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Photos by Bloomberg; AP. Art by Mike Sullivan

The Invasion of Ukraine Dramatizes the Folly of ‘The Sovereign Individual’

By and
Jaron Lanier
 |  Feb. 24, 2022 3:30 PM PST
Photo: Photos by Bloomberg; AP. Art by Mike Sullivan

Europe at war, American democracy on the edge, cryptocurrencies and metaverses aspiring to replace much of reality as we know it—we live in heady times. Moments like these (not so different from the ’20s of the last century) conjure ambitious visions for remaking the world. Technology is often at the center of them, for better or worse.

Perhaps the leading example of such a vision today is “The Sovereign Individual” by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg, which we will henceforth refer to as SI. More than 20 years after its original publication and two years after its rerelease, this wonky prophecy about the future of technology and society now sits near the top of Amazon’s best-seller charts.

With a new preface by Peter Thiel and Web3 stars like Balaji Srinivasan calling it “one of my top five,” the book has become a cult classic in crypto- and metaverse-obsessed communities. Its prophecies portending the collapse of much of our world’s political and social structures and their inevitable replacement by an anarcho-capitalist dystopia even have their own Twitter account, which was particularly gleeful today as it tried to claim the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a thing foretold. Yet these pronouncements deserve far more depth of scrutiny than a tweet stream can offer.

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