A book review, of sorts

From Hallowed Be:

When you were talking about your serendipitous 2nd hand book, I almost asked you whether you’d read – down and out in the magical kingdom. (same guy as this post i think) From what i can gather- starts from a post scarcity, post mortality and they have social credit currency called wuffies. Be interested in a book review of that.

Not sure I actually want to read it but:

“Bitchun Society” is the dominant Earth culture in which rejuvenation and body-enhancement have made death obsolete, material goods are no longer scarce, and everyone is granted basic rights that in our present age are mostly considered luxuries.

OK, Marxist post-scarcity economy.

Whuffie, a form of digital social reputation, replaces money and is a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for a person. This rating system determines who gets the few scarce items, like the best housing, a table in a crowded restaurant, or a good place in a queue for a theme park attraction.

We’re never going to be entirely post-scarcity, there will always be positional goods. So, who gets them? Why not the Chinese social credit system as a method of allocation?

Adhocracy is a type of organization that is an opposite of bureaucracy that has replaced corporations.

That’s answering Coase on the Theory of the Firm. Some things are best done by permanent organisations – with all their costs and bureaucracy – and so we have firms. Other things are better done by networks which coalesce for a task then disperse. Which things are which depends upon, well, depends. The state of technology being one of them. Better comms will lead to more things being done by networks of short term contracts, for example. Better transport links will allow greater geographic dispersion, etc. It’s not necessarily true that post-scarcity will mean the networks win but why not?

This future history book takes place in the 22nd century, mostly in Walt Disney World. Disney World is run by rival adhocracies, each dedicated to providing the best experience to the park’s visitors and competing for the Whuffie the guests offer.

Markets and competition still exist!

15 thoughts on “A book review, of sorts”

  1. I read one Cory Doctorow book (it was about a mountain and washing machine starting a family and descended into a screed about free wifi being a right). He was one of the first to adopt a “read for free and send money if you enjoyed it” model. Needless to say, there was no money sent by me.

  2. O….K…

    Try Jasper fForde’s ‘Shades of Grey’. NOT ’50 Shades of Grey’, which is quite a different story!

    The post-apocalyptic world there has people only being able to see specific shades of colour – and colour has become a currency, social status and a medicine – you cure people or kill them by showing them different shades…

  3. Sounds like speculative fiction rather than the other SF. So one really needs to know what aspects of the human character are being speculated about. The “worlds” in these books are not necessarily to be taken seriously. They’re just stages on which the story plays out.
    The Whuffie thing sounds like a total non starter. Each person’s going to have a very limited number of people assessing them. It’s wide open to the nastier side of human character. People are always more ready to condemn than they are to extol. Just the way we are. You only have to read a newspaper. And if you didn’t like someone it’d be easy to get a following to support your view.

  4. The social credit dystopia the CCP is busy building is particularly nasty, isn’t it? It’s hard to see how that could be dismantled from inside. We’re going to have to nuke it from without. Some sort of massive cyber-attack, maybe? But, of course, The Great Firewall of China. Something straight out of Gibson? Hackers descending on paragliders in the dark of night? Trouble is, in the books they got EMP’d out of the air on the way in by the Soviets.

  5. Bloke in North Korea (Germany Province)

    “The Whuffie thing sounds like a total non starter. Each person’s going to have a very limited number of people assessing them. It’s wide open to the nastier side of human character. ”

    This is the point. The entire point. It’s how every denunciation state has functioned.

    Many of them lasted for decades. The question isn’t so much “how did the Germans let it get to that point in 1939”, it’s “how did everyone else let it carry on for another 60+ years?”

    Not only is poverty the default and wealth the exception, oppression is the default (actual oppression, not woke imagination oppression), and freedom the exception.

  6. bloke in spain
    August 11, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    Sounds like speculative fiction rather than the other SF. So one really needs to know what aspects of the human character are being speculated about. The “worlds” in these books are not necessarily to be taken seriously. They’re just stages on which the story plays out.
    The Whuffie thing sounds like a total non starter. Each person’s going to have a very limited number of people assessing them. It’s wide open to the nastier side of human character. People are always more ready to condemn than they are to extol. Just the way we are. You only have to read a newspaper. And if you didn’t like someone it’d be easy to get a following to support your view.

    It is, literally, life on Twitter.

  7. You are somewhat naïve BiS. Vax pass is step one of UK branch of worldwide CCP-style social credit tyranny. And the CCP and the wannabe Globo “elite” of rich corrupt turds are –for the moment–in cahoots. It wont last but whichever of the two extremely evil groups wins will be of no benefit to the vast majority of mankind.

    Doctorow is a dim leftist prick for whom Dementia would be an upgrade of his mentation.

  8. “Markets and competition still exist!”

    Exactly. I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom years ago, and saw it more as a sort of anarcho-capitalist fantasy than a Marxist one (I wasn’t aware of Doctorow’s politics at the time). The post-scarcity thing is a stretch – how is that achieved in the physical realm? – but okay, it’s a schtick. And nobody’s ever denied that something approaching communism might work if it weren’t for that pesky scarcity. Although there’d still be markets and competition.

    The currency seemed more like Bitcoin to me (although this was pre-Bitcoin) than the ChiCom social credit system; it’s important to note that it isn’t centrally controlled. That said, as with all anarchist utopias, it’s never explained how a central authority is prevented from arising, other than that the people don’t seem to want one. Which sets them apart from every human population throughout history.

    Each person’s going to have a very limited number of people assessing them. It’s wide open to the nastier side of human character. People are always more ready to condemn than they are to extol.

    That too. Nobody ever seems to be a victim of Whuffle dogpiling.

    “He was one of the first to adopt a ‘read for free and send money if you enjoyed it’ model. Needless to say, there was no money sent by me.”

    Ditto.

  9. Sorry Ecksy, but your Great Globo Elite conspiracy theories don’t fly. Where’s the motivation for your Globo Elite, most of who will have only a few years left on their personal clocks before the Grim Reaper comes calling, to indulge in costly complicated risky projects will only come to fruition long after they’re dead & buried? Why would they conspire & cooperate? These people compete. That’s what got them where they are. In any conspiracy each & every one is going to try & manipulate it towards their own personal advantage. Something they’re supremely good at. Again, because that’s how they got where they are.
    Like all dystopias, this will be produced by the people further down on the ladders to the heights gaming to their own personal advantage. It goes in a particular direction because that’s the direction of most advantage to the majority of the gamers. Why all systems, communism, fascism, democracy, theocracy, no matter how benevolent the intentions, end up producing similar results. One only gets to choose amongst the least bad.

  10. Review appreciated. “there will always be positional goods.” Its positional goods that people get uptight about. So I thought it an interesting idea to let human nature loose purely on that. Still not that much of a surprise that it plays out the same as we have today. So if Cory is saying it’s this human nature thing that we’re stuck with whatever the set up then he can’t be that much of a leftist at heart.

  11. I’ve been re-reading Asimov’s Elisha Bailey stories, and 20+ years on from last reading them I’m struck that he’s actually living in a Soviet society – a non-post-scarcity Soviet society at that. Elisha Bailey, Plainclothesman Class C6, worried about being “declassified” to C5 and then unable to be “allocated” a larger flat, lacking “priviledge” to use the sit-down areas on the travel strip, worried about what job his son will be “assigned to”. Everything is “those that allocate” directing everybody’s lives.

    The really knock-out bit was: “without the yeast farms, and humanity packed into the underground cities, the Earth’s population of 6 billion would starve.” (Looks at World Population Factfile for 2020)

  12. And how does that compare to the Spacers? Or Aurora?

    Or what’s going on in Pebble In The Sky, Currents of Space or Stars, Like Dust?

    (ps. Elijah Bailey.)

  13. The Spacers are the original first-wave colonists. Aurora being the first colony, Solaria being the last. Solaria struck me as being – I can’t remember the details – those rural villas Imperial Romans who went off to get away from the annoyances of The City, turned up to 11. (Wasn’t there an Emperor who spent all his time on Corfu or summut?) The rich class of (I think it was) Ballator who got fed up of interacting with the Plebs, bought up rural retreats on Solaria, declared independence to stop The Wrong Sort Of Money following them. Retreated so much they retreated from each other, 20,000 people on a single planet.

    The Settlers, the second wave after the Bailey era – are the rugged pioneers, carving a life out of the America wilderness with blood, plough, and babies. Haven’t got that far yet, in the middle of Robots of Dawn.

    So The Spacers are sort-of Roman Elite retreating to rural idylls, the Settlers are rugged pioneers, escaping the overcrowded slums and governmental control of Europe.

    But, re-reading Asimov, it strikes me that so much of his fiction is predicated on an assumption that some sort of The Society observes monitors, directs everything to its “right” place. Can’t do X because The Institute won’t let me, can’t do Y because I don’t have the right government classification. Yerwot? Just do it anyway!

  14. Even on Aurora – one of The Spacers worlds – the main deuteragonist is worried that his career will be destroyed by “The Institute”. They can’t independently re-discover his discoveries, and he won’t tell them, so they’ll ban him from working. Yerwot?????

  15. At the current part of the book:
    “I’ve had two children, I’ve thought of having another, but I haven’t been assigned one”
    Yerwot????
    “Assigned”?
    You just jiggle your bits together, they don’t get “assigned”.

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