Like many folks who lived in SF, my commute was always eventful. Even though it was only a 15 minute walk from my apartment to the office, I would pass at least a few homeless encampments every day, people who are obviously mentally ill screaming to themselves in the streets, and usually a few drug deals done out in the open. After a while, I decided to do something and after some research, it was obvious that the issue was mostly a policy generated one. So, I tried to get involved in local politics — I will spare you the details other than to say if you ever would like to 1) waste your time or 2) feel really really bad about the state of humanity, then all you need to do is get involved in SF politics. After a short while, I decided to make an escape and moved first to Berlin and then eventually on to Estonia.
In Estonia, I ended up working for the e-Residency program helping to create a ‘new digital nation’ for the government, a project started by Taavi Kotka while he was CIO of the country. Estonia served as an inflection point for my beliefs in what was possible for government to be (I highly recommend the New Yorker long-form piece on the country for a primer). Some naysayers will say it’s not comparable to a nation or even a city because of its small population size but I believe this argument misunderstands the complexity of managing a nation at any scale. Estonia gave me hope that there was a future where nations were responsive to the needs of citizens and where the services they created actually could be compared to the best the private sector could come up with (or at least were made in partnership with the private sector for the same effect).
I first encountered the idea of Charter Cities through the work of Mark Lutter and the Charter Cities Institute, and immediately I loved the idea. There are many, many hard problems around starting new cities — from crowdchoice (e.g. figuring out where a critical mass of people are willing to actually go) to forming the right legislation, working with the right sponsoring national entities or earning your own sovereignty in some way, and providing services above and beyond what existing cities can do, but to me new cities and making government actually work are one of the few problems worth spending a lifetime trying to solve.
I’ve been ideating with friends, colleagues, and basically anyone willing to connect from the folks who run Tulsa Remote to Economic Development Agencies across the country to understand the challenges they face better and how to solve them. Just last night my friend and I deployed a splash page for n_society to test the idea of creating a hub for remote workers to 1) help them decide where to move next and 2) negotiate incentives on their behalf when they move (we do this first as a managed marketplace using the idea of collective bargaining — one remote worker or even small company can’t usually get a government to pay attention, 1000+ can). The idea is to eventually building up a large enough community to be able to directly solve the crowdchoice problem by directing people to new communities being formed that are value aligned or at worst, directing people to move to cities/states/countries that are working hard to become the next Miami or Estonia and providing data to those places on policies they should implement to become more attractive to remote workers (or sovereign individuals of any sort).
We are very much still ideating, so if you are interested in the idea or have feedback, please email Steven and I at firstname.lastname@example.org or ping me on Twitter @atlasunshrugged.