Many people will be able to tell you that I love to read, especially fiction. I consume books, racing from cover to cover, eating up the words. I find a good book to be an absolute pleasure.
A friend (thanks dave) recommended to me “For the win” by Cory Doctow, a fictional novel based around gold farmers (definition) in the worlds poorer economies. I found this to be a very enjoyable novel, especially as it worked its way in and around the inner workings of some (fictional) MMORPGs. Having spent time playing World of Warcraft this certainly peaked an interest.
It was not just the contents of the book itself that peaked my interest though.
The book is released under a Creative Commons license, essentially making the book free to read. The author Cory Doctorow is quite an rights activist, working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many other good causes. One issue that they regularly deal with is the recent copyright battles taking place in courtrooms across the world, especially with regards to P2P violations. This guys is someone that the web should listen to.
The other thing that stood out to me is the explanation of economics. Within the books the economics of each of the virtual computer worlds requires breaking down in layman’s terms.
In other words, the amount of money in circulation is a big deal. Theoretically, this amount is watched carefully by clever, serious economists. In practice, all the world’s money is in one big swirling, whirling pool. Dollars and ducats and wahoonies and euros, blended together willy nilly, and when one government goes to the press and starts to churn out bales of bank-notes, everyone gets the sugar high. And when things crash, and peoples’ savings go up in smoke, the deflationary death-spiral kicks in, and prices sink, and more companies fail — and governments go back to the printing press.
So in practice, this big engine that determines how much food is grown, whether you’ll have to sell your kidneys to feed your family, whether the factory down the road will make Zeppelins, whether the restaurant on the corner can afford the coffee beans, all this important stuff has *no one in charge of it*. It is a runaway train, the driver dead at the switch, the passengers clinging on for dear life as their possessions go flying off the freight-cars and out the windows, and each curve in the tracks threatens to take it off the rails altogether.
There is a small number of people in the back of the train who fiercely argue about when it will go off the rails, and whether the driver is really dead, and whether the train can be slowed down by everyone just calming down and acting as though everything was all right. These people are the economists, and some of the first-class passengers pay them very well for their predictions about whether the train is doing all right and which side of the car they should lean into to prevent their hats from falling off on the next corner.
Everyone else ignores them.