Friedman was soon pitching to Peter Thiel, a staunch libertarian himself, the big, weird idea. It goes like this: Friedman wants to establish new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters—free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country. They'd be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050. Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together. Friedman hopes to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year; full-time settlement, he predicts, will follow in about seven years; and full diplomatic recognition by the United Nations, well, that'll take some lawyers and time.
Here, for instance, is a chilling fact about the nineties: In any given week of the decade, there was a 10 percent chance the No.1 song was by Boyz II Men. Add Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Bryan Adams, and chances hit 24 percent. Americans spent a quarter of a decade listening to this sort of thing: big, lavish ballads, built to charm middle-aged and middle-school listeners alike. Try to picture an environment or purpose for these songs, and the mind drifts to graduations, school-gym talent shows, Olympics montages.