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A Cryptocurrency Millionaire Wants to Build a Utopia in Nevada

Oct 28, 2017
New York Times - A man spent millions on an enormous plot of land near Reno. Now he wants to build a community based on the blockchain technology introduced by Bitcoin.

STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — An enormous plot of land in the Nevada desert — bigger than nearby Reno — has been the subject of local intrigue since a company with no history, Blockchains L.L.C., bought it for $170 million in cash this year.

The man who owns the company, a lawyer and cryptocurrency millionaire named Jeffrey Berns, put on a helmet and climbed into a Polaris off-road vehicle last week to give a tour of the sprawling property and dispel a bit of the mystery.

He imagines a sort of experimental community spread over about a hundred square miles, where houses, schools, commercial districts and production studios will be built. The centerpiece of this giant project will be the blockchain, a new kind of database that was introduced by Bitcoin.
“You see that first range of mountains,” he said, pointing south. “Those mountains are the border of our South Valley. That’s where we’re going to build the high-tech park,” a research campus that would cover hundreds of acres. There are also plans for a college and an e-gaming arena.
Just as Bitcoin made it possible to transfer money without using a bank, blockchain believers like Mr. Berns think the technology will make it possible for ordinary people to control their own data — the lifeblood of the digital economy — without relying on big companies or governments.
There is a fuzzy line between these utopian visions and get-rich-quick schemes. Several cryptocurrency projects have been shut down by regulators; apparent hucksters have been arrested; and a plan to transform Puerto Rico with cryptocurrencies has been criticized as nothing more than a bid to take advantage of the island’s status as a tax haven.

Mr. Berns was drawn to Nevada by its tax benefits, including the lack of income taxes. And the breadth of his ambitions certainly raises the risk of a boondoggle.
But he is different from his crypto-brethren in one big way: He is spending his own money. So far, he said, he has spent $300 million on the land, offices, planning and a staff of 70 people. And buying 67,000 largely undeveloped acres is a bit of old-fashioned, real estate risk-taking.

Still, Mr. Berns said his ambition was not to be a real estate magnate or even to get rich — or richer. He is promising to give away all decision-making power for the project and 90 percent of any dividends it generates to a corporate structure that will be held by residents, employees and future investors. That structure, which he calls a “distributed collaborative entity,” is supposed to operate on a blockchain where everyone’s ownership rights and voting powers will be recorded in a digital wallet.
But for now, Blockchains is empty land and a repurposed office building. Mr. Berns said the company won’t begin construction on the broader property until late 2019, at the earliest, after putting together the master plan and getting it approved by the county.

The office manager from Mr. Berns’s old law office in Los Angeles, Joanna Rodriguez, moved with her four children and husband to Nevada.

“He has these crazy ideas — but I know that every time he sets his mind to something he will get there,” said Ms. Rodriguez, 29, who has worked with Mr. Berns for eight years and is now the manager of the Blockchains office in Nevada. “That’s why I decided to move.”
“This will either be the biggest thing ever, or the most spectacular crash and burn in the history of mankind,” Mr. Berns said. “I don’t know which one. I believe it’s the former, but either way it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”

Who moving
Oct 25, 2017
“This will either be the biggest thing ever, or the most spectacular crash and burn in the history of mankind,” Mr. Berns said. “I don’t know which one. I believe it’s the former, but either way it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”
At least he's kind of keeping his expectations in check.


Oct 27, 2017
Other weird libertarian types have tried to build potemkin communities before. They've never worked because the kind of people they attract want a great community but not to actually contribute to them financially ("socialism bad raaaargh!"), so everyone ended up leaving and it decayed. Even Glenn Beck tried, though the name of his place escapes me.


The Fallen
Oct 28, 2017
A grant complex running off renewable resources, if completed, will end up being used regardless of whether his venture succeeds. I'm not going to criticize anyone construction such a place, and I wish more developments were doing this across the country.

I mean, it'll crash and burn for sure, but I don't think it'll be particularly spectacular

Also why his architectural mockup look like tribes 2
Shazbot! When ya gonna learn?
Oct 25, 2017
Personally I can't wait to move into an empty city with no infrastructure or community in the middle of the desert.

And I'm sure the architecture won't be boring, they'll definitely give neighborhoods and building their own identities instead of creating an artificial looking city with no personality.
Oct 25, 2017
Richmond, VA
So, what's the advantage here? Why does blockchain help make this a utopia, according to this guy?
These tech guys think blockchain solves all problems, it’s insane. There was a report the other day about how blockchain will magically solve climate control because reasons. They tried to explain and it amounted to a new way to handle carbon accounting.
Oct 25, 2017
so hes going to build a town...but I'm guessing the types that would be attracted to it are the types that don't want to pay taxes and the like and the shit essentially goes downhill.
Oct 28, 2017
Nevada’s governor, Brian Sandoval, read a proclamation that named the Blockchains property “Innovation Park” at an event last month where Mr. Berns sat on a panel with the governor and Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla.
Is Innovation Park the name they're going with? Because if so, that has to be the dullest name for a utopian project ever.

My name is Guy Incognito ...
Oct 25, 2017
A “distributed collaborative entity" filled with libertarian technodisciples.

We've really come full circle since the New Communalism of the 60s.
Nov 20, 2017
It is a bit poetic someone who got rich off a technology that will probably doom us all with climate change is now buying a massive plot of desert and is trying to build a city on it and doesn't see any issues with it.
Oct 27, 2017
He's obviously got a lot of money, but if he's not in the billions I don't think he's going to have the capital to do what he's planning.
Oct 25, 2017
Humans are incapable of building a utopia. Plus this is just another highlight of how incredibly selfish some of these rich folks are.