We're a bit heavy on Gamescom news at the moment, so you'll forgive us if we haven't been writing up every press release sent to us by the Department of Really Good Ideas. However, some Really Good Ideas demand that one sets down one's trailer-watching goggles (professional gear only, you can't have any) and strap on a pair of applauding gloves. One person with such an idea is Peter Thiel, whose work you may have encountered if you've ever paid $1 for a Humble Indie Bundle or underbid on a mercifully-unattended eBay action. Thiel is the founder of Paypal, but his next big plan is more ambitious: seafaring micronations, free from the laws or morality of conventional countries. You see where this is going.
Above: Peter Thiel (left), Andrew Ryan (center) and Ayn Rand (right): three people with sensible ideas about human beings
Thiel's dream, which he's so far bankrolled with $1.25m, is borne out of the ideas of Ayn Rand, who you may know as one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th Century – or, equally, as the inspiration for Andrew Ryan in BioShock. The scheme is to float microcountries out into international waters and allow citizens to live unencumbered by pesky societal trappings like taxes, building codes, minimum wages or firearms restrictions. The idea is the brainchild of Patri Friedman, son of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman – and also the inciting incident for BioShock, a series in which a group of objectivists go to live out in the ocean and everything works out perfectly for them.
This isn't the first time the idea has been, um, floated: in the late 2000s, the Pirate Bay considered purchasing Sealand, a decommissioned oil platform near England, to turn the rig into a data haven free from prosecution under copyright laws. When the plan fell through, splinter groups started looking for another seabound body to place their hopes in... at which time, the most idealistic and fine print-averse elements of the nerd community took it into their heads that they'd actually be living out in the middle of nowhere, quickly sparking discussions like “nobody wants child pornography, but we have to have the option,” and, “actually, I think you'll find that you are the person who sounds most like Adolph Hitler in this conversation.” At around that time, BioShock came out, and the would-be pioneers were saved by their own short attention spans and love of art-deco FPSes.
But now Peter Thiel wants to revive the dream, an idea one journalist charmingly calls “the most elaborate effort ever devised by a group of computer nerds to get invited to an orgy.” Thiel's wisest moves so far – he'd like to see at least 20,000,000 people living in corporate micronations within the next 40 years – are his plan to remain on dry land, and his lack of golf clubs lying about the office. Seemingly no one has asked him whether the fictional failure of the exact thing he means to encourage puts a damper on his plans – presumably because that would just start the whole “is BioShock for or against Objectivism?” discussion all over again, and nobody wants that. Well, maybe some people do, but the best place for them is on an island in the middle of nowhere.
Aug 18, 2011
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