In December, we announced it. Now we do it: on behalf of the Science Fiction Economics Lab , I have the honor of opening a portal onto a new, participatory, open source world: the floating megacity of Witness. Witness is large and diverse enough to be divided into several Distrikts, each with its own economic model. By taking its Migrant Train, you can travel not only through space, but also through economic and social paradigms.
On 9 March at 5 PM CET, Edgeryders’ Sci-Fi Economics Lab, in partnership with Fondazione di Comunità di Messina, Blivande and Nordisk Kulturfond organises a webinar to present the work done by the Worldbuilding Academy core team, and welcome new and future contributors.
Register here or continue reading for more information.
A while ago, we decided to create an online open source participatory space where economists and science fiction writers could create a range of plausible social and economic scenarios.
Its ambition is to become something like the Star Trek universe, or the Dune universe, but with better economics. Would technologies of great power (like Star Trek ’s replicators) be compatible with a market economy as we know, based on scarcity? How would slower-than-light interstellar trade work? (Nobel laureate Paul Krugman actually worked that one out ) How can Harry Potter ’s Wizarding world use precious metal as a currency, given that wizards can simply magick out more of it and cause hyperinflation?
We called it the Worldbuilding Academy.
Where we are now
In the two previous webinars in October and December organised with the support of EIT Climate-KIC and enriched by a lively online discussion, we committed to present the results of the first phase of the work, and to start a second phase. The second phase would start in February and be open to public participation of… everyone who cares. Sci-fi authors and fans, economists and other social scientists might have the most fun.
Over the past two months, a small team of sci-fi authors and economists have worked hard to build the skeleton of this world: something that is rich enough to inspire others, but incomplete enough that there is plenty of rooms for many more idea. As of now, Witness is still sketchy, and in need of plenty of debugging. But it is already an intriguing place: it has a dark origin story, with its first leader slowly going mad; (some) bounded markets; a libertarian Central Electronics Market; a monastic order building a slower-than-light spaceship for interstellar colonization; and my pride and joy, its own social science. It is called aethnography, and plays in Witness roughly the same role that economics-plus-business administration play in our world… but it differs from economics in lineage, tools, and ways of knowing.
Now, the participatory phase begins, and maybe you belong with it, and with us. Some of us are economists, social scientists, policy makers, business leaders. We wish to use science fiction’s evocative power to help us imagine completely different economic systems, and what it would feel like to live in them. This is important, even urgent, as climate change and other societal challenges call for a rethinking of capitalism. Others are authors, film makers, game designers. We think economic coherence makes for better, more vivid worldbuilding for our sci-fi work. Maybe you share our motivations, maybe you have your own. Either way, wherever you are, whoever you are, you are welcome to join the crew that, in the coming months, will give form to Witness and its Distrikts.
If that sounds tempting, here are some pointers:
- A minisite to present the project.
- A guide to contributing to building Witness, and to using it for your own work.
- A webinar where the core team will present the work and how it is going.
During the webinar, the core team, @yudhanjaya, @joriam and @alberto together with @nadia, @hugi and @lidiazuin will narrate how Witness came to pass; report on the state of the project and how you, too, can take part.
The format is a Zoom meeting, free and open to everyone. Register at the link below; we will send you the Zoom link itself one day before the start of the webinar.
A final disclaimer: for all our efforts to get it right, this is an experimental space, and we have no choice but make it up as we go. That does not worry us – every glitch is a learning opportunity, every inconsistency an occasion to grow. But yes, we appreciate building Witness is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the doctrinarians. See you on the construction site!