Re: virtual nation building

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 03:16:30 MST

Reason wrote:

> I'm pretty sick of society at the moment; restrictions, idiocy, double
> standards abound. Makes you want to set up afresh. The traditional options
> for doing so are not all that great:
> a) build your own island in international waters
> b) get off-planet in large numbers

(c) design a way to do what you want while staying in the
society by side-stepping, breaking and/or subverting the rules
without getting punished seriously for it.

Lately I am down enough on the way things are going to doubt if

anything but some variant of (c) is currently viable.

> So following on from some topics touched on here in recent weeks and finding
> grumpy fantasies better than gloomy pontification on the state of freedom in
> the world, I'm postulating at a way to kickstart a virtual nation in such a
> way as to garner significant economic clout within a couple of years. With
> economic clout comes political clout.


> Assumption #1: there's no better way to start a nation that with an MMORPG.

huh? Don't grok "MMORPG". The holy google leads me to think it
has something to do with the gaming universe. But I am not a
dweller in that space so I am not sure what it is about.

Is this what you meant by "virtual"? I more have in mind
building alternate secure, trusted, private communication,
information and processing pools, economics, trade and so on
online outside of the prying eyes and disasterous laws and
politics of the every day meat space and its mirroring on the Net.

> I'll take this as read, but convince yourself of this if needed. My thesis
> here is you need a fairly large number of potentially right-minded people,
> and you aren't going to get a sufficient number who can be swayed to
> participating in nationhood any other way. There is only one online
> pseudo/proto-nation of any note; Everquest []. It wasn't

You must be kidding. Everquest is a stupid addictive mind-fuck
game that has absorbed some of my friends and kept them from
doing anything productive for quite some time now. Please say
you are kidding.

I am not a player but the space is much too limited and
constrained to be a real viable internet community, much less
the framework for a new civlization. Bad drugs.

> designed to be one; it's the natural end result of a critical mass of people
> playing a crude escapist simulation of real life. It's an unrecognized
> dictatorship with many part-time residents from real-world nations who trade
> Everquest intangibles on black markets in America and Europe.

It is in no way a simulation of "real life". It is a game
cleverly designed to suck you in for more and more hours.

> On the other hand, you have to be very into the whole virtual nation concept
> to have heard of any of the attempts at deliberate virtual nation building
> from any other starting point that do exist. (Serious or otherwise;

Cute but a bad parody of what might be possible.

> Existing MMORPGs are seeding off into some interesting ideas on value,
> political systems and exchange rates.
> (flawed Norrath study showing that one can consider MMORPGs to have an
> economy that can be related to the real world)

I have no problem in principle with that.

> Lots more games in development, many with equally interesting twists in
> player-ownership, governing structures, economic relationships with the real
> world, and so forth:

Now, I do agree that it is very interesting designing and
playing games to work out alternate ways of doing things,
creating value and so on. And of course, "real" virtual worlds
where real value and living take place are very interesting to
me. But game hollow substitutes to escape from reality and to
feed people's addiction without really giving them any space to
create anything but more wealth for the designres and hosters of
the game is not the way to a viable future in my opinion. But
we certainly may learn things there that are very important for
uploaded/virtual life and for creating alternatives.

I have often wished that there was a way to have the gaming mania

actually solve real, important problems and create real value.
That kind of dedication and fanaticism that I have seen in some
of the elite players could do wonders if it was channeled. It is
fun to think of possible games where this might be more true.

> ---
> So in theory, there's nothing stopping you making an MMORPG which guides and
> rewards the formation of governing bodies of your choice, while still being
> fun to play. A libertarian twist on a traditional MMORPG, for example.
> Because it is a game, it could garner a large and persistant
> userbase/populance/part-time inhabitants within a few years. EverQuest
> boasts 300,000 subscribers, for example.

Yes. But you have to allow a lot of freedom, at least as much
as in the real-world, to have a true virtual society/world
evolve. You need a set of basic "physical" laws and a few
constraints on the inhabitants. You also need that world to be
taken seriously and have serious potential for real gain and
loss and the creation of real value. It needs more than to just
be "fun".

> A problem with existing MMORPGs for virtual nation building is their
> centralization. Too easy to shut down by a physical world nation state that
> wanted to nip this thing in the bud. It's hard to wield economic clout if
> you have servers that can be shut down easily. One would have to take the
> next logical step and build an MMORPG around a decentralized peer-to-peer
> system. This would probably have to be built on top of some form of early
> model internet-scale operating system
> [].

A decentralized peer-to-peer system has its own many problems of
course. Much of a virtual state would require massive amounts
of storage of computational state. Decentralizing that and yet
keeping its coherency would require much cleverness and a lot of
redundancy. For some types of such worlds really meaty server
machines are essential for many lesser classes of machine's
owners to play at all. The servers do not have to be stationary
in meat or internet space of course, but they do have to exist.
  Some stationary servers could also be in secret, hardened,
difficult to stop, locations. Perhaps you could even have such
a thing claim the privileges granted to a religion and religious

> Existing scalable peer-to-peer structures in development
> [
> probably suffice on their own if they weren't just regarded as a service.
> Big difference between something that's a service (Napster, Gnutella) and
> something that is, in effect, a second home (MMORPG).

Yes, and a part of the difference is a difference in bandwidth
and concentrated computational resource needs.

> Although the line between the two paragraphs above is pretty blurry.
> Anyhow, so lets say you have your ultra-cool, libertarian-leaning,
> player-run MMORPG with 300,000 players based on the next Gnutella as a
> platform. Or freenet. Or whatever. And this will happen; it probably won't
> be libertarian-leaning, but we'll have an ultra-cool player-run MMORPG with
> at least 300k players on a decentralized peer-to-peer platform five years
> from now, I figure.

If we don't have a hell of a lot more than that in five years
then I don't like the odds for freedom enough to reach Singularity.

> So at that point, you have the real seed for a true virtual nation, one
> which could start to try for recognition by real nations through economic
> leverage and the traditional routes of extablishing exchange rates,
> legitimizing existing black and gray markets, etc, etc. It seems to me that
> this could head to a nice place to live a whole lot faster than building
> your own island or getting out of the gravity well.

You need real goods beyond entertainment items that are produced
within the VR and real goods that flow in the reverse direction
if you are going to effectively create a new kind of society in
virtual space. The current e-commerce might move into such a
v-world in a big way. Major data storage and representation, at
least of some types, might turn out to be a natural. But if you
pull in real commerce from outside then outside laws and
restrictions and politics come with it. So this might not be a
fine idea even if viable. You need things that are produced
naturally most competitively in such a space that are seen as a
value outside.

> But I am still pretty sick of society. We're overdue getting someplace to
> start over.

No argument there.

- samantha

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:40 MST