Daily Balajisms – Ascending world vs declining world
Every country is a developing country. It's Red Queen dynamics, tech progress is key.
Balaji Srinivasan divides countries and cities into the ascending world and the declining world. He doesn’t like the labels “developed country” or “developing country”.
Peter Thiel thinks the term a developed country means that a country has reached its destination and a certain stasis and has nothing better to do, than to lecture other countries.
Alexander Bard says that internet age destroyed the developing/developed dichotomy. You got Kenya with M-Pesa, India with India Stack, and E-stonia. Now you have Palau with crypto e-residency and Rwanda with drone delivery of medicines and blood.
More profoundly, Balaji thinks social media made criticizing regulators possible – because they allow for peer-to-peer interactions and have shifted the Overton window. Social media are essential to get into a tech-progressive future. 140 characters will give us flying cars, thinks Balaji.
From the viewpoint of Silicon Valley, Europe looks like a historic theme park and a giant retirement center, where people are constantly on vacations. Over the last decades, the EU gave the world two things that were actually copied by other countries – an annoying cookie banner and geographic indications of agri-food products and traditional specialties.
The EU doesn’t try to be number one in the cutting-edge technologies like, AI or crypto. It thinks it can regulate it’s way to the top. To quote Balaji:
“Woke America is abolishing accelerated math. Not to be outdone, Europe seeks to regulate AI by regulating logic itself.”
The fact that Germany proceeded with shutting down all its nuclear power plants, despite the energy crisis amid the war in Ukraine, speaks volumes. The country chose to de-industrialize just to please its boomers who got amishified themselves and are mentally stuck in 1968.
Enter China. The country has built 38,000km of high-speed rail network since 2008 and plans to build 150 nuclear reactors in 15 years. It’s the world’s factory and overtook the West in many industries, barring the very high-end chip manufacturing and R&D.
Very soon, even Joe from the Main Street will enter the post-development discourse, a term we can appropriate for technological progressives like Balaji and Peter Thiel. It will happen, when Joe buys a Chinese EV and finds that it’s better than Mercedes. Even Joachim in Germany will ditch VW and buy BYD soon.
Mobile phones disrupted the car indirectly, says Tony Seba. They accelerated the battery technology that made EVs possible. Now I think (Chinese) EVs will disrupt (Western) countries, indirectly.
By bankrupting the Western legacy automakers and removing a huge mental roadblock that doesn’t allow people to see with their eyes that huge swathes of the West are becoming the declining world very fast. Now it’s visible in San Francisco after Covid (the declining world) versus Miami (the ascending world).
It turns out, Florida Man can build high-speed rail, and California Man can't.
EVs will disrupt cities also directly – because you need to build new cities and special innovation zones to make self-driving cars fully viable and 10x efficient. In the same way how new roads were built for cars after we lived in the post-horse era, we might enter a new network age – an S-curve towards network states and crypto-countries – to make use of AI, Crypto and Social technologies.
Every country is a developing country. It’s Red Queen dynamics essentially – you need to keep innovating just to remain in the same spot on a global leaderboard. The ascending world sees technology quite differently from the West, says Balaji. It’s Bright Sun vs Black Mirror. Tech progressives vs tech conservatives.
Technological progressives need to work with countries and cities that see themselves as part of the ascending world. We need to come up with model legislation and whole tech stacks that can be easily copied by sovereigns and tested in parallel.