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The Inverse Amish

January 3, 2014

Balaji Srinivasan makes a great analogy

Just like the Amish live nearby, peacefully, in the past – imagine a society of Inverse Amish that lives nearby, peacefully, in the future. A place where Google Glass wearers are normal, where self-driving cars and delivery drones aren’t restricted by law, and where we can experiment with new technologies *without* causing undue disruption to others. Think of this like a Special Innovation Zone similar to the Special Economic Zones that Deng Xiaoping used to allow China to experiment with capitalism in a controlled way.

9) In sum: I believe that regulations exist for a reason. And I believe that new technologies will keep coming up against existing rulesets. I don’t believe the solution is either to change the rulesets (which, again, exist for a reason) OR to give up on new technology. I think instead we need a third solution: a way to exit (whether to the cloud for purely digital technologies, or to a Special Innovation Zone or ultimately a startup nation), prove/disprove these new technologies among a self-selected, opt-in group of risk-tolerant early adopters, and report back to the mothership on what works and what doesn’t.

10) This concept – a Special Innovation Zone – is a new idea. It is really about humility, not hostility. USG is a big thing, it has a lot of responsibilities, it runs a nation of 300M people, and it can’t just change federal laws to permit some crazy tech guys to try (say) self-driving cars without affecting millions of people. A new region – like a Special Innovation Zone – can experiment with this kind of thing without bothering anyone who wishes to live under the previous rulesets.

Again: this is complementary to USG’s own efforts. I don’t see them as competitive, anymore than a startup competes with IBM’s research labs.


  1. August 5, 2014 2:50 am

    Aw, this was a really nice post. Spending some
    time and actual effort to make a top notch article… but
    what can I say… I hesitate a lot and never manage to get anything done.

  2. February 14, 2014 3:47 pm

    This is a great tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  3. J James permalink
    January 12, 2014 9:47 am

    Sounds like the fictional town of Eureka from the TV series of the same name on the SyFy channel except free of government domination and control. Intriguing idea.

    • J James permalink
      January 12, 2014 9:53 am

      Also not unlike the real life Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China. They have two presently, Hong Kong and Macau and are governed under the Once China, Two Systems principle that was intended to serve as experimental economic and governing zones with the intention to learn from and not destroy two golden goose areas inherited from the British and Portuguese colonial governments.

  4. January 8, 2014 7:54 pm

    Of course, some startups exactly do compete with IBM’s research labs.

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