h a l f b a k e r y
Not so much a thought experiment as a single neuron misfire.
add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random
news, help, about, links, report a problem
or get an account
The idea of a "virtual nation" is not new. There are
World of Warcraft
... and many many more ... infinitely more
The reason this list is silly is that all these nations lack
Without physical presence they are
politically meaningless. For example, let's say I create a
new virtual nation called "Ixnaumlandia". It is a virtual
private network VPN. Individuals with permanent
are it's citizens and pay taxes. Individuals with
accounts (visas) are visitors. Virtually - this all makes
sense, but it breaks down as soon as we start to talk
about sovereignty. If one of these VPN servers is
USA, it is on US territory and must obey the US laws
(DMCA, no wikileaks, no action deemed as going against
the US national interests). If the server is in Iran, same
thing applies. You just can't carve out a 4sq feet chunk
UK, put a server on it and call it sovereign territory of
virtual nation ... I'm pretty sure the queen would have a
over that. No matter how you frame it, to have a true
nation you need physical territory otherwise the host
nation will just shut you down. Tor (The onion router)
Freenet gets around this by having so many nodes that
attempt to shut it down is faced with the scale of
"infestation". But still, you can't have a legitimately
recognized nation if your server is sitting on another
country's soil. You are always going to be considered a
"squatter", "pest" or a "joke", not a nation.
This is where my idea comes in. Find a way to establish
physical presence. Here are some brain storming ideas
(some may work better than others):
Communications satellite in orbit owned by the virtual
Moon colony with communications capabilities
Sailing communications platforms located in
Purchase sovereign territory from one of the existing
Conquer sovereign territory from one of the existing
It is important to note that although the physical
would be functional (for example, you could actually
an email through moon), you would not necessarily be
expected to route all your traffic through that tiny bottle
neck. Once your virtual nation obtained legal rights and
international recognition by the fact of having it's own
physical territory, the leaders of the virtual nation could
make treaties to lease small sovereign territories in
convenient locations. Much the same way US made a
treaty with Cuba to get perpetual jurisdiction over
So it other words, the physical presence would be the
initial seed to establish international legitimacy. After
got one, you could just "buy" more from tax revenue.
same way that US bought Alaska. And you don't need
to grow. Essentially, you'd be buying perpetual sovereign
co-location. Physical tampering with your equipment
be considered declaration of war.
As far as the virtual citizens? They would be dual
nationality citizens. For example you could be Canadian
and Ixnaumlandian at the same time. While connected
the VPN you would follow Ixnaumlandian laws. While
to the toilet, you would follow Canadian laws. You could
run into a problem if Canada suddenly took away your
to dual citizenship and you'd be forced to be
only. You could be deported to the moon (if Canada
afford to send you there) :-)
Once this virtual nation had this virtual finger grip .. it
could do all sorts of neat physical things such as:
Send it's citizens to participate in the Olympics
Have a voice in the UN
Have it's own currency
Have a land area entry in wikipedia ...
Have it's own judicial system with extradition
agreements with other nations. Extradition would really
mean handing over the IP or the physical location of the
Impose import and export duties (on data entering and
leaving the VPN) ... or create free trade agreements.
[pocmloc, Mar 23 2011]
||Why does having a sovreign server result in a meaningful
citizenship for those who use it?
||I don't know where the servers are which I use, but I don't
feel or claim any sovereignty as a result of that.
||I think it's a nice and interesting idea to loosen up the
definition of "country" or "citizen", but I don't see how this
||//Why does having a sovreign server result in a
meaningful citizenship for those who use it?
||I guess in the end you are right that this idea
doesn't provide a case for 100% bullet proof
it does do, is push the boundary of this wild idea
bit closer towards
Sovereignty is not just given out
anyone that asks or tells a cute story. It has to be
fought for (preferably non-violently) the same way
people fight for their rights to vote. Having an
actual physical territory just adds one more
argument in favor of the citizens of this would be
virtual nation. (ex. you can put it inside a school
The other thing I wanted to touch on is the whole
idea of a VPN. What a VPN accomplishes is
interaction that doesn't concern the nation where
the user is located. When you talk over a VPN, all
your traffic is encrypted inside a tunnel and only
your fellow citizens can "hear" you. For example,
if you connect to a VPN in China, it will be as if
you are sitting and browsing Halfbakery from
So this it allows you to virtually shift your physical
location. If you shift to a territory that's not China
but a sovereign territory that's called "Blablandia"
things get interesting.
The other reason physical location is important is
people fear recognizing something that can't be
taken away. For example, say we create a new
virtual nation called Evilandia with it's own
physical presence. If it turns out to be too much
of trouble, it's territory is clearly defined, can be
invaded, and Evilandia can be wiped out from the
maps. On the other hand, if there is no virtual
presence, that's viewed as unfair advantage. Who
do you attack if Evilandia causes trouble? Mexico,
Norway, Bangladesh, and Brasil?
Just because they host some of their servers?
That would not be fair ... would it?
||Yes, I see your point, and it is interesting. I'm curious to
know what tangible benefits and costs arise from such a
virtual citizenship, since there is a Holback-Einserian
model of citizenship (or, rather, set membership of which
citizenship is one case) which defines it largely in terms of
costs and benefits (and where those costs and benefits
exist both between the state and its citizens; and
between the state and other states). In that model,
everything boils down to tangible benefits rather than to
concepts such as "liberty" or "injustice".
||Also, in practical terms, a lot would depend on whether
people "get" it. There's a risk it would be seen as just
another online community, without people perceiving the
significance of the sovereignty of the servers.
||Anyway, [+] for an interesting idea.
||The benefits would depend on the constitution
and laws of such a virtual nation ... I haven't given
that much thought, but I can see that others
have. My hunch is that it would have something
to do with free access to information ... and the
social and economical benefits that entails.
I'm not advocating any particular virtual nation
model, I'm just advocating that if a virtual nation
wants to be treated seriously they must obtain
sovereign territory first.
||[pocmloc] ... Sealand is pretty much it. I can see
that The Pirate Bay tried to do pretty much exactly
what I'm describing. So this would have to make the
idea "baked" ...
||Sovereignty is about more than just physical location. It is also about being able to enforce your laws/constitution/royal decrees within the area that you claim as sovereign. The best analogy I can think of to your idea is the modern state of Israel.
Prior to 1948 you had various Jewish communities around the world, following the laws as laid out in the Torah but also having to follow the laws of the sovereign state in which they happened to be living. So, you could argue, that the Jewish community formed a virtual state operating within the physical boundaries of actual states.
Then in 1948 the Israelis declare themselves as an independent state and hey presto! A new state is born and accepted by all...for about five seconds.
Alternatively, you could view the idea as being a bit like colonial expansion. Hey look, we've discovered a new country, what shall we call it? Whatever those guys in the red coats want us to call it! Until we've organised ourselves and got some red coats of our own that is.
But then that brings us back to your opening statement that //Without physical presence they are politically meaningless//.
I would argue that this is not quite the case. As you point out, your virtual state has a physical presence in the form of servers and communications infrastructure. However, this is widely distributed and, more importantly, not solely the property of or used by just your virtual state. This means that physical attack by conventional states is, if not impossible, then at least fraught with grave difficulties (ask any North African dictator). Meanwhile, your scattered nation of virtual citizens can go about their business of freely associating with whomsever they please without having any regard for mere physical boundaries or the moral or political dictates of the state that they happen to be living in. And if they get fed up with that state then they can fall back on more conventional political methods, including revolution, to change things.
Why do you think that states are so hung up about 'cyber-terrorism'? Because they've spent gazillions of dollars on armies, police, cruise missiles, tanks and aircraft carriers and none of them has much stopping power against the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
||//Sovereignty is about more than just physical
||I never said otherwise. But I do insist that you
will never get to be recognized as a "real" state
without some sort of physical presence. You can
have indestructible, powerful virtual nation (like
Anonymous) but that nation will never be a
recognized world player without physical presence
somewhere in the real world.
||Yes, but why would you want to be recognised as a 'real' state when you can exist quite happily without it?
||//without some sort of physical presence//
||With sewers and sewage workers.
||'Tampering of your equipment would be equivalent to
declaration of war.'
||Without actually any force to back it up. If Canada
declared war on Ixnaumland, what exactly could
Ixnaumland do in retaliation?
||It all comes back to territory, as the virtual doesn't
exist without the security of the physical.
||Yet another reason to colonize the gyres.