In 1776, colonists declared their independence from Britain. You could say this was one of the world’s first disruptions.

Today, similar disruptions are taking place on a regular basis in the blockchain world, or so you’d think if you read the many white papers out there.

But sometimes a white paper isn’t just a white paper. Like the Declaration of Independence, some of these documents are a manifesto for a new kind of government, or a way to prop up existing ones.

This installment in our ongoing look at white papers examines three examples driving new models for real-world governance through decentralization. (In some cases we’ve taken quotes from the companies’ websites instead of the white papers.)

Seasteads: Floating an ICO?

What it is: Created by the executive team of the Seasteading Institute, a company called Blue Frontiers is planning “seasteads,” which are floating, largely autonomous and self-governing cities. These cities will be located offshore from nations the company envisions will be given incentives to provide services and flexibility for a simple reason: “We can easily rearrange our cities and sail our residents to other locations,” its white paper states.  The varyon (VAR) token will be the coin of these aquatic realms.  

Blockchain-friendly quote: “Seasteading brings decentralization beyond the digital world of bits and into the world of atoms by providing modular, floating structures — seasteads — on which the evolution of new societies and forms of governance can occur.”

The idea of citizens receiving revenue instead of tax bills from the government makes for a compelling reason to join one proposed venture.

What might work: Making a longtime billionaire bugout fantasy — going way off the grid — available to more people. A presale of the varyon token raised 3,100 ether (ETH); the timing of the main token sale has yet to be announced. The Seasteading Institute signed an agreement with French Polynesia last year that provides a preliminary framework for a “seazone” in the waters of Tahiti. The old “they’re not making any more land!” ethos that powered many a real estate bubble has growing relevance in an era of climate change and rising sea levels.

What might not: Promises to ultimately make floating seasteads hurricane-proof make at least this landlubber a bit nervous.

Jargon overload: “A staking mechanism will be used to: control access by people and structures to SeaZones, facilitate arbitration, provide for general liability protection, provide apportionment of fees, and vote on proposed SeaZone charter changes.”

Truth in advertising: “Piracy is only a real problem in a few areas we are not going to.”

Decenturion: A Crypto-Powered Passport

What it is: Dubbed the world’s first decentralized state in its whitepaper-cum-manifesto, Decenturion offers users a “passport” along with its DCNT token, making them citizens of the virtual nation. Tokens from startups that invest in the space are divided among these citizens, and in return the companies receive a built-in audience of users, evangelists and investors.

Blockchain-friendly quote: “Satoshi Nakamoto gave people freedom, Decenturion equalized their opportunities.”

What might work: Estonia has dabbled with its own virtual residency program for individuals and startups. Decenturion’s efforts to build a virtual nation with ownership of the ecosystem could conceivably provide startups a more committed user base than a random airdrop or initial coin offering. The idea that citizens receive revenue instead of tax bills from the “government” makes for a compelling reason to join. The company is also offering free passports/tokens and targeting 100 “blockchain pioneers” with large amounts of tokens if they join to gain critical mass.

What might not: While there’s “no president, chairman or other governing body or person,” an array of planned ministries means no escape from the mechanics of governance. Also, plans to “join the United Nations as a sovereign state” will likely take some time.

Jargon overload: “The mechanics of token distribution in Decenturion ensure the domination of the most successful, wealthy, eminent, competent and educated people among its citizens.”

Truth in advertising: “The solution of the range of issues described requires serious investments in the organization of diplomatic missions, the opening of embassies, as well as in the acquisition of land and its alienation for the Decenturion State and its status of independence.”

Nishi Awakura: It Takes a Village (ICO)

What it is: A small village in Japan is pursuing an ICO to support economic development. Nishi Awakura, a town of 1,500, has resisted efforts to merge with other local governments, according to its website, and in June decided to move forward with an ICO for its own token, the NAC.

Blockchain-friendly quote: “In order to promote sustainable community development in the future, small-scale municipalities, as a means for securing new financial resources and creating communities through upfront investment, [create] tokens.”

What might work: The idea of financing economic development without taxes ought to be attractive to at least the locals. Also, the ICO talk has generated considerable media coverage and by “publishing the white paper to the world, the attraction of the region to the world,” the town’s website states.

What might not: Not every community’s dreams of decentralization will be embraced by the entire world. In South Africa, the town of Orania — a private, whites-only enclave of about 1,400 Afrikaners — is considering converting its own private currency, the Ora, into a cryptocurrency. “A community that wants to empower itself must create as many tools as possible to promote its independence,” Orania’s website states, but institutional investors with memories of the divestment movement during the time of apartheid may want to stay away.

Jargon overload: “[As] people gather around the local venture, a new ecosystem is born, and various possibilities are realized there… we will realize the issue of unique currencies based on block chain technology and the formation of token economy accordingly.”

Truth in advertising: “We are waiting for those who can sympathize with and participate in this project.”

Mark Toner
Mark Toner is a Washington, D.C., writer and editor. He has covered business, technology, media, education, and healthcare for a wide range of trade and industry publications.