3 ways diplomacy will change in the startup societies era

What is a diplomat and what does a diplomat do?

Professional literature by great minds such of Henry Kissinger, José Calvet De Magalhães, Cardinal Richelieu, G.R. Berridge and others usually list the 4 functions of diplomacy as follows:

  1. Representing a state’s interests and conducting negotiations or discussions designed to identify common interests as well as areas of disagreement between the parties, for the purpose of achieving the state’s goals and avoiding conflict
  2. Gathering of information and subsequent identification and evaluation of the receiving state’s foreign policy goals
  3. Expansion of political, economic, and cultural ties between two countries.
  4. Facilitating or enforcing the observation of international law.

A diplomat is a person in the employ of a government whose task it is to represent his home country’s interests in foreign countries. His responsibilities include, but are not limited to issues of trade, war, culture, environment, human rights and international treaties. The diplomat also gathers information of use to national interests – such as how a foreign power would react to a certain move by the home country. Diplomats are essential to policy making – they must negotiate with all countries affected by their home country’s policies before they pass them. Without diplomats, nations would be reduced to haphazard ex post facto dispute resolution instead of negotiation beforehand.

Most diplomacy is not nearly as glamorous as one would like it to be. When one hears “diplomacy” one usually envisions sharp-dressed, linguistically gifted operators negotiating matters of utmost importance. This is only rarely so: Diplomacy more often than not is comprised of drab telephone negotiations about the latest trade regulations, border disputes, and lots of paperwork. The diplomatic corps effectively mediates between governments the nitty-gritty of laws and regulations that might drive a wedge between two countries.

How would diplomatic corps function in the world of startup societies? The current diplomatic paradigm would be obsolete in a competitive world and would be done away with as soon as the society market develops. When the incentive of startup societies becomes the attracting of high-value individuals, they will alter their diplomatic organization to an unrecognizable degree compared to what it is today. Some will use artificial intelligence systems, others will opt for tried and tested paper forms. We do not endorse one method over the other, but the fact remains that diplomacy will be infinitely more varied and responsive to market demand.

We’ll highlight some developments we think are likely:

1. Diplomats will have to change their skill sets

A market in societies means that diplomats will above all else be tasked with the maintaining the professional reputation and standards of their employers among competitors (other startup societies), partners (e.g. security firms, engineering firms) and citizens. Effectively, diplomats will no longer be the bureaucrats of yesteryear – they would have to rapidly evolve into purchasing agents, prospect-grading framework designers and masters of critical analysis and auditing. A governing board would never accept a “diplomat” associating the startup society with partners or competitors of ill repute – such behavior is bad for business. A successful startup society will necessitate transparency, a spotless record and attracting the right kind of citizen.

The aforementioned framework design would be of paramount importance to this end: It will be instrumental for a startup society to have specific (however not necessarily strict) requirements of the people it does business with in order to ensure high-performing output for its clients. This burden will fall on the neo-diplomat who will bring forward frameworks, grading systems, flowcharts and standards that will specify which people will be “worth” building a relationship with – be they potential immigrants or partners.

2. Intergovernmental dispute resolution will become the exception, not the rule

Diplomacy today is a mediator, not a dispute resolution apparatus. As slow as the lumbering systems of current nation-states are, diplomatic discussions and implementations of these solutions can make their domestic parliaments look spritely by comparison. As soon as governments realize that they will begin losing citizens, capital, tax revenue and their reputations if they show sluggishness in any field, they will show remarkable impetus in resolving border disputes, lifting trade restrictions and getting rid of dead-weight loss where they find it. Think from the point of view of a board chair in a startup society: if war breaks out, a citizen’s rights are being violated abroad, or any other from a plethora of issues springs up – it is in your best interest to handle the matter with utmost haste, lest your fiduciary responsibility to the society be injured as well as your professional reputation.

As we mentioned in a PREVIOUS ARTICLE, war and plunder are not cost-effective ways of running a society. Most armed conflict between states will dry up quickly once the belligerents realize they’re getting left in the dust of peaceful, trade-pursuing nations and salaries stop getting paid. Thus, the conflict-avoidance aspect of diplomacy will almost be made obsolete (Who fears a violent conflict between VW and Honda?). The vestige of modern diplomacy that will remain in this new world is the resolution of intergovernmental bureaucratic confusion: Salvage rights, prisoner rendition and similar niche issues.

3. E-government and simplicity will be the name of the game

Nobody likes dealing with stern-faced border officials or uninterested bureaucrats at the local department of foreign affairs. The competitive governments of the future will be much less hands-on with their approach, where they will more often than not opt for an electronic system of handling citizens’ concerns. The construction, upkeep, implementation, translation and development of these cyber-bureaucracies with a 0 margin of error will be the task of the next generation of neo-diplomats. A citizen will no longer be expected to send papers for examination by the local consulate: the most cutting-edge of competitors will organize their e-government system as a distributed blockchain AI – thus making it immune to cyber-attacks and potential fraudsters. After all, the blockchain doesn’t know how to take a bribe.

Passport technology will also change in a big way – going through the border will be a matter of as much complexity as getting into a music event: simply show your pass. Arranging a visit online will probably take less than 5 minutes, and the confirmation will be added to your online traveler's profile. With the wave of an RFID tag, a QR code on your phone or typing in a password you’ll be allowed through the border.

Where do we begin?

It is apparent that the modern diplomatic corps will have great hardship in transitioning from the current nation-state system to the free market in society. It is definitely not in the interest of current diplomats to make their skills and experience worth less, thus they might be less than positively inclined toward the advent of startup societies. We believe that diplomatic education should envision competitive governance subjects as a forward-thinking aspect of their programs. After all, people weren’t convinced that the world was round through evidence and reasoned debate.

It took a man going around the world in a ship as well as a generation of stuck-in-their-ways people passing away before the overwhelming majority of people would catch up to the news.

If a startup society is a product to be sold, the neo-diplomat will be the sales agent and quality controller, all rolled into one.

Aleksa Burmazovic

Aleksa is an undergraduate student at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, working on a degree in finance and insurance.

He was involved with European Students for Liberty as a local coordinator in 2016, but has since retired from the organization of ESFL events.

Aleksa is fascinated with the idea of establishing new societies, competitive governance and new regulative structures.

An avid supporter of cryptocurrencies and free trade, he joined Startup Societies Foundation in the summer of 2017 while volunteering for the Startup Societies Conference in San Francisco.