Balaji Srinivasan

@balajis

15 days ago

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Historians draw a distinction between land-based societies (tellurocracies) and sea-based societies (thalassocracies). One thesis is that the successor to the sea-based society is the cloud-based society. A port not just in every harbor, but every device. t.co/nqaaF4KJ9w t.co/U3YRMXU6tl

“Relying on naval power rather than land armies, and availing themselves of (pre-existing) trade networks, maritime empires often were less centralized and state-like than land-based empires.” t.co/nqaaF4KJ9w

Extending the metaphor Just like an island country faces natural barriers that *force* its people to become a sea power… Perhaps the West’s artificial barriers to innovating in the physical world are *forcing* its people to become a cloud power.

As context, it’s hard to build physical things in much of the West. You can a billion dollar business online, but need a billion permits to build a shed in San Francisco. China is 10-1000X faster in the physical world. So Western talent has been forced to the cloud. t.co/dnOKuC7wfq

At first that appears to be a disadvantage, and the disadvantages are obvious. A thicket of regulations means housing, land, many basic things are expensive. But these artificial barriers push all talent to the cloud. A prod in the back. A push to expand solely on the internet.

Just like the natural limits of the home islands of Britain & Japan spurred them to become maritime powers capable of conquering huge swaths of earth… The US’ bizarre combination of (a) artificial limits on the land and (b) huge capability in the cloud may be under-appreciated.

Btw, this is the opposite of @PeterZeihan’s bull case for the US. In this scenario, much of the US is a write off in the physical world. The kind of society that needs 20 years to build a bus lane may soon need 100 years. But with enough cloud power that may matter less… t.co/sAZXqTSye0

Many physical graphs for the US are trending hard in the wrong direction, especially in terms of building time and cost (see t.co/9dhaOfTuHL). But its digital power, its cloud power — that is still immense and arguably rising. And that may be enough. t.co/ww5lWYpxt8

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