I want a radically better future. I believe that technology, in coordination with institutions, can deliver it. Beyond philosophy, what follows is a plan that we can begin executing immediately.
Technology is the set of tools we use to do new things, and old things better. Technology is how we shape our world and build the future. The moral compass metaphor is instructive: technology is the ship, we're the crew; you still need a compass to get where you're going. And, for that matter, you need to know where you're going. Our values imply our vision for the future. Values tell us what technology to strive for, and how to use it. Technology is a scalar, and values make it a vector. Technology is inextricably linked to our values.
Technological progress is accelerating. “Compare how the world looked 15 years ago (no smartphones, really), 150 years ago (no combustion engine, no home electricity), 1,500 years ago (no industrial machines), 15,000 years ago (no agriculture),” writes OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. “The technological progress we make in the next 100 years will be far larger than all we’ve made since we first controlled fire and invented the wheel.” Humanity is propelled by technological progress; on a long enough time scale, the exponential appears to be inevitable. Leaps are made by individuals, but humanity always finds a way.
Today, we see inflection points in artificial intelligence, energy, and biotech.
AI is working – products like ChatGPT and Midjourney create labor efficiency by helping us do tasks faster, and gesture at a structural cost reduction in knowledge work. The ultimate promise of artificial intelligence is limitless knowledge, and its application.
In energy, nuclear fusion – which offers virtually limitless, clean energy – is beginning to work in the lab. Private companies are commercializing early, signing contracts with future customers e.g. Microsoft. The consequences of fusion are profound: material cost reduction in the operation of data centers (compute / AI), manufacturing, transportation, and much else; energy is 13% of global GDP. Unlimited energy, in combination with the secrets of the universe learned from superintelligence, unlock an infinite frontier.
Biotech is having a moment as well. Brain-computer interfaces are beginning human clinical trials, and perhaps LLMs or DeepMind's AlphaFold will become a lever in drug discovery and personalized medicine. Healthcare is ~18% of US GDP; further, it is a low-productivity-growth sector, so the 18% is closer to a cost than an investment. The promise of biotech is BCI fusion with superintelligence, and the holy grail: eternal life.
These technologies are interrelated. AI is extremely energy-intensive (e.g. a query on ChatGPT uses about 10x the compute as the same search on Google). Energy is the core input to AI; biotech is a core output.
If exponential technological progress continues, we have an opportunity to live through the most exciting time in human history. We can choose to enter an age of exploration and enlightenment. We can travel to the far reaches of the universe, learn the secrets of reality, and live forever. The exponential unlocks this possibility, and more than we can possibly imagine. But to realize a possible future, we must choose it.
Ideas about how we should live take the form of religions, philosophies, and ideologies; they are spread by the memes we call culture; these memes compel a suprapersonal commitment to a cultural form; and this cultural form, projected through time, is our vision for the future. Institutions are sets of norms and rules that we use to coordinate disparate humans. They guide us towards our vision for the future codified in our values. The Catholic Church, the law, marriage, the SEC, Harvard, and the New York Times are all institutions. Institutions have a duty to protect the spiritual core of society.
The most powerful and important institution in our society is Government. Governments serve as a final backstop, enforcing adherence to the most fundamental rules and norms. Humans are social and need institutions to coordinate; their persistence is inevitable.
There is a natural antagonism between technology and institutions. Institutions provide stability. Technology causes change.
Governments view technology skeptically, and technology views governments skeptically. As the custodians of our values and way of life, governments reasonably seek to ensure that tech-driven change furthers a vision for the future that is consistent with their values. Technologists give us the ability to improve our lives, and reasonably seek to avoid governments preventing progress. Governments view economic volatility (especially job automation) as dangerous; technology views economic stagnation as dangerous.
Exponential technological progress will worsen the tension between technology and government. The world will change faster. This will be startling to staid institutions. Threats to our way of life posed by the aimless or destructive application of technology will be met by draconian regulation, which will startle even the most DC-active technologists. The US is already doing this in crypto; nuclear and biotech regulations are onerous as well. The EU regulates benign software.
Regulation can slow technological progress locally, but not globally. Governments can use the lever of the law within their jurisdiction, and effectively in other jurisdictions where they have material influence. Fear of technology is ancient. Plato criticized the invention of writing. While concerns are not always unfounded, technology has always prevailed. Competitive dynamics create an opportunity for adversaries to speed up when you slow down. The costs of going slow include:
Going slow locally is unwise because going slow globally is impossible.
Technological progress is inevitable, and so are institutions. A dynamic compromise of mutual improvement can be reached by leaning into the exponential curve of technological progress, while aiming at a clear vision for the future. This is the story of the Manhattan Project and Apollo 11, Singapore and Shenzhen.
National Accelerationism is the alignment of technology and government, where technology serves the national interest: directly, through the attraction of technologists and technology companies that drive economic growth, shaping technological development with cultural and economic incentives, and by reducing external dependencies e.g. in energy, compute, semiconductors, and defense tech; and indirectly, through the reinvestment of proceeds into social goods and infrastructure. Institutions can shape incentive structures to determine which technologies get developed through social movements and resource allocation decisions. A nation of explorers can fund their journey to Mars with the proceeds of advanced energy; art can be funded with the cash thrown off by personalized medicine; education paid for by AI dividends.
American Accelerationism might consist of revamping the manufacturing ecosystem through upskilling and automation, reshoring the medical supply chain, onshoring the electronics supply chain, a state acquisition of TSMC, eliminating zoning, nuclear fusion, an American Equity Fund, eliminating many social welfare programs (lean into the rugged individualism ethos), creating a neo-art-deco, banning TikTok, building a merit-based immigration system at the macro level, and the micro level (college admissions, job applications), and investing heavily in space exploration. America is a nation of explorers. 100 years into American Accelerationism, I imagine a crew of pioneers boldly voyaging into the solar system, building industry on asteroids, pushing the horizons of humanity further.
Arabian Accelerationism is happening now in NEOM. The Line, and Vision 2030 broadly, represents greater clarity of vision than perhaps any other project does for any nation in the world today. Arabian Accelerationism should extend the line out to 2100 – what does the Kingdom look like then?
Israeli Accelerationism is also happening – Israel became a world leader in technological progress in two generations.
Irish Accelerationism; could a futuristic megacity be built off the coast of Mullaghmore?
Internet Accelerationism; one can imagine quasi-stateless crypto nomads developing further communal sensibilities, formalizing their rules and norms, developing institutions. This is aligned with The Network State; Zuzalu represents a step forward; so does Sol Brah’s tribe.
Governments begin a plan of National Accelerationism by doing the following:
Next, governments need a simple legal mechanism and a charismatic vision to make the institutional changes that unlock their nation’s future.
Acceleration Zones (AZs) are a new type of Special Economic Zone that accelerate technological progress in service of national priorities. Acceleration Zones do this by attracting technologists and developing an institutional structure that guides technological development and the reinvestment of proceeds. The key features of Acceleration Zones are:
Acceleration Zones are designed to be attractive to Government, Companies, Capital, and Residents.
Governments (especially elected officials): AZs are simple to implement (generally passing one law is sufficient), and offer an immediate winning popular narrative:
Companies: AZs unlock technological progress and economic opportunity via regulatory change, economic incentives, and new infrastructure. Further, successful AZs will have top talent and offer Silicon Valley business norms in new markets.
Investors: AZs will make money on golden visas for residents, land value appreciation / monetization (the companies are clustered on a single site), and corporate and income tax revenue. Investors will include the governments, corporate strategics, bilateral strategics, partner developers, and residents.
Residents will move to Acceleration Zones because they offer an opportunity to build the future. Some residents will be returning to their homeland with a feeling of patriotic duty; others exploring a new frontier. AZs are an opportunity to found a new company, found a new culture, and found a new city with the most talented, ambitious, optimistic people in the world.
Opportunities unlocked by Acceleration Zones generally take the shape of new technologies with significant regulatory burden. Examples include:
There are a ton of companies that could help build AZs, and benefit from them. They include:
These companies are building the future in a diffuse sense; people should be able to visit the future. Acceleration Zones unlock that possibility.
The aggregate impact of Acceleration Zones is the acceleration of AI, energy, biotech, and everything else. AZs will quickly deliver the benefits of Silicon Valley to the world, in a real, practical, visible way to impact the everyday lives of people. Further, they do so in an institutionally aligned way to avoid friction and blockers. Long term, Acceleration Zones may be our path to the stars.
Why am I so confident that this path is viable? Acceleration Zones are not a fantasy born of abstract philosophy.
At Praxis, we are actively developing special zones for technologists, in partnership with governments.
Praxis’ first project will be a new city on the Mediterranean in an Acceleration Zone. The City will accelerate technological progress by supporting those solving the world’s hardest problems, and building institutions to foster a culture of vitality.
If you represent a Government and want to develop an Acceleration Zone, reach out (email@example.com). Our Government Relations team is happy to speak with you.
If you represent a company and want to build the future in an Acceleration Zone, reach out. We want to help you unlock progress.
And if you believe in techno-optimism and want to see it implemented, help us build Acceleration Zones by joining the Praxis community and moving to the first one. It’s time to build the future. It’s time to kickstart a new civilizational technology program that will deliver us the final frontier, infinite wisdom, and eternal life. It’s time to enshrine our values in new institutions. A more vital world is on the horizon.