A Protocol Suite For Seasteads


(Another new snippet from the book beta, inspired by a lunch conversation today.)

When talking about how we’d like to revolutionize the governing industry, we used the metaphor that we’d like government to be more like the internet industry than operating systems.  One of the properties of the internet is that it is based on a variety of open standards which allow many diverse programs, companies, machines, and people to interoperate.  We’d like seasteads to have this property also.

For example, the internet has a "protocol suite".  As Wikipedia decribes:

A protocol stack (sometimes communications stack) is a particular software implementation of a computer networking protocol suite. The terms are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, the suite is the definition of the protocols, and the stack is the software implementation of them.

Individual protocols within a suite are often designed with a single purpose in mind. This modularization makes design and evaluation easier. Because each protocol module usually communicates with two others, they are commonly imagined as layers in a stack of protocols. The lowest protocol always deals with "low-level", physical interaction of the hardware. Every higher layer adds more features. User applications usually deal only with the topmost layers (See also OSI model).

The same ideas apply to seasteads – we want to set up standards that various levels of groups of seasteads can follow, and allow individual structures and designers to innovate within that standards.  For example, there will be a hardware definition for seastead attachment, specifying how to do structural attachment, how to do infrastructure attachment (network connections, perhaps power/water).  We also need social protocols – What rules govern each seastead?  What are the default rules? How different can the rules be?  How do you know when the ruleset has changed?

Later, in the Infrastructure-Government section, we suggest that all seasteads should have a liberal exit policy, so that we know all societies are freely chosen by their inhabitants.  This can be viewed as a very high-level part of the protocol suite – and will require further definition to manage reputation, handle debts and outstanding criminal offenses, and so forth.

A good set of standards will allow both modularity and innovation, and will require a great deal of thought and refinement.

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