The Social Singularity


“Increasingly it will be more apparent to people that we should separate nonterritorial systems from territorial systems of goods. With technological progress, people are going to demand greater latitude to form nonterritorial systems across geographies based on individual interests and beliefs. Of course, the devil is in the implementation. But the idea is straightforward: it’s time we divorced nonterritorial systems of goods from territorial systems.” — Max Borders

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In this decentralist manifesto, Max Borders examines many different trends and technologies that are shaping the way society organizes itself.

One of the base insights of this work is the recognition that rules shape cultures, and cultures shape rules. The author’s own thesis is that technology has the power to change both culture and rules. This is because innovations can change our incentives, and subversive innovations can replace existing intermediary structures in society.

When it comes to the voice and exit debate, Borders recognizes that creating opportunities for exit is where the subversive innovator’s role lie. Creating systems, like Bitcoin, in which an exit is a simple code fork away greatly reduces exit costs. But the existence of many simultaneous governance systems does not mean voice will go away. Instead, this ease of choosing between systems will mean that voice is going to be exercised more locally, in tighter communities where it actually matters.

Inspired by the likes of de Puydt, the book then suggests a separation between territorial and nonterritorial systems of governance. This “Polyarchy” would be based in two rules: for communities (non-territorial systems), there is the exit rule — as long as one has upheld his part of the agreement, he is free to exit the community. For territories, there is the locality rule — legitimate governance functions should be handled at the most local level feasible. Applying these two principles would be the middle way between the current situation and anarchy, a “sweet spot of value” between unity and diversity.

During the course of the book, the author also shows the many benefits of more decentralized organizations. These include reducing corruption due to a lower cost of exit and being more antifragile, since there is less at stake when dealing with any unit in a more decentralized system.

Lastly, the book also gives a tour of many competitive governance ideas and examples. The author goes through the possibility of Seasteading, the reason for the success of countries like Liechtenstein and Switzerland, the framing of legal systems as software and so on, making this a good introductory book to this field.

The book is split into 7 chapters, in which Borders first shows the problems and weaknesses of current political and social systems, then proceeds to explain the social singularity and what the future of governance will look like.

Creators of zones and societies can go to chapters 5 and 6 to understand the processes shaping our new societies and to learn more about how technological and social innovation will impact governance.

Policymakers and analysts can read chapters 1 and 2 for an understanding of why traditional politics may have its days counted and what the vulnerabilities of existing institutions are.

Scholars and experts may refer to chapters 3, 4 and 7 for the definition of social singularity and an explanation of how people can find new values for a post-political age.

The book can be found here.

Written by: Francisco Litvay



Institute for Competitive Governance

The Institute for Competitive Governance is a nonprofit institution which studies special jurisdictions throughout the world.