Hunkered down on a North Sea fortress, a crew of armed cypherpunks, amped-up networking geeks, and libertarian swashbucklers is seceding from the world to pursue a revolutionary idea: an offshore, fat-pipe data haven that answers to nobody.
Ryan Lackey, a 21-year-old MIT dropout and self-taught crypto expert, sees fantastic things for himself in 2005. For starters, he'll be filthy rich. But his future is animated by more than just money - to wit, the exploration of a huge idea he thinks will change the world. Lackey's big concept? That freedom is the next killer app.
Before you get too choked up, you should know that Lackey means giving corporations and frisky individuals the "freedom" to store and move data without answering to anybody, including competitors, regulators, and lawyers. He's part of a crew of adventurers and cypherpunks that's working to transform a 60-year-old gunnery fort in the North Sea - an odd, quasi-independent outpost whose British owner calls it "the Principality of Sealand" - into something that could be possible only in the 21st century: a fat-pipe Internet server farm and global networking hub that combines the spicier elements of a Caribbean tax shelter, Cryptonomicon, and 007.
This summer, with $1 million in seed money provided by a small core of Internet-fattened investors, Lackey and his colleagues are setting up Sealand as the world's first truly offshore, almost-anything-goes electronic data haven - a place that occupies a tantalizing gray zone between what's legal and what's ... possible. Especially if you exist, as the Sealanders plan to, outside the jurisdiction of the world's nation-states. Simply put: Sealand won't just be offshore. It will be off-government.