Daily Balajisms – Network Union
From everyone online to everyone aligned
Balaji Srinivasan in his book The Network State describes a network union as “a social graph organized in a tree-like structure with a leader, a purpose, a crypto-based financial and messaging system, and a daily call-to-action.”
Balaji Srinivasan sees a network union as the second step towards the network state – a digitally-native form of bottom-up nation building. It is a highly-aligned community. If the goal of the previous decade was to get everyone online, the goal of 2020s is to get everyone aligned, says Balaji. It not a simple leader-follower relationship, but the goal is a complete graph with dense connections – where people form deep relationships and a high-trust environment.
The first step is a startup society with a clear moral innovation in the form of The One Commandment, that anyone with a laptop can start. Balaji sees startup societies as the new SaaS – Society as a Service. You are selling memberships to a society, and not subscriptions to software products. But investors can use familiar SaaS metrics to evaluate startup societies. You can check the network state dashboard for actual early examples of these startup societies.
The second step is the network union – and this is a much higher bar. Balaji mentions how on twitter, if you have million followers, you get on the order of 2,000 likes per tweet – a 0.2% engagement rate. With the network union you can get much smaller following – but close to a 100% engagement rate. Imagine 100 people engaged in a daily call to (collective) action for 100 days. If you manage something like that, you are already very far in Balaji’s vision towards network states.
Balaji gives an example of a guild of graphic designers as a network union that doesn’t need to proceed to the third step of a network archipelago (with crowdfunded real-estate), but can remain as a purely digital highly-aligned community.
Their One Commandment can be something like “cancelation is bad” – and they can have explicitly written rules of conduct and cases where they support each other if one of their members faces attempts at online cancelation. During regular days they can learn together and support projects of the network union members – but in the event of cancelation, they get together to defend a member who is unfairly cancelled online.
Many network unions that have a moral innovation focused on the physical world (sugar is bad, van life is good, formal wear is good…) would need to move to the third step and create network archipelagos – crowdfunded territories and real-estate linked by internet and a blockchain. If they grow enough they might eventually get diplomatically recognized and would achieve the level of a network state. Because sufficient traction is a de facto diplomatic recognition says Balaji – many big companies do deals with countries and cities.
Network unions are thus a new type of highly-aligned social networks with a blockchain, a leader and a hierarchy – their engagement rate is orders of magnitude higher than today’s social networks. This in practice means a continuation of an Instagram-beats-Kodak trend in technology – a startup with dozen people can beat competition with tens of thousands of employees. With network unions small highly aligned communities can have a big leverage – 2,000 people can create more than million followers.