Some of you have played the superb video game BioShock, about the libertarian fundamentalist guy who builds a city called Rapture under the sea. (The people there use a substance called Adam to enhance their physical abilities, and everything spirals out of control. The device at right is a replica made by a fan of the game, via Kotaku.)
Crazy idea, right? But wait — the guy who founded PayPal, Peter Thiel, thinks this is a really good idea! In a piece he wrote for Cato Unbound (because, you know, the Cato Institute is usually so restrained), he describes the three places we need to go in order to become truly free as money-lusting capitalists.
Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country[...].
Number one is cyberspace. Okay, fine. I guess. He started PayPal and it’s a pretty handy thing. I don’t understand how people can escape into cyberspace to evade the “unthinking demos” that are ruining the world, but whatever.
Number two is outer space. I swear to Jebus I’m not making this up. “We must redouble the efforts to commercialize space”, he advises. Can you imagine? Big satellites advertising McDonalds when you look up at the night sky. Sandals: The Moon. Woooo!
Number three is what he calls “seasteading”. That’s right — let’s build ourselves a Rapture! Seriously, read it for yourself.
To my mind, the questions about whether people will live there (answer: enough will) are secondary to the questions about whether seasteading technology is imminent. From my vantage point, the technology involved is more tentative than the Internet, but much more realistic than space travel. We may have reached the stage at which it is economically feasible, or where it soon will be feasible. It is a realistic risk, and for this reason I eagerly support this initiative.
I mean, wow. It’s not enough that he was worth $1.2 billion in 2008 (and probably more today). He needs to get away from those darn taxes that would pay for poor kids to get health care! Fascism! Glenn Beck is right!
This is the sort of people we have in mind when some of us radicals support the idea of taxing the rich. They have the money, people! They just refuse to share it with the rest of us. And they’re willing to flee into outer space, or beneath the ocean, in order to keep all their toys to themselves.
Nicholas Kristof wrote an interesting piece in the New York Times recently about our occupation of Afghanistan. I encourage you to read the whole thing.
The conventional wisdom is that education and development are impossible in insecure parts of Afghanistan that the Taliban control. That view is wrong.
An organization set up by Mr. Mortenson and a number of others are showing that it is quite possible to run schools in Taliban-controlled areas. I visited some of Mr. Mortenson’s schools, literacy centers and vocational training centers, and they survive the Taliban not because of military protection (which they eschew) but because local people feel “ownership” rather than “occupation.”
As I mentioned once upon a time, the difference between “war” and “occupation” is important, and it’s one with which we need to wrestle if we’re going to find a way to get out of there anytime soon. (Which we totally should!)
UPDATE: 60 Minutes reported recently on Mortenson’s activities and some of the questions around how truthful his claims are. Sheds some unsettling light on the claims he and others have made.
If you’ve never seen the Powers of Ten video, have a look. Sciencey coolness from 1977.
Today I’m listening to: Dam Funk!