The Dutch city of Amsterdam — no stranger to international conferences dedicated to cryptocurrencies, blockchain and decentralization — was recently host to the Network State Conference, which explored decentralization at an entirely different level.
Conference speakers and attendees gathered to discuss and debate whether a new form of decentralized country is possible.
The conference kicked off with an energetic host directing the crowd to chant and shout the title before Balaji Srinivasan, an entrepreneur, investor and former chief technology officer of Coinbase, entered to make his opening speech. During his initial remarks, Srinivasan asks, “Are new countries even possible?”
In his book The Network State, Srinivasan proposes that new countries are possible via a new type of digital community, where its members utilize blockchain and cryptocurrencies to host their social and economic institutions, and its borders lie at the extremes of the crowdfunded land owned by community nodes.
A node might begin with just a small group of friends, the idea being that this small community self-organizes to raise funds, expand and eventually form a viable network node. When you have several well-aligned community nodes, regardless of their geographical distribution, you have the foundations of a network state.
There are many goals among network state proponents, who mainly wish to construct a parallel social infrastructure as a “competing product” to what they see as the flawed systems of state-level social, political and economic institutions, thereby granting citizens of such nation-states the ability to opt-out should incumbent social structures prove insufficient for their needs and desires.
Ivy Astrix, a member of vibecamp and long-time supporter of Srinivasan, told Cointelegraph that disillusionment with the establishment was a common theme among attendees. “Can society, the U.S.A., these very coherent societies — still function? I think they can’t,” she said.
Amid this growing disenchantment with existing societal structures, Astrix said that network states “can improve ‘normal’ people’s lives […] because they encourage a co-creation approach to life, instead of just slotting yourself into something that’s already here, just because its the ‘best’ or ‘least sucky’ option.”