RE: virtual nation building

From: Richard Steven Hack (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 15:10:35 MST

At 04:45 AM 2/24/02 -0800, you wrote:

>--> 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.

I agree that a VN might help c). See my response to Samantha
elsewhere. However, I am no longer interested in changing society on a
large scale per se until I have the technology to do it *directly* :-} But
a VN (or VC for virtual community) *might* be a way to change one's
*personal* society and survival prospects. And you're right that economic
clout is a prerequisite (along with technology) to having any effect at all
on society.

Have you read Hakim Bey's (Peter Lamborn Wilson) "T.A.Z." (Temporary
Autonomous Zones)? Based on Situationist concepts from the 1960's on the
"derive" and "permanent party", it's a concept of forming free zones that
are temporary and mobile. I thought Bey was not convinced of the Net being
of any real use in implementing the concept, but that was before
peer-to-peer and MMORPGs which might change his mind.

>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 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 do agree with you that 300,000 is definitely a community - even 10,000 is
one. I used to moderate a conference on the WELL in the 1980's and anyone
there will tell you that the WELL is a community. The question is: Can
you constrain the *kind* of community you build with game rules while
*still* reflecting the real world enough to build a *real* community?

The problem with the game notion being a basis for a VN, as I said to
Samantha, is that the people are there to *play a game* - not to build a
virtual world that reflects or interacts with the real world. So you have
a group of people in place. But the more they reflect the real world, the
more your game world will reflect the real world. Not good if you intend
to build some sort of lib community.

>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.

Please detail how the Everquest people are engaging in black-market
trade. I'm very interested in this cross-over.

>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?

This is precisely my concern. I would suggest that there would be multiple
VNs heading in all directions - just like the real world. The interesting
issues are: will they come into conflict? How? Will the computer network
protocols they run on keep them separate despite cross-overs of people from
one to another - or hackers? And will a proliferation of VNs make it
easier to select your own desirable community? Will the old lib
"proprietary community" notion be realized here?

> > > 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

That's true - but I'm not interested in wasting my precious survival time
like they are on pointless pursuits. There has to be a real-world benefit
or why bother? In the 1970's, I played one of the first "Shoot Down the
Airplane" games on an Altair (or maybe it was a Processor Tech) - I wasted
two hours on that and, realizing that games are an addicting waste of time,
swore never to do it again. I have played a couple games when I owned an
Atari 520 ST, and I'm very impressed with the current crop of games which
are more like movies than games - but that just means I'd waste even more
time on them :-}

On the other hand, how about SEX? As I mentioned to Samantha, a VN built
around a "Virtual Sex-World" would attract a LOT of people and probably be
enormously profitable...

>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.

I guess I'll have to do some research, since the notion intrigues me as a
means of revenue generation [I'm on Welfare at the moment :-}]

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

I agree. The bandwidth and computation issues can be resolved within five
or ten years with optical networking, Linux Beowulf cluster technology, and
more work on true distributed computing. Intel is projecting 20GHz PCs
within three years.

BTW, the open-source people are reverse-engineering Microsoft's .NET to
insure that the open-source community such as Linux can interoperate with
it. I'd back that since I *don't* want Microsoft honeycombing *my* VN with
their spyware and security flaws.

>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.

I agree. My estimate is at the low end 2020 and more likely around 2050
give or take ten years.

> > 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?

As for entertainment goods, again, how about SEX? A VN with complete
sexual freedom and potent scenarios would attract many participants - more
than anything else I can think of. The resulting economic clout - look at
the 15 million porn sites bringing in billions. For *real* clout, however,
you would need to enter the financial markets, as you indicated, or have an
effect somehow at large commercial/industrial market exchanges and
ecommerce. But sex would be a huge jump-start...

>---> the animated silicon love doll
> >
> >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.

I don't expect a VN to really be able to muscle any serious concessions out
of real states - they'll go to war first. You have to be able to threaten
the real state in the real world with real technology. Remember - the real
states have real guns and those guns work without computers. However, real
personal benefits such as tax evasion could accrue in the physical world, I

Richard Steven Hack

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