Review: “How to Start a New Country”

By someone straddling between the real Hong Kong and a Hong Kong in the cloud

Article reviewed:


  • The article does a clarifying job laying out the foundational questions of what makes a cloud country.
  • The version of citizenship in the cloud it laid out echoed with what suppressed citizens in Hong Kong have been trying to build in the cloud.

There are two areas in the article that deserve further investigation:

  1. “Why New Countries” – We need to address a fundamental human emotion and we need to leverage this particular emotion to fuel the grit needed to build something as big as a country.
  2. Thoughts on critical necessary innovations, informed by challenges faced by building cloud communities in Hong Kong since 2015.

Why New Countries? Freedom From Fear

Fundamentally, in most circumstances, for most people, the most powerful emotion that propels action and commitment is fear- fear of being suppressed, fear of physical harm, fear of being excluded, fear of losing freedom. Often we commit to real and hard endeavours because of fear. This is not to say the other motivations shared in the article aren’t credible. This is just psychology and it is worthwhile to recognise the power of fear and to leverage this power as we construct protocols for cloud countries.

Put differently, as we build protocols for cloud countries, we should focus on foundational innovations and protocols around “protection” and freedom from fear.

For example, in July 2014, half a million people took the streets to peacefully participate in the annual protest in Hong Kong. Many participants joined the peaceful protest without thinking much about consequences. At night, many stayed and sat in to continue the protest. Around 5am, 5,000 police decided to remove the peaceful protestors. Many of us began to panic. We were not sure how we could protect ourselves. We weren’t sure of our rights. We were not prepared. Eventually 500 people were arrested.

As protestors were being dragged onto buses, they started to innovate. Some lawyers amongst the crowd shouted to those being arrested, “Shout your name! What is your social media handle? We will record every one of you so we can represent you in court!”

This method of shouting out social media handles at the moment of arrests has become a method for protection during social movements in Hong Kong. Social media handles would be shared in chat apps and forums to find help. Help might include triangulating and identifying the police stations of where protestors were being held, so no protestors risked vanishing after being arrested.

Critical Necessary Innovations

To expand the point around protection and Freedom From Fear further, here are ideas around innovations and protocols that would allow cloud citizens to easily adopt and iterate.


Here are 4 fundamental “protections” protocols that we should consider building:

Legal – How do I protect myself from the legal system of the physical location I am in?
Media / Propaganda – How do I make sure I am heard and facts are fairly and accurately represented?
Physical Health and Safety – How do I make sure I can remain physically healthy? How can we develop networks of trusted healthcare professions in the proximity?
Financial – How can I and my loved ones be financially protected?

By offering protection against the most fundamental fears “out of the box,” more people can adopt and experiment building cloud based communities. These protocols should also try to protect privacy, dynamism, and information integrity.

For example, in these new country protocols, can we build in ways to validate expertises so we can get doctors and lawyers and plumbers on chain quickly? Can we build default communication protocols to ensure broadcast and validation of information? Can we build in contracts in a blockchain where health information is readily available and protected, so then cloud citizens can receive the best care?


We need innovations and protocols to strengthen human collaboration and interactions in the cloud.

Today in Hong Kong, none of the systems we have are on decentralised online platforms. We are holding information in web forums, online spreadsheets, and apps. We are having debates in chat apps by a small group of people. Everything is exposed to the traditional threats of centralised systems. This is because those with the technical know-how are not talking to those with the desire to build new countries.

Here are a few critical areas around distributed human collaboration:

  1. Protocols that empower dynamic and continuous validation and discussion of anecdotes, information, observations, and conclusions.
  2. Group mental models on discourse and decision making.
  3. Impact measurement, evaluation, and iteration protocols.
  4. Accountability, justice, as well as redemption protocols.

This is urgent because we are witnessing the true power of these communities growing.

Since 2014, as Hong Kong went through the political turmoils, the online communities has evolved. Today, there are online lists and apps cloud citizens that keep track of public activities of local businesses and brands. They capture everything from a shop owner’s public political stance, to alleged conversations a business owner might have made, and or debates around these information online.

Brands and individuals are protected by these lists and apps. They are also being cancelled and destroyed by these lists and apps.

You might think this isn’t anything new. You might thing this is no different from the groups we see around the world. But what we are witnessing in Hong Kong is the rapid explosion of these groups and the extend of influence they have, both digitally and physically.

Today, you could find support on a variety of real life tasks from cloud communities. You can find plumbers, lawyers, home schooling groups, personal trainers, Taxis, from groups that share similar values/political viewpoints with you via chat rooms and apps. The breadth of these offerings is ever growing.

These online groups reliably summoned 300,000 – 500,000 people to take the streets at the peak of the protests. These cloud communities have the power to mobilise close to 10% of Hong Kong’s population, often in a whim.

Furthermore, these cloud communities have been flexing their impact more frequently. Just last week, the citizens took matters in their own hands again.

ABOUTHAI is a chain of small shops that sells imported goods from Thailand to Hong Kong. On Thursday, the 8th of April, 100 Customs officers from the Government raided ABOUTHA’s premises. The government confiscating more than eight thousand bottles of bath gel, bleach, and detergent, worth around US$150,000. They arrested a director of the firm. Customs said the products did not carry the required bilingual warnings.

The next day, tens of thousand of people lined up in front of ABOUTHAI’s 26 stores , waiting for up to 1.5 hours to make purchases. Cloud citizens provided ABOUTHAI money, legal help, emotional support, and media support. They did that because they felt the government was targeting the chain repeatedly and unfairly.

What triggered the cloud citizens to take action?
The founder of ABOUTHAI is Mike Lam. He used to work for the government in the Customs department. In 2015, he was fired by the department because, allegedly, he participated in a rally opposing a visiting visa law of Hong Kong, and expressed his viewpoints on TV to a reporter. He started ABOUTHAI with his wife afterwards.

Lam became active in politics, and was a member of the pro-democracy camp. He decided to participate in the now-postponed Legislative Council Election in 2020.

In January, 2021, Lam was arrested and charged with subversion under the new "national security law." He was one of 47 pan-democrats accused over their role in an unofficial primary poll to choose candidates for the 2020 Legislative Council election.

The raid was yet another attempt by the government to retaliate.


This article I am reviewing articulated the path forward. At the same time. we in Hong Kong have witnessed the rapid growth of power of cloud communities. I hope by putting the two together, you are seeing the justification for fundamental innovations around “freedom of fear” and “distributed human collaboration” when building cloud countries. I hope you see the case for these innovations to be built into the “Cloud Countries” OS:

I imagine an OS that has mental models to facilitate discourse- What if Chris Voss’ methods of negotiation are built in?

I imagine an OS that builds in methodsof improving decision quality and iterate decision making processes- What if all citizens walk though decisions using Annie Duke’s methods?

I imagine an OS that combines accountability and privacy to enhance discourse and debates- What if the “Identification Cards” of these cloud countries are pseudo-anonymous or internet ready?

I imagine an OS that crowdsources and curates anecdotes and information for the purpose of narrating the changing reality fairly and accurately.

I imagine an OS that crowd-funds each other with know-how, mental models, processes, experimentations, and not just money and resources.






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