October 22, 2013

Balaji Srinivasan on Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit

Seasteading supporter Balaji S. Srinivasan is the poster child of a modern-day pioneer. Seeing the limits of old ways of doing things, he founded Counsyl, a prenatal genetic testing company, to extend the technological frontier in medicine. Balaji recently spoke at Y Combinator’s startup school and boldly proposed pushing the frontier a step further, suggesting a framework for thinking about “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit” (click to see slides). The reference should sound familiar to seasteaders, given our emphasis on the “opt-in/opt-out” mechanism as the lever for change, to complement and empower the people’s voice in society.

In a masterful analogy, Balaji asks if the USA has become the “Microsoft” of international politics. Chief among the similarities is that no one in has a choice but to “buy” the USA as the world’s dominant “operating system.” Just as Google displaced Microsoft’s hegemony over basic computing, a new crop of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and companies are eclipsing the government, along with old co-dependent industries in Hollywood (entertainment), New York City (media), and Boston (academia).

But the “ultimate exit,” he said, will come with the advent of complete societies run by technology and governed on an entirely opt-in/opt-out basis. Influential Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Larry Page, Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk have in various ways staked their reputation on such a development, signaling that new ways of running society might be very near indeed.

Balaji’s final image suggests we may be in agreement on the most practical jumping-off point for the world’s first society-wide startup experiment: