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A blog by Leon Oudejans

Cybertopia, seasteading and Ayn Rand

3 February 2015

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Recently I saw an intriguing documentary on TV that was called Cybertopia. It featured the opinions of some very wealthy people from Silicon Valley, California, USA. One of these ideas was to replace future government by cybertronics (hence Cybertopia) as government was not capable of being efficient. Another idea was to divide California in 5 new countries, one of them being Silicon Valley. Another idea was to create a new floating country/city in international waters (a.k.a. seasteading).

I must admit that these ideas had an initial appeal on me until I heard the deeper argumentation. Then my initial appeal turned into some kind of fear. The common theme in their words was less – or preferably no – government. The scary part was in the extreme conviction of these ideas. One of these newly rich compared Government with Evil and was totally serious about it. He is also a supporter of Ayn Rand.

I have heard Ayn Rand’s name several times over the past 2 decades but never took the opportunity to do some research on her. Today I finally did and it makes very clear why she is so popular in certain layers of American society. She said out loud what they think but are afraid to say in public. Afraid because of the shame they must still feel in defending such ideas. Some are past that shame and express these ideas in public. I felt a sense of fear while hearing these ideas on TV.

Russian Jewish born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum (1905-1982) outlined her philosophic ideas for future society – which she referred to as Objectivism – mostly in a novel called Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism, and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognising individual rights (source: Wikipedia).

One could well argue that Ayn Rand’s ideas are a clear response to Karl Marx (1818-1883) and to the Russian Revolution that started in the year she was born (1905). She must have heard and seen quite a lot of the post revolution horrors – including WW1 – before she migrated from Russia to the USA in 1926. Those horrors must have defined her ideas.

While Ayn Rand objected to anarchism, her supporters clearly believe in anarchism (Wikipedia: a belief in the abolition of all government and the organisation of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion). They cherry-pick on her ideas to create a society which they fully control themselves through their immense wealth. 

One of their ideas is seasteading which is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by the government of any standing nation (Wikipedia). Just think of a former oil platform with luxury apartments, a park, and a helicopter landing zone. Basically, seasteading is their way to avoid evil taxation and evil government. 

However, a society is more than a tax free life in a luxury apartment in international waters. It involves medical care, an independent legal system (laws, police, judge), infrastructure. Some of this is for sale but not all. I sincerely doubt that cybertopia and seasteading can evolve into sustainable societies. Foremost as the underlying motivation (extreme selfishness) is unsustainable.

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