For God and ‘The Network State’: The crypto elite’s endgame

Balaji Srinivasan’s “The Network State” isn’t just a thought experiment — it’s a blueprint that, right or wrong, will inform how powerful tech leaders interact with governments for years to come.

Network state

“The Network State” has undeniable appeal among some of the most powerful figures in tech. | Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol; DigitalVision Vectors

A man walks down the street in San Francisco and thinks to himself, “You know what this city needs? A higher concentration of tech people.”

Balaji Srinivasan would accuse that man of thinking too small. What the world needs, Srinivasan contends, is an entire nation of tech-oriented individuals — “subscriber-citizens,” as he calls them. These people will connect over the internet, accumulate real-world assets, pool their land and eventually bargain for recognition as a discontiguous sovereign nation. Their public records will be written on the blockchain, an invention future generations will come to view as being “on par with the beginning of written history millennia ago.”

This group will form the world’s first “Network State” — a concept Srinivasan calls “the sequel to the nation state.”

Critics have long accused technologists of harboring world-dominating ambitions. “The Network State,” which Srinivasan published on the 4th of July, articulates these ambitions in plain, unapologetic terms. The “State” is dying, he writes, having served its function displacing God as the leviathan of the 20th century. We have now entered the era of the “Network,” and the conflict between the dying State and the emergent Network will come to define this moment in history.

Whatever you think of this prediction, “The Network State” has undeniable appeal among some of the most powerful figures in tech. Marc Andreessen endorsed Srinivasan as producing “the highest rate of output per minute of good new ideas of anybody I’ve ever met.” Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin said, “[W]e’ve started new currencies … ‘The Network State’ shows us how to start new cities and new countries.” And Coinbase co-founder Brian Armstrong confidently proclaimed, “Balaji will be right about ‘The Network State.’”

A Twitter search for “network state” brings you to a near-endless wall of discussion among true believers. They are almost all men. Some have “.eth” appended to their usernames. Approximately one in every 20 sports a Bored Ape avatar.

Srinivasan presides over this digital domain as a philosopher king, dispatching 280-character edicts on topics ranging from transhumanism to effective altruism. After completing a doctorate in electrical engineering at Stanford, he went on to co-found four companies, lead a16z’s expansion into biomedicine and blockchain and serve as CTO of Coinbase. These credentials — as well as his Twitter following of nearly 700,000 — place him in a rarified cohort of Silicon Valley thought-influencers that includes Naval Ravikant, Chris Dixon and Paul Graham.


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