The Year is 1524

The Year is 1524

Christopher Columbus has discovered the Internet and saved us a trip to Mars

Elon Musk has propounded a view that a promising hope for humanity is to build ourselves a new home on Mars. This Old World/New World perspective is familiar: Mars is the Americas, a potentially greener pasture that allows us to grow out of the overcrowdedness, indebtedness, and stagnation of the Old World. North America still serves this purpose for people all over, given the large immigration that the US and Canada continue to experience year after year.

However, we can all feel the backpressure building. The Americas are not quite as open and free as they used to be; the Natives have been replaced by much stronger and more organized interests, that conspire to impede others' progress for their own selfish wants. It therefore appears that we must either limit our exploitation of Spaceship Earth, or build a literal spaceship and go somewhere else. I would say that not only is this a limited way of thinking, it also ignores the recent discovery of a totally new place of potential salvation: the Internet.


Imagine that the year is 1524 and Columbus discovered a barren land called the Internet not even four decades ago. The Internet is easy to get to but survival is impossible; whatever one does on the Internet, one still needs to return to the Old World at least daily. The people of the Old World very much enjoy visiting the shores of the Internet on a regular basis, but few could imagine living there, let alone going inland.

Yet, progress has been made over the decades. For one, over the past decade, intrepid engineers have discovered ways of building lasting structures on the Internet, which they base upon a technology called "blockchain". Blockchain has allowed people to create and store value on the Internet that, upon their return to the Old World, securely remains their personal property.

This is not all that engineers have achieved. Whereas there was no life present on the Internet 30 years ago, new life forms have been introduced that are able to survive inland. The first such life forms were so crude that one could not reasonably refer to them as living, i.e., computer viruses resembling the biological RNA strands of the Old World. The new life forms are referred to as "AI" and only live on the Internet.

Being artificial, AI often exhibit malformations due to crudeness in their code. The harsh and unknown conditions of the Internet's interior make the design of AI difficult work. However, the AI have been improving over time and it would be hard to think that their progress should come to a halt anytime soon. Elon Musk himself is funding a method of allowing people to mount AI and visit the interior of the Internet, through the "Neuralink" project.

Meanwhile, life on the shores is much simpler. Internet shores are bastions of freedom, where occasional piracy and lawlessness are seen as normal. Blockchain technology has allowed fledgling economies to form, many of them centered around trading pictures called "NFTs" and speculating on currencies called "memecoins".

Internet denizens often weigh whether they should return any of their Internet funds to the Old World or leave them in vaults. This causes liquidity issues as the Internet economy is small and relatively small injections of liquidity from the Old World can lead to severe economic dislocations on the Internet. Most denizens do not really care; as far as they are concerned, injecting liquidity from the Old World means that everyone can win if they just ride the wave.

The Old World authorities themselves have taken notice and formed a view that Internet economic activity ought to be taxed, but are slowly coming to the realization that their tools only allow them to tax Internet gains when these gains are repatriated to the Old World. In response to having their newfound freedom curtailed, some Internet denizens are forming new ideas of statehood and citizenship, calling for a "network state", for example.

Speaking of money, Internet economic activity on the Internet is not solely limited to that of blockchain. Since its discovery, anyone who has committed any appreciable amount of time to exploring and building on the Internet has been rewarded handsomely. The Internet is therefore often seen as a gold mine, if only one take the risk.


Now, let us switch to the present. The year is 2024. Until the nineteenth century, it was popular to call the Internet "the Metaverse", but that is now seen as archaic, akin to calling America "Columbia". Many of us now live on the Internet permanently. There are many different countries present here, even nations. They even sometimes go to war, both with each other and with the Old World.

On the Internet, there is a running joke among the pretentious about gargoyles who do not even own a passport and have no intention of ever visiting the Old World. But why should they. The Old World and the Internet are the same: overcrowded, indebted, and stagnant — many feel the need to escape. Elon Musk is talking about going to Mars and has built a spaceship that could get us there.


The New World analogy is a framework for thinking about the ascendance of the Internet. With the advent of web3, the latest iteration of Internet technologies, many ideas are being explored and novel theories developed. However, the road is long and it will take many decades to get to where we are headed. The European discovery of the Americas directly led to the invention of new nations and ideas, but this process took centuries.

I believe the development of the Internet will follow a similar timeline because humanity is limited in how quickly it can adapt. What is nice about it is that we just might get to avoid a Noah's Ark scenario and put off our escape to Mars for another few centuries, until we are more ready. For now, we get to look forward to the gold rushes to come.

In conclusion:

We are still at the Internet's shores, mining the (electronic) gold and returning it back home.


This article has been published on 𝕏; link available here.