Law and regulation is a major problem when you try to make technological progress. In the last google IO keynote, Larry Page responded a question about how to stay positive, and how we can make progress. (question starts here. Response below starts here)

The other problem [to make progress], in my mind, is also that we haven't built mechanisms that allow experimentation. There's many exiting and important things you could do that you just can't do because they're illegal, or they're not allowed by regulation. And that makes sense. We don't want the world to change too fast. But maybe we should set aside a small part of the world. I like going to Burning Man for example. [...] That's an environment where people can try new things, but not everyone has to go. [...] I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out some new things, and figure out what is the effect on society, what's the effect on people, without having to deploy it to the normal world. And people who like those kind of things can go there and experience that. And we don't have mechanisms for that.

It's basically this idea but for for politics. Faster iteration.

I think that politics and economics are so complex that the only way to make sure an idea actually works is not debating about it for a long time, but actually try it out (For example, I would love to see what basic income yields at a large scale instead of arguing about it for ages).

So besides Burning Man, are there places, events or cities that function as a "law sand box", where the law is different or fast changing for the sake of experimentation ?

  • Agile Democracy? The problem would be getting congress to adopt SCRUM. Lawyers would hate that. ;)
    – user1530
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 22:51
  • What do you mean by 'special laws'? Different places have different restrictions on what you can do by experimentation. Are those "special laws"? Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 0:08
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    This is how the USA is supposed to work.
    – user1873
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 5:24
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    @DJClayworth I mean that you rethink the laws so that experimentation is possible. For example, you make them so that they can change very fast (from day to day). Or most of the laws are just not written, and you rely on people to behave well. And maybe you make it a little hard to enter the program so that criminals don't join. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 7:25
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    This is an idea behind both a lot of libertarian and minarchst thought, and ESPECIALLY behind sea-steading movement
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


No. Laws and countries can't work like that because people can't work like that.

People are tied to their communities, their families, their jobs, their linguistic group. You can't just declare "Okay, Southern Florida is now the testing zone for social healthcare funded by sales taxes" And expect people to move their if they want to be part of the experiment (and move out if they don't).

You can't change laws every day to find out which ones work. The problems might only appear years later, or only in situations where snowfall is common, or affect one social group disproportionately.

And one key point about laws is that you have to obey them, whether you like them or not. If you can just leave a test then you are not actually subject to those laws.

For all those reasons you can't have a testing ground for laws.

  • The point of my question is not experimenting with law, but laws that allow for faster experimentation with anything. For example, crypto startups tend to go to crypto valley (in Switzerland) or to Malta because the law/environment is more favorable there. You could imagine a set of laws/regulations that encourage other stuff like hard tech startups, energy, biotech, space... Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 14:56

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