The Network State in One Sentence

In one informal sentence:

A network state is a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.

When we think of a nation state, we immediately think of the lands, but when we think of a network state, we should instantly think of the minds. That is, if the nation state system starts with the map of the globe and assigns each patch of land to a single state, the network state system starts with the 7+ billion humans of the world and attracts each mind to one or more networks.

Here’s a more complex definition that extends that concept and pre-emptively covers many edge cases:

A network state is a social network with a moral innovation, a sense of national consciousness, a recognized founder, a capacity for collective action, an in-person level of civility, an integrated cryptocurrency, a consensual government limited by a social smart contract, an archipelago of crowdfunded physical territories, a virtual capital, and an on-chain census that proves a large enough population, income, and real-estate footprint to attain a measure of diplomatic recognition.

OK, that’s a mouthful! It’s lengthy because there are many internet phenomena that share some but not all of the properties of a network state. For example, neither Bitcoin nor Facebook nor a DAO is a network state, because each lacks certain qualities – like diplomatic recognition – which are core to anything we’d think of as the next version of the nation state.

(If you want to skip ahead, we expand on each part of the definition in Chapter 5. But it’ll make more sense if you read the text all the way through. For what it’s worth, the technical definition of a nation state is similarly multi-clausal, because it needs to exclude things we don’t typically think about, like stateless nations.)