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Paypal founder Peter Thiel pretty much wants to recreate BioShock's Rapture

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

Source: Details

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38 comments

  • santaclouse37 - August 19, 2011 10:52 p.m.

    It's actually not an unpopular idea, it's called Seasteading and there is an entire organization of folk working to make these micronations a reality (http://seasteading.org/). The theory is that governments evolve just like everything else, but evolution stagnates when the possibility for new forms of government to be tested out is eliminated due to every piece of land on earth being owned by preexisting governments. Therefore, by creating new, experimental micronations on international waters, new ideas can be tested, and then kept or scrapped. This all hopefully would lead to positive discoveries which can be implemented to facilitate positive social change throughout the world. Also, Bioshock was underwater, these micronations would be above-water. Your cynicism is why ideas like this never take off.
  • IAmJohnGalt - August 19, 2011 8:48 p.m.

    It's a brilliant idea in theory. But would never work in the manner he is suggesting. There a very few men that would truly embrace the ideas behind Galt's Gulch. It isn't enough to be brilliant. You must also be completely devoted to fulfilling your true potential and have a love for knowledge.
  • TheCakeIsaPie - August 19, 2011 7:22 p.m.

    @Thorsteinthestaffstruck: The US is not purely capitalist; no where is. Every country has a mixture of private and public services. Ayn Rand was not wrong per se; Objectivism is an ideal, like communism. It fails because of human nature. Rapture failed because it did not entirely follow the tenets of Objectivism. If you're a tiny bit off, disaster results. If you're far off, a realistic economic structure results.
  • shadowreaper72 - August 19, 2011 5:56 p.m.

    Well isnt this just a train wreck ready to happen.
  • NanoElite666 - August 19, 2011 4:33 p.m.

    Because we all know how well Rapture worked out for everyone involved...
  • Yeager1122 - August 19, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    This would obviously turn out well when peolpe are allowed to do whatever they want they always do the right thing....yeah right.
  • vadorsoul - August 19, 2011 3:20 p.m.

    Also libertarians are not the same as objectivest. Libertarianism is the most misunderstood philosophy, because it is easy for anyone who does not like the powers that be to claim they are one.
  • vadorsoul - August 19, 2011 3:14 p.m.

    He said no conventional morality, not no morality. He is a gay man
  • Darth Olds - August 19, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    Well if there are no laws concerning fire arms then you all know there is going to be a lot of violence, bloodshed, death and destruction. With no law and/or moral codes there is nothing to keep anyone from killing anyone else because they look funny or they sneezed on them or the took the last donut. "You sir/madam have taken the last donut. That donut was clearly mine." Pulls out sidearm, aims and....
  • jackthemenace - August 19, 2011 1:30 p.m.

    Even if the TRIFFIDS take over mainland Britain, i'd still rather go to the Isle of Man rather than live on some oil-rig where there are literally no laws. I mean, just look how Ireland turned out.
  • presc1ence - August 19, 2011 12:20 p.m.

    Hmmmm Working for massive corperations in a legally unbound 'country'. Sounds liek a reciepe for slavery to me!
  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - August 19, 2011 12:02 p.m.

    He wants to create lawless floating platforms in the middle of the ocean, nope, not seeing a problem there
  • geekboy78 - August 19, 2011 9:56 a.m.

    as long as they set up lots of cameras so the rest of the world could watch as it slowly disintegrated, it'd be great. it'll only take one nut job and it'd go very wrong, very quickly. and there will always be one nutjob. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efHCdKb5UWc&feature=related
  • spatuluk - August 19, 2011 9:05 a.m.

    Sealand was an old WW2 gun platform, not an oil rig, and it's been an independent principality since the 60s. The Pirate Bay wanted to buy it from the current prince. I think it currently is a data haven - just not The Pirate Bays.
  • austincharlesbond - August 19, 2011 8:15 a.m.

    It's like Communism. Seems like a good idea at first but...
  • Hobogonigal - August 19, 2011 8:07 a.m.

    This would actually be pretty cool, but if there were no taxes then how would parts of the city be developed (paths, parks etc.)?
  • Doctalen - August 19, 2011 6:37 a.m.

    Still waiting on the Big Daddys
  • IcePotato - August 19, 2011 5:42 a.m.

    "free from the laws or morality" Yeah, that will end well.
  • NullG7 - August 19, 2011 5:40 a.m.

    Sounds like fun, go on an infinite cruise where you can do whatever the hell you want. Then again think of what can go wrong, makes me smile just thinking about all the exploitation that could be done to these people... What... I just said what half of us were thinking...
  • angelusdlion - August 19, 2011 5:22 a.m.

    all well and good.. Until someone steals something or otherwise commits what would be a crime in real life and gets beaten to death for it. there is a reason we have the systems.. they may not be perfect but they mostly work.

Showing 1-20 of 38 comments

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