The Garden of Earthly Delights

A blog by printer_scanner.
Skip to main content

The East Solano Plan

On the ballot this November, among other things, a proposed new city in Solano County, California. I don't live in the Bay Area anymore, but I found out about the idea through the popular blog of someone I used to go to high school with.  After a very successful early career in tech, Devon Zuegel is now a relatively influential tech personality. She and I intersected in high school at the same extracurricular computer classes, part of a program Apple sponsored to get young people into computing. We occasionally hung out in the parking lot near a graffitied Ron Paul campaign poster with her weird-looking boyfriend. One day, after a particularly frustrating afternoon trying to get my code to work, her boyfriend told me that computers do what you tell them, not what you want them to do. Then I got why she liked him.

I started vaguely following Zuegel a few years back when she first became interested in urbanism. At the time, I felt burned out by tech and was interested in engaging more with the IRL. I was curious to see how her learnings from travels in Europe and Latin America would relate to how she viewed San Francisco. Zuegel writes a lot about the benefits of walkable cities, how bike lanes can significantly benefit the people who live in them and the benefits of mixed-use zoning in forming communities.

If you have read other posts on my blog, you will know I am turning 30, which allowed me to reflect on the last ten years and our progress together in Silicon Valley. I grew up there. The town I am from was less than fifty years old when I was born. Before it was a town, it was farmland owned by Sarah Winchester. Superstitious and driven mad by her inheritance of the infamous rifle fortune, she spent her waning years building a labyrinth house in San Jose to ward off evil.

Winchester Fig 1: Winchester constructed staircases to nowhere, an apt metaphor for everything else.

Like Winchester, I am also part of a second generation in the valley. Many of my parent's generation were electrical engineers back when it was still government work. The work is slightly different now, but what I would like to think hasn't changed is a motivation not to shy away from hard problems. What has changed with us second-generationers is an impulse towards idealism that runs deep in second generations but is also unique to the area. James Clark, founder of Netscape, said in The New New Thing that in Silicon Valley, we construct buildings meant to be demolished and rebuilt as something better – our past is irrelevant to a future always arriving. We all know the private internet was the great equalizer. For Clark's co-founder, Marc Andreessen, it has been a true utopia. Andreessen asks us to take what our parent's generation learned from engineering the internet and look to the boundless complexities of real life to see what else we can solve, a task Zuegel takes on in stride.

In her blog, Zuegel writes a compelling 6-part analysis of the benefits of this proposed new city. Called The East Solano Plan, 30-something founder Jan Sramek raised 900 million dollars with the backing of prominent Silicon Valley investors, including Marc Andreessen. With it, he purchased 60,000 acres of cheap land to develop. This land is located in a desert patch between the East Bay and Sacramento, the armpit of Northern California. Sramek hopes to build a new city of yesterday with high-density, mixed-use housing, ample bike lanes, and public transport reminiscent of a European city. To sweeten the deal, they are also offering an additional billion dollars to revitalize neighboring cities, pay for residents' mortgages and student loans, build new public schools, and improve highways in the area.

Zuegel writes, "This might sound like hyperbole, but if voters approve the plan in the November election, it has the potential to be one of the best cities in the US... The plan is to build an urbanist utopia – not a technological one. The initiative and company website feel like they were written by YIMBYs, renewable energy advocates, and walkability activists, and they echo the philosophies of Jane Jacobs and Donald Shoup rather than Elon Musk or Steve Jobs."

Fig 2. Renderings of the new city.

Last month, Zuegel and Sramek appeared together to campaign for the new city on the podcast Pirate Wires, hosted by Michael Solana, CMO of a venture capital fund owned by Peter Thiel. Of the new town, Solana says, "2020 happened. I was living in San Francisco when I conceived of Pirate Wires, and a big motivation was processing what I saw out my window. Suddenly, building a new city took on a different kind of life. It was a much more complicated question of exit versus voice."  Exit versus voice is a dilemma popularized by Albert Hirschman. He says that individuals have two options when faced with a decreased quality in an organization: they can voice their opinions or leave.

Born in the Czech Republic, Sramek was among the many people who moved to San Francisco in 2014, the year history started for our generation. He said he always disliked San Francisco but was taken with the beauty of the Bay Area, its brief but shining gold history, and condensed concentration of capital and talent reminiscent of Renaissance Rome. Sramek thinks that San Francisco could be the most fantastic city in the world without those unfortunate zoning regulations. To him, the complex problem in the Bay Area is the housing shortage. Rather than navigate San Francisco politics, Sramek thinks we should exit.

Zuegel's view of the San Francisco issue is more technical. The city is plagued by a specific zoning law called Discretionary Review. This allows members of the public to intervene in development projects in the city. She describes the dangers of Discretionary Review by comparing cities to programming languages. The best programming languages are written by a single person (think JavaScript) who can keep the whole vision for the product in mind and make difficult decisions for the greater good. Such is the development of the best cities. Baron Haussmann may have broken a few eggs bulldozing Paris, but without it, we wouldn't have the grand avenues of today, nor the Champs-Elysses, beloved by all Parisians. While the best option, in her opinion, would be to de-regulate San Francisco, this new city is a blank slate that requires less democracy.

After a cursory glance at this insight, I knew I would need to understand the academic opinions around urbanism better to understand why this new city was as good of an idea as they thought. To research this article, I legitimately watched a 30-hour graduate lecture series called Theory of City Form and skimmed some seminal texts. Dani and I wasted a perfect Sunday afternoon discussing Deleuze at one point, which is when I realized I'd gone too far. All this was, of course, utterly unnecessary. The issues with The East Solano Plan are obvious. There is no water. There are slow-build laws on the land, which is why they need you to vote (yes) on their ballot proposal. It is two hours from every other city in Northern California. It won't have a train line connecting it, now or ever, making it environmentally uninteresting, no matter how many bike lanes they build. Dani rightly pointed out that cities are not just vessels for housing; their power isn't just in density; a city needs an economic engine driving it to self-sustain. As long as Silicon Valley remains Silicon Valley, just a short three-hour drive over the delta, moving to Modesto might be more efficient. Most of all, it is an attempt to abandon San Francisco, something both welcome to locals and utterly despicable.

I will admit I am being uncharitable. In the tech world, this is called a "hard problem." Challenges like these are what make "hard problems" hard. The East Solano Plan has listed solutions to them on its website, as well as detailing some of the lawsuits they are undergoing against villainous local farmers. I am not adverse to change. I'm a second-generationer; change is in my blood. And we shouldn't reject progress because of a bad idea, a single hiccup, or suspicion that Marc Andreessen might not have our best interest at heart. I've learned from my peers that urbanism is about more than just one city. It is about thinking about cities' potential to propel humankind forward. The East Solano Plan isn't the only planned new development in the tech world. I found a few more that Zuegel promoted on her blog.

Culdesac is a new experimental car-free community located in Tempe, Arizona. Physically, the development looks like any modern residential development. However, by providing most of the necessary services of the neighborhood – a gym, a grocery store, and a bar- they aim to eliminate the need for driving. Cars will be banned in Culdesac, opting to use the generated extra green space for courtyards, gardens, and meeting places. Anyone who has ever been to Tempe can attest that it is the perfect location for car-free living and hanging out outside in general. Culdesac isn't yet completed, but you can start paying rent on their website.

Another city idea she mentions inspires her is Praxis, founded by NYU dropout Dryden Brown. His ideas about startup cities were established while trapped in his house during COVID-19. Internal presentations for his city read, "Ready to join America in 1776?". He unsuccessfully tried to acquire a piece of Ghana but raised 19 million dollars and plans to get someplace in the Mediterranean to give him an entire section of their city. In exchange, he will bring technical talent, skyrocketing the land value. This talent will include (and I am not joking) strong people with a muscular build to protect the city physically, skinny people to think of ideas and morals for the town, and portly bearded people to deal with business matters, mostly Web3. These are just the men. He will also be bringing an appropriate ratio of hot girls.

Brown's views are influenced by the philosophy of a man known as The Bronze Age Pervert. This controversial internet personality discusses philosophy and posts weirdly erotic AI-generated photos of the ideal platonic man on X.com. I read some of Pervert's book, Bronze Age Mindset. It makes Mein Kampf look like a subtle masterpiece of social commentary.

Próspera is the most established of these new communities to date. Próspera is a corporate city-state leasing a section of land on the Honduran island of Roatán. After a US-backed coup in 2009, the Honduran government passed a law establishing a special economic zone. This special economic zone promises a low flat tax rate, among other financial incentives for residents. According to Zuegel, special economic zones, like the one here or in Dubai, are examples of exceptional success stories for humanity around the globe. To her, cities are more than physical places; they create the ideal conditions for communities to thrive.

Zuegel calls The East Solano Plan a utopia. I, myself, could not have chosen a better word. The plan is based on the ideas of city planner Ebenezer Howard. In the 19th Century, London was a filthy, disease-ridden wasteland, even worse than it is today if you can imagine that. Around this time, English urbanists, inspired by people like anarchist William Morris, imagined small communities neighboring big cities like London with greenbelts surrounding them. These were called garden cities, and Howard called them utopia's. These cities could capture the natural benefits of the countryside while avoiding the disadvantages of cities (you know what I'm talking about).

Howard's diagram illustrating the Garden City concept Fig 3: Howard's diagram illustrating the garden city concept is referenced as an essential inspiration for The East Solano Plan. The key feature connecting these cluster cities is a series of railway lines between them.

My virtual professor for The Theory of City Form showed us slides of these cities and other utopian communities similarly formed to escape the ills of modern life, like Synanon, The People's Temple, and The Manson Family. Look at how nice this imagined one looks. People live in houses and farms of all sizes and use an eclectic variety of transportation.

Anarchist Cities

The professor urged his class of soon-to-be architects not to look backward when conceiving cities. Cities like the above might look idyllic but are just a nice fantasy. Communities like these are possible, improbably, only for small groups. They do not scale. When we engage with utopia, staying in the material world can give us a sense of direction. For example, around the same time garden cities were conceived in London, John Snow discovered the link between cholera and contaminated water. Previously, it was thought Cholera was an airborne disease. We can use history to identify which innovation improved English society more.

Zuegel isn't the only one of my 30-something peers interested in urbanism. Toby Shorin is a 30-something thought leader I occasionally see at conferences whose long-form articles about cryptocurrency I am sent by people who think I am interested in that sort of thing. He's the kind of guy who reads No Logo by Naomi Klein, the book about the devastation mega-corporations wreak on workers in the race to sell cheap branded products, agrees it is an impressive piece of journalism, but says, "I think Klein is getting close, but she can't leap to, 'What if this is actually good.'"

Shorin's interest in urbanism developed during the pandemic when he felt burnt out from the decentralized community building he'd done online. He saw urbanism as a way to bring people together in the real world. However, his early career in cryptocurrency was also connected in many ways to real-world governance.

Last year, on stage at the Ethereum conference Schelling Point Denver, Shorin presented a revolutionary case for developing standards of morality in cryptocurrency. Shorin says that as communities around cryptocurrency expand outside of cyberspace and into the IRL, cryptocurrency communities must contribute to public goods – things like the library, public education, electricity, and clean water. These public goods should serve the public good and benefit many people, not just the direct users or contributors to the service.

However, rallying collective action can be challenging in these new member-owned communities on the blockchain without centralized leadership. Governance of cryptocurrency communities is done through the distribution of tokens. These tokens are usually concentrated in a few majority token holders, representing a tiny fraction of the community, many of whom sought cryptocurrency to avoid things like taxes. These imbalances can make navigating a conversation about how the community defines its morals challenging. But, Shorin says, "You can start by understanding the stack you are on. Where does your food come from? Where do your electricity and water come from? Where are the spaces that give you joy and make you feel nurtured? If you can understand the stack of life that nurtures you, you can find what's needed."

Shorin argues that typical crypto-style solutions like incentive design are ineffective when building these public goods into the system. Adding a monetary incentive to a social good motivates individuals to behave as they would in a market setting and morally disengage. Shorin says we need to develop moral guideposts for contributing to public goods instead of incentives. He says, "Our goal is to induce or inspire some already altruistic behavior. It is not self-interested. It has others in mind by default. It's morally driven, based on principals that expand beyond ourselves." He cites the Black Panthers Free Breakfast program as a model that influenced the US government to develop similar programs nationwide.

Besides trying to convince libertarians to pay taxes (another "hard" problem), as Shorin's explorations in humanism developed, he became interested in wellness movements. When I first heard this, having never read his blog, I assumed his research was motivated by the same morbid curiosity I share about people eating all-meat diets.

It turns out it was the opposite. The meat was good. And so were many other things the week he visited an autonomous city within Próspera last year called Vitalia. Vitalia is part city, part concept, devoted entirely to life extension. People there don't just want to live better or longer; they want to live forever. Among the participants at the weeklong conference was Bryan Johnson, a billionaire with jaundice who swaps blood with his 17-year-old son. 30-year-old Ethereum inventor Vitalik Buterin, a former Thiel Fellow, is interested in the island to run genetic testing experiments on humans with stem cells. These experiments can't be done legally in the United States but are essential for human progress. Besides realizing during the visit that he eventually wanted to die, Shorin returned to the mainland with a generally positive impression of the island as a beacon of economic freedom and experimentation into the human body. This shining legacy is perhaps a homage to its ancestor, Colonia Dignidad, another "state within a state" consisting not of software engineers but of post-war emigrant Germans known for their medical experimentation.

Since the cult leader Jim Jones went to Guyana, it should be common sense that if anyone asks you to come with them from California to their new city in Latin America, you should say no. But people like Zuegel and Shorin are more trusting than you or I, and Zuegel also decided to visit Próspera last year.  And that's not the only place she visited. She took a several month-long tour of new charter cities in South and Latin America, location scouting for a friend's new gene therapy clinic. She said, "For me, travel is most satisfying when I have a concrete goal—in this case, 'where's the best place to open a gene therapy clinic in Central America?'—because it forces you to learn about the place rather than take whatever path just happens to be pre-paved for tourists." These unbeaten paths usually led Zuegel to old US military bases, where many new charter cities are based. She praised one such city, currently under construction in Panama, for being bicycle-friendly, unfortunately rare in other Panamanian towns.

While in Panama, Zuegel met with a Panamanian stem cell researcher to discuss the growing commercial practice there. This researcher opposed the commercialization of stem cells in Panama. She believed that selling stem cell treatments in Panama is illegal because there haven't been clinical trials or approval from the Panamanian FDA. That didn't make sense because Zuegel knew many companies doing commercial stem cell testing in Panama. She listed them on her blog. The researcher shared hopes that Panama will become a center for medical tourism because it is on the cutting edge but not because it's a haven for people escaping the US FDA. Zuegel notes at the end of her write-up, "My overall takeaway was that you could probably start a commercial clinic and possibly operate without problems for years, but you may get shut down or fined at some point in the future by the government."

During her trip to Latin America, Zuegel wrote a detailed report on her findings at Próspera. In the document, she reiterates the goals of Próspera that were conceived by its creator, Nobel Laureate and Senior Vice President of the World Bank, Paul Romer. Romer writes, "Development of charter cities is a way to develop better governments in the developing world." Romer's interest in charter cities extends beyond Latin America. In one talk about his vision, he displayed a map of city lights over Africa at night, pointing out an “enormous amount of land on earth that’s very underutilized.”

Romer's sentiments may remind you of the great liberator Milton Friedman. That may not be a coincidence because Friedman's grandson funds Próspera, along with Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen. Recently, Honduras voted to end the special economic zone. The country agreed that Próspera represented a loss in national sovereignty. In turn, Próspera is suing the country for 11 billion dollars in losses, over two-thirds of the country's annual budget. Elizabeth Warren referred to this ongoing case as "neocolonial."

Romer's collaborator in developing Propsera, Curtis Yarvis, positively refers to it as "exactly colonialism." As an aside, I read two manifestos while researching this blog post: the first by The Bronze Age Pervert, whom I mentioned above, and another by Curtis Yarvin, alias Mencius Moldbug. Of the two, Pervert's manifesto was the more reasonable.

Peter Thiel's interest in Próspera is practical. He says, “If we want to increase freedom, we want to increase the number of countries.” He means that the more countries there are, the less political leverage the United States or Honduras will have and the lower the marginal tax rate will become. This aligns with Thiel's typical modus operandi, as someone who once sheltered $5 billion in a Roth IRA.

I can understand the logic of the super-rich looking for novel tax sheltering methods. However, the question remains: why would the same libertarians who developed Próspera also be interested in building a new city in California based on the designs of anarchist socialists from the 1800s?

The California Ideology is so twisted up that most people forget that until the early 1970s, the libertarian movement was a left-anarchist movement, an offshoot of Marxism for those skeptical of state power. Anarchism has always been a useful tool when trying to influence social change. As a movement, it's self-contradictory. It is a ruling theory with no ruling theory. It calls for collective action while evangelizing the individual's autonomy, which shuns collective action. In the 1960s, even the FBI got swept up in the anarchist craze, publishing their collection of zines called The Workshop. These zines covered “vigorously such aspects of the New Left as underground cinema, music, sex, dope, humor and so on” to “increase reader interest.” Their purpose: “The anarchist's point of view is the most disruptive element in the New Left and should be capitalized on in the most confusing ways.”  In the early 1970s, economist Murry Rothbard had a new idea, arguing that anarcho-libertarians should adopt any moral tactic to subvert state power. He posited that the way to do that was by privatizing government functions. Rothbard's ideas spread thanks to the generous funding of billionaire Charles Koch, who considers it an ideological passion project to fund projects that support the free market. From Rothbard's vision, a new right-libertarianism was born, with the same name but an ideology opposite to what it was ten years prior. This new libertarianism is also functionally indistinguishable from what it aims to oppose, Neoliberalism, which requires a strong centralized state apparatus to serve the market.

Libertarianism flourished in California, a place rotten with capital, where Manifest Destiny meets the ocean with nowhere further west to escape. The most left-anarchist libertarians were extremely busy doing LSD in 1970 and seem to have not noticed the corporate takeover of their political movement. The rest lost the ideological plot when they realized their counterculture and sizeable paychecks could co-exist. Through a marmalade haze, the old libertarianism and the new can seem close enough. This confused many people, including Stewart Brand, the creator of The Whole Earth Catalog, the famous DIY counterculture magazine from the 70s. In those days, Brand represented the classic anarcho-libertarian and was one of those California guys too busy doing LSD. As the private internet developed, so did the idea it could be a blank slate, that it wouldn't be bound to the same traditional structures society already laid out for us. It could be used to change the world and usher in a more equitable, democratic society. Brand recognized these values as his own and advocated strongly for it. It took him fifty years to realize that his vision of utopia differed from what the private internet was. Today, Brand describes himself as "post-libertarian." Here's him in The New Yorker in 2018:

“We didn’t know what the government did. The whole government apparatus is quite wonderful and quite crucial. [It] makes me frantic that it’s being taken away.” [...] Brand spoke at a Prague conference hosted by the Ethereum Foundation, which supports an eponymous, open-source, blockchain-based computing platform and cryptocurrency. In his address, he apologized for over-valorizing hackers. “Frankly,” he said, “most of the real engineering was done by people with narrow ties who worked nine to five, often with federal money.”

undefined Fig 5: The Whole Earth Catalog, a plague among us.

Salivating over the coins, no one at the Ethereum Conference likely understood what Brand was trying to communicate. But, Brand's Whole Earth Catalog developed from the same impulse towards exit that Ethereum and The East Solano Plan share. On the internet, as companies like Facebook and Netflix have naturally gained monopolistic market share, competing for your attention and ad revenue, our fearless developers of technologies like Ethereum reaffirm an old instinct towards exit. But today, the consensus is that even decentralized technologies like Ethereum have become too big and too centralized. On the hamster wheel of ideology, nothing turned out the way these libertarians hoped. Now they're finally turning around again, away from utopia on the internet and back to building it in real life.

With our second generation, the confusion persists. Zuegel and Shorin don't have a financial stake in the success of these projects to the same degree as the older generation. Why, then, are they writing congratulatory blog posts about them? Raised on the confusion of The California Ideology, they seem uninterested in libertarianism as a tax dodge and entirely interested in utopia. This would be no big deal if they were just your run-of-the-mill, clueless young people. But, these zealots are everywhere, evangelizing. They are at your conferences selling a vision of an equitable society you agree with. They show up in your recommended feed online advocating for things like bike lanes that you probably want in your city and you probably reposted. They probably currently advise the startup you work for. They are the only ones in our generation with any money. They are the ones that are going to inherit the Earth. They are the ones with the blogs everyone reads and passes around, inexplicably emailing me. Most shamefully, these blogs seep down into the memetic sludge of the tech world intelligentsia and infect every kind of reasonable person who looks at the internet or the society we built, wishing it could be something better, with the delusion that utopia is just a bit further down the path we are already on. We just haven't designed it yet.

This intelligentsia can look at IRL society and see things are not right but not see the self-contradictory nonsensical way these problems are identically transposed in our thought leaders' purported solutions. Like Ethereum (plus taxes) as the great capital liberator. These intelligentsia may be aware enough to recognize cryptocurrency is an acceleration of the same. But, it is harder to see the same repeating pattern in new platforms like Are.na, a popular new site for designers to escape the rabbit race of social media, inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog, and dedicated to sharing techniques for unschooling, DIY, and connecting decentralized communities. Or, fleeing everything, they escape to their own tiny digital gardens on the internet, self-sufficient and separated from the chaos around them. For no reason, I am reminded of Engels's quote: "These gentlemen think that when they have changed the names of things, they have changed the things themselves. This is how these profound thinkers mock the whole world."

In my last blog post, I talked about the naivete that Peter Thiel looks for when he chooses disciples. But it also makes me wonder about Peter Thiel's motives when he pays people not to attend college. Zuegel and Shorin don't exactly fall into this category; Zuegel went to Stanford and was editor-in-chief of Thiel's infamous student newspaper, The Stanford Review. Shorin, if he is reading this article (I'm sorry, by the way), is probably shaking his fist in the air that I haven't brought Deleuze up yet. Deleuze would vindicate the whole thing. However, Thiel's ideology requires discipline to consider the past completely obsolete, which is one thing they both share. It requires the fanatic to have seemingly not even read one book, or in Shorin's case, one good book, and to possess a self-assured lack of curiosity about whether or not the way they view the world is correct.

Their second-generation-itis lets them see this shining island in the Caribbean as more than just a tax break. It is a step towards ushering in a new world whose real-life consequences for the existing people living there are of no matter. While I, one of the less fortunate, may look at the two thousand special economic zones in the world and see them as a way for corporations to rope developing countries into predatory deals, paying unlivable wages to workers akin to indentured slavery, the liberated see it as the next step in limiting the power of the government on our road to utopia. They see it as a necessary shaking to lull us into the next era. This, to me, is so stomach-churningly despicable, and what makes it more so is I'm not some voyeur stalking the private dealings of these young people. They make their plans clear on the main stage of conferences where people like you and me sit calmly, silently, and idly. We should all have something to say on the matter.

The older generation is less foolish. They know utopia is a great marketing tool. It doesn't matter if Thiel or Andreessen believe in their vision of a better world because I don't think you or I would recognize it as utopic. Andreessen's infamous Techno-Optimism Manifesto, published last year, calls for accelerating capitalism to overcome the economic system. This manifesto was inspired by philosopher Nick Land, who was, in turn, inspired by Peter Thiel when he said, "I no longer believe freedom and democracy are compatible." Land has a lot of crazy ideas, and that particular one Andreessen is referencing ends with the destruction of humanity to give the universe the entropy it desires. But I don't think Andreessen has read that far, nor do I think he cares. The internet isn't as profitable as it was. The easy fruit is picked, and it's much harder today to sell the idea that websites are improving humanity. If he can spin up a selling vision for The East Solano Plan, he is poised to make a significant return on investment by selling the inflated land value to developers.

Balaji Srinivasan, Andreessen's partner at Andreessen-Horowitz, has a another practical view of the benefits of places like The East Solano Plan. It can help you gain political power. Of Srinivasan, Andreessen says, “Balaji has the highest rate of output per minute of good new ideas of anybody I’ve ever met." Srinivasan self-published a few of his ideas in a book called The Network State: How To Start a New Country last year. I didn't read this book. I thought about it, but the whole thing was typeset in LaTex, which I thought was embarrassing for him, mainly because several chapter titles also had the word "Woke" in them. I did skip around a six-hour podcast hosted by "Moment of Zen," where he laid out his political strategy.

Srinivasan doesn't separate political categories into Left or Right. There are Blues, Reds, and Greys. Greys are the tech guys, the good guys. Blues in San Francisco are very, very bad. Think 1940. The first step in his plan is to bribe the police. Throw weekly banquets for the police. Then, make sure families of police officers all receive high-paying, cushy tech jobs. "That means every policeman’s son, daughter, wife, cousin, you know, sibling, whatever, should get a job at a tech company in security.” The San Francisco police department is currently understaffed, so sympathetic new staff should be hand-picked from around the nation. You want an entire police force sympathetic to the Grey cause.

Next, buy up property in the city block by block and quarantine it. Change the street names to tech symbols, such as "Oppenheimer Street." Mark the captured blocks with Grey insignia, be that a Bitcoin logo, a Y Combinator logo, or something similarly cool. Greys should wear branded shirts to signify their loyalty: “Bitcoin or Elon or other logos ... And if you see another Gray on the street … you do the nod.”

The network part of The Network State is expanding those micro-territories until the nodes of each network intersect. He says, "It's Culdesac, it's Prospera. It's getting territory in the middle of nowhere or the middle of existing places, buying it up, and networking it together. And not thinking of any one territory as special. It's all dispensible." These networks all have tribal leaders. One is Balaji, another is Mike Solana of Pirate Wires, another is by Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, and another is Sramek of The East Solano Plan. Garry Tan, CEO of the famous tech incubator Y Combinator, says, "I legit believe Y Combinator is a prototype model for what Balaji talks about when he says The Network State." Tan self-identifies as a "moderate Democrat". On Srinivasan's website, The Network State, various places around San Francisco list themselves as members. I checked, and one place was The Embassy SF, the hacker house I mentioned in my last blog post. Another project listed is called Solaris AI, which Sam Altman runs. Solaris AI quarantines a four-block zone in Hayes Valley. I lived inside that zone ten years ago in an 8-bedroom apartment; rent was $11,000 a month. At the time, it did seem like something like this could happen there.

Srinivasan refers to this strategy as "something like tech Zionism" and uses Israel as a model. "Smash all the things you want in Blue zones; construct things in Grey zones." You'll incentivize people to abandon Blue zones and move to Grey. But he does know this plan is controversial. "There will be howling resistance to streets that are clean." He pauses. "And hobos that are kept out." "It's completely legal," he says. "You can call it walkable streets, whatever you want to call it...You might say, for example, in this part of the Sunset, no human-driven cars are allowed. And every car in must get past a bollard and log in. That fencing also prevents hobos, vagrants, addicts from getting in."

Srinivasan is a crackpot, and I wouldn't worry his specific plans will come true. But he says one thing repeatedly on his podcast that I agree with. Contrary to popular belief, the internet is real life. Srinivasan believes Grey is a dominant force in cyberspace. So do I, from the extreme to the unaware. Srinivasan asks you to imagine a world with flags outside each window for user platform loyalty like Google or Facebook. "People would react completely differently to it because they would realize this thing is much bigger than they realize." All I suggest is that looking away on the internet is the wrong impulse. Exit is unproductive and won't make any difference. Just like real life, there is no escape. You can't opt out.

https%3A%2F%2Fsubstack-post-media.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Fec529725-fbf9-4abb-818e-a0f5b562df58_3400x2720.png Fig 6: Esmeralda marketing materials.

There is one more new city under development. Recently, Zuegel announced she is developing a city of her own, Esmeralda, based on the communitarian ideas she developed at a 9-week summer camp as a kid. As I write, Esmeralda has taken over the quiet California town of Healdsburg, CA, for the entire month to hold a conference promoting the new city. Shorin is there giving wellness talks. For $1500 someone named Skylor will check your biomarkers for longevity. Eric Alston, a blockchain financial expert who advised constitutional reform processes in Vietnam, Kenya, Myanmar, and Somalia, will be involved. He thinks this month will be a more genuine way to connect than the transactional 30-minute tech mixers he usually attends. This month will be the first step in testing this new community's potential. Yesterday, Zuegel called on Twitter asking if anyone has a home near Healdsburg that can host Esmeraldans for a few days. They've filled up every bed in town. Can you lend them yours?