RE: virtual nation building

From: Reason (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 05:45:25 MST

--> Samantha Atkins

> 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.

One could argue that the virtual nation is (c). The only way, IMHO, to
change society via (c) is to amass enough economic clout to make existing
portions of society listen. Anything else is wishful thinking.

> > 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.

Massive(ly) multiplayer online role-playing game. For suitable definitions
of "massive", "multiplayer", "online" and "role-playing", of course.

> 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.

That too, but you'll notice while many advocate this, no-one has a working
network/culture with more than 10k people in it. Compare with virtual
nations that exist in games: 10k people is pocket change.

> > 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.

Nope, not kidding. Put it this way: if 30-50% of your social interaction
time happens in place X, and there are 300,000 (or even a few thousand)
other people who say the same, I think you're going to have to start
redefining words in order to deny that place X is not the center of a

I would note that EQ can be a "stupid addictive mind-fuck game" while also
being everything I say it is. "stupid addictive mind-fuck game" pretty much
describes most people's experience with their meat lives too.

Productive is as productive does. Any successful/skilled EQ player can
convert their EQ work time (i.e. time spent accumulating platinum, items,
leveling, etc) to meat world money quite efficiently, thank you, thanks to
black markets. There are real world groups that make a living doing just
this; one of them is sueing the makers of Dark Age of Camelot right now to
prevent them banning such trades.

> > 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.

Au contraire, it is absolutely a simulation of real life; specifically real
capitalist life. In order to get ahead in EQ, you have to be industrious.
You have to "work" -- perform tasks that are often repetitive and not
necessarily that interesting. Sometimes "work" is cool, like when you work
with your friends, or finish off a major task that gives you a sense of
satisfaction. Doing well allows you leisure time, spend chatting and
socializing, showing off whatever presige you earned in your work.

If you play these games at all, you understand how they mimic real economic
life. People socialize, and then it's "ok, back to work" to power level,
find that next 100 platinum, etc.

So really, mmorpgs like this are work holidays, I guess.

> 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.

You know, everything you're saying about these games applies to most
people's meatspace lives too...

> 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.

Well, gah, what am I proposing here, but to use gaming mania to solve a
real, important problem?

The thesis of my post was that people can pontificate and design
bootstrapped virtual worlds all they like, and they'll be roundly ignored as
they have been for decades. They're ignoring the herd of elephants (virtual
proto-nations based on games) next door. MMORPGs will spawn real virtual
nations; it seems all but inevitable at this point. The only question will
be which direction will they head in?

> > 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".

No you don't, no it doesn't. People build complex communities with intricate
rituals, histories and mores on FPS shooter servers, you know, let alone in

I'd suggest you bite the bullet and dive in and play some of these games for
a little while. Do some research. If you think that people don't take these
game worlds seriously, that the level of rules and laws are inconsistant
with real societies, then you definately need to go look at the communities.

> > 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.

All of which is currently researched, white papered, planned, theorized,
outlined, and in some cases actually prototyped. Go research.

> 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.

Not at all. Meaty server machines can be emulated in some classes of
decentralized system. Again, go research.

> 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
> community.

When you start talking about macroeconomics; i.e. virtual nation with
serious economic clout talking turkey with real nation with serious economic
clout, large servers in any location are vulnerable to shutdown via any
number of means. An inconvenienced real nation will take that course because
it is cheaper than the alternatives. Look at RIAA vrs file trading networks
for the economic realities underlying this sort of decision tree. Morality
and ethics don't really come into it.

> > 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.

Not really. If anything, an MMORPG client takes up less bandwidth than
streaming audio.

> > 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.

It takes two years to roll out a decent product in the corporate software
world. That's unlikely to change before the end of the decade, if then. It's
a management process thing.

So, two years for the decentralized internet operating system thingy (which
will be simulateously brought out by Microsoft as a .NET extension, and by
Sun+other companies as a set of extension APIs to the Java standards), and
then two years after that the first large professionally-produced games
based on it.

I've always said you singularitarians have your clocks wound too tight.
Barring someone getting lucky with a hard takeoff, society as a whole isn't
going to roll out a singularity within the next ten to twenty years.

> > 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.

Why would this be? Have you checked the internation money flows for
tangibles vrs intangibles recently?

> 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.

Entertainment. Artificially created rare intangibles (the present MMORPG and
other collectable markets). Access. Processor time. Services (guides,
trainers, etc).

Restrictions and politics always come with it; that's why you need economic
muscle to defend against them.

---> the animated silicon love doll

>>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
>>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.
>What do we export? How would the being a citizen of this virtual nation
work? Would it be my house/apartment
>seceding from the US (or wherever)? How would that work if I was renting my
home, or living with my parents (as
>I do)?

You get whatever the virtual nation can muscle out of existing nations via
simply having stuff to trade. Dual citizenship, preferential treatment,
access to money markets. Like being an ex-pat. As soon as sufficient flow
across borders exists, money changers spring up. So get paid in virtual
currency, avoid real nation income taxes, use money changers.

I can see income taxes being the first line of battle, actually. If you have
a significant body of people productively working in a virtual nation and
not paying much in the way of income taxes to the real nation, that's going
to put noses out of joint.

Anders needs to post his RPG background for a revolutionary virtual nation
concept to the list...


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