Tuesday, May 03, 2005

#9 and #10

I'm running a bit behind on my goal of reading 50 books in a year. It's already May and I'm just now hitting #10. (#9 was The Princess Bride, which I wrote about here).

#10 is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.

It's been a long time since I've read a whole novel strait through in a day. Hell, it's been a long time since I could devote so much time for such a hedonistic task. But I'm glad I managed to spare the hours because it was well worth it.

I'll have it known now, I officially want to live in the Bitchun Society. No work, except the kind that I find gratifying (writing, both fiction and this Blog), a cure for death and the ability to be transhuman and travel the stars... that's the sort of thing I've always wanted to do. I think I've got enough Whuffie saved up to at least afford a slimmer waistline. Combined with my wife's, we could spend the next thousand years, travelling the world and out er space, and just living. Maybe we'd even get down to Disney World and check out the Haunted Mansion.

It's fascinating how caught up you can get in the intrigues and politics surrounding ad-hoc groups of devoted Disneyphiles who live in the Magic Kingdom and lie, kill and scheme to see who can make the better amusement park ride. Mr. Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame, has written a fine little meditation on the nature of identity, culture and the role of fun in the grand scheme of things. It's Speculative Fiction at its best, taking big ideas and playing them out in inventive, what-if scenarios that poke fun at our human weaknesses while also showing us what a future might be like without war, famine, death or scarcity, where the only pursuits worth chasing are the ones that improve everyone else's lot in life, thereby improving your own.

It also answers a nagging question I've had concerning Utopian future worlds: If nothing is scarce, and there's no need for money, what do they use as an economic system? Star Trek is probably the worst offender in this realm, skipping over just how an economy based solely on credit would work. What sort of incentives would one have for putting forth the effort and labor required to build a faster than light spaceship? Who decides who gets to decide these things? Cory Doctorow offers us an idea of how a post-scarcity economy would work: on reputation. It's simplicity is really the genius part of it. You win Whuffie by doing things others like: writing symphonies, making art, or maintaining the happiest Place on Earth. You loos it by pissing off people and since everyone is networked and can ping your Whuffie rating, everyone knows whether you're a schmuck or a superstar. No more politicians or laws or coercion to do distasteful things for reasons no one understands. You do things that are nice for your friends and don't hurt others. A society based solely on the Golden Rule. If only...


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