Magazine article The Futurist

The Approaching Age of Virtual Nations: A Passion for Money, Religion, or Politics Can Turn Online Communities into Virtual Nations-Complete with Leaders, Laws, and Citizens, Enter the New World Order

Magazine article The Futurist

The Approaching Age of Virtual Nations: A Passion for Money, Religion, or Politics Can Turn Online Communities into Virtual Nations-Complete with Leaders, Laws, and Citizens, Enter the New World Order

Article excerpt

One of the most significant sociopolitical evolutions since the formation of cities and states may begin soon: the emergence of virtual nations.

Individuals bound by a common, passionate cause or set of beliefs form virtual nations (v-nations). Bridging time and space, the Internet provides fertile ground for members across the globe to fine-tune their ideologies and develop plans for their community's future. Ultimately, they strive to achieve all the elements of a nation, including leadership, governance, power, security, control, action, and loyalty. V-nations may also claim ownership of landmasses to increase their presence.

Posing a direct challenge to the world's existing nations, v-nations will be both the cause and effect of a monumental shift in global economic, political, and social structures. These new nations will at once threaten and stimulate hope for worldwide cooperation, security, and use of resources.

Using the openness and relative freedom of online networks, v-nations will transcend simple online communities or user groups that typically band together for common needs and interests. They will be far more ambitious, coalescing individuals to create power and influence. A v-nation will seek to defend and protect its people, to provide for their health and well-being, and to implement a monetary system in support of its economic, social, political, and/or religious goals.

As v-nations emerge, interlinked societies will form in an overarching space above the current "real" nations. V-nation citizens will give their allegiance to a new kind of organization whose people are united by common ideals, goals, ambitions, or needs, and where one is as likely to share loyalty with acquaintances thousands of miles away as with a next-door neighbor. The potential outcomes range from noble to sinister, from order to chaos.

The hope is that the formation of v-nations will lead to a higher level of human understanding and cooperation. The risk is that this evolution will tumble out of control, forever changing ordered societies as we know them. Free and democratic nations will need to prepare now for ways to combat the potential threats and to embrace the potential benefits that v-nations will bring.

Virtual Nationhood of a Company

Lifecast, a small entrepreneurial company in Dallas, worked to assemble an enormous online community of wealthy and powerful individuals in 1999. During its 14-month existence, and with less than $10 million in seed money, Lifecast's online membership grew to a staggering 1.4 million affluent participants. Their combined annual incomes totaled more than $240 billion, and their documented personal net worth exceeded $1.28 trillion.

Lifecast members included some of the world's most powerful politicians, educators, and athletes, as well as leaders in businesses, governments, and militaries around the world. More than 40,000 doctors and 80,000 attorneys signed up. As a group, members flew more than 32 billion miles annually. Economically, Lifecast would have ranked twenty-third among the world's nations.

Had this group wanted to, it could easily have created its own stock trading exchange, research centers, universities, and security force for protection. It could have bought its own airline, insurance company, health-care centers, and financial institutions. It could have driven the politics of many countries, influenced laws, and even started its own barter currencies. In other words, it could have become the equivalent of a nation, with an ability to provide the three basic functions of a nation: to defend and protect its people, provide opportunities for the health and well-being of its members, and implement a monetary system.

Lifecast no longer functions as a corporation, and it was never the intent of Lifecast to become a virtual nation in the first place. …

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