Back to the Future: Modern Entrepots and the Rise of the City-States

I have been thinking much about the Present and Post Covid world we find ourselves in as the “Digital Nomad” movement evolves and expands. As talent starts to become less locked into one location and are actively in search of new hotbeds of like minded people. This is leading to the rise of modern entrepots. The definition of Entrepot: 

“also called a trans shipment port and historically referred to as a port city, is a trading post, port, city, or warehouse where merchandise may be imported, stored, or traded before re-export, with no additional processing taking place and with no customs duties imposed.”

Places like Panama, Singapore, Dubai & Zug in Switzerland. Or Switzerland in general.  

In the long history of human civilization: Alexandria, Athens, Carthage, Odessa, Cordoba, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Constantinople aka Istanbul, London, Marseille, Madripoor. Okay, that last one is a made up one from the Marvel Universe, but loosely based on Singapore. :) But you get the idea. 

These were usually port cities but not always. Usually very international, with lots of immigrants and travelers going through. Also no surprise, these are places full of commercial activities and foreign traders. A neutral ground where enemies can meet and a  general safe place where ideas and culture are exchanged. 

In the United States: San Francisco used to be one of these places but it has become a center of intolerant cultural war. Los Angeles and New York probably still have a semblance of these central places. Miami definitely has been for Latam in the last 2 decades and we are seeing it’s continual rise in 2021 with the movement of some top Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs there.

I expect to see a future where there are a multitude of city states just like what happened in the Middle Ages. Contrary to popular belief, this time period was when globalization really began with the rise of trade fairs and movement of people from east to the west and vice versa. Ie. the Venetian merchant trader Marco Polo visiting China and bringing back new ideas and technologies. 

Much of this view is inspired by science fiction especially from Malka Older’s “Centenal” series of books or Stephensons idea of Phylls in “The Diamond Age”. A Phyll or Centernal is a place where like-minded people get together and build something that is conducive to their lifestyle and value. As per Wikipedia: 

“Society in The Diamond Age is dominated by a number of phyles, also sometimes called tribes, which are groups of people often distinguished by shared values, similar ethnic heritage, a common religion, or other cultural similarities. In the extremely globalized future depicted in the novel, these cultural divisions have largely supplanted the system of nation-states that divides the world today. Cities appear divided into sovereign enclaves affiliated or belonging to different phyles within a single metropolis. Most phyles depicted in the novel have a global scope of sovereignty, and maintain segregated enclaves in or near many cities throughout the world.”

I believe Balaji Srinavasan talks about this idea: in “The Rise of Cloud Cities” : Very much worth a read. His idea is that people will meet and build together digitally but come together and then build physically. It’s already happening. Prospera in Honduras is a precursor to this idea with more details here:

Astral Codex Ten
Prospectus On Próspera
Read more

 I think Balaji is 2 decades too early but he is definitely right.

What an exciting new world opening for all of us! This could be a world where there’s always a place where we are welcome. A place that fits our lifestyle and culture, surrounded by others who aspire for the same things that we do. These future entrepots will reflect the wideness of human diversity and experience, enabling the full realization of the Sovereign Individual.