reasonable. Regardless of your political stance, Srinivasan is responding to a widespread discontent. Our existing electoral democracy is really just an elected oligarchy, a view that ranges from the neo-reactionary Curtis Yarvin, who advocates replacing institutions with a benevolent monarchy, to Yale politics, who calls for more J. Hélène Landemore – The form of civic participation is called “open democracy”. Srinivasan’s world of an autonomous, cloud-based digital nation may seem like a pie in the sky, but is it more important than Landemore’s vision for a polity that ponders the kinds of problems we’ve traditionally outsourced to career politicians and bureaucrats?
I think that’s one of the key issues we face today. As I wrote in a Reddit post more than four years ago, “We’re running a 21st century society on 17th or 18th century software” and its inadequacies will only become more apparent to everyone. Who will build the next civilization’s software stack, and what it will look like, will be one of the defining struggles for decades to come. I think that’s why it’s crucial to focus on the thoughts of people like Srinivasan, no matter what you think of them.