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The Sovereign Developer

The Sovereign Developer

Chris Campbell

Posted February 06, 2024

Chris Campbell

Reporting from Vitalia in Prospera, Honduras…

Tech-futurist Balaji Srinivasan (who is here at Vitalia) explains that the terms “developed” and “developing” are irrelevant.

Throw them out.

More useful terms would be ascending and declining.

Yet, even that feels incomplete: dual opposites are sexually entangled by tension — always seeking the sweet release that comes from birthing something new.

Today, in the 21st century…

Beyond the ascending and descending nation states, we see hints of a germination: The sovereign developer, able to generate tiny pockets of transcendence.

Now, to be sure…

A sovereign developer extends beyond the conventional understanding of someone who writes software or constructs buildings, although these are indeed crucial components.

Rather, it is an individual or entity that leverages technology, innovation, and creative thinking to forge new paradigms, business environments, and ways of living that stand apart from stagnant structures of nation-states and corporate entities.

These sovereign developers are guided by the belief that wealth and prosperity is, in fact, NOT a zero-sum game with a clear ending…

But a positive-sum game with no need for any ending at all.

Life, after all, is an infinite game. Played not to win, but played in order to keep playing.

Vitalia, the pop-up city in Prospera from which I write, is aspiring to be one little pocket of transcendence among, I hope, many to come.

No surprise…

Vitalia and its current temporary (and permanent) residents — wittingly or not — take far more cues from the 1960’s ascendant lessons of Lee Kuan Yew than those capsized lessons America is trying desperately to stuff down every half-open throat.

Lee Kuan Yew (Ascendant)

Singapore in the 1960s was a small spot on the map, drowning in drug addiction and poverty, trying desperately to shake off colonial rule.

The scourge of communism was accelerating, threatening the nation from all sides, outside and in. The country was surrounded by political and cultural enemies. It had no natural resources of which to speak.

By most accounts, it was doomed for decades of stagnant obscurity.

And yet, at least one person — Lee Kuan Yew — saw something else entirely.

What made Lee stand out wasn't just his ability to dodge (literal and figurative) bullets in a politically tumultuous region.

He was akin to the first startup CEO, but for a new type of country. He showed the world how to kickstart a nation with brains and courage, not just brute force.

And a testament: when China's new boss Deng Xiaoping was looking for inspiration to revamp China, who did he turn to? Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore, under Lee's guidance, was so impressive it caught the eye of one of the most powerful leaders in Asia.

And sure, Singapore's strict, no-nonsense laws, especially against drug smuggling, has caused Westerners to dub Singapore "Disneyland with the Death Penalty."

But let’s not forget: the harsh laws were implemented to clean up the mess left by centuries of Western drug dumping.

While, to the dismay of its critics, Singapore has not figured out the key to world hunger, world peace, and gravity-defying jet skis…

There’s no doubt: Singapore, under Lee's rule, became a beacon of financial success, a tech hub, and a place buzzing with energy and innovation.

The sidewalks are clean. The crime is low. And it's a melting pot that celebrates its differences.

(The last time I went to Singapore, I happened to arrive close to “Racial Harmony Day” on July 21, a day to commemorate race riots that happened in — drumroll please — the 1960s. The national holiday puts an emphasis on racial and religious harmony as a way to create a more cohesive society. Imagine if that were the takeaway of 1960s America.)

Singapore is ascendant.

But beyond mere ascension, Lee also helped to inspire a new kind of wave:

Beyond Ascent

We’ve seen what descent looks like.

We’ve seen ascent.

But we have yet to see the full manifestation of transcendence. I’m fortunate enough to catch glimpses of it here in Prospera, Honduras.

In the eyes of the emergent sovereign developers.

Seeds struggling to sprout, clutching tiny rays of light.

For now.

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