Different economic systems, one floating megacity: introducing Witness

2021-03-09T16:00:00Z

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.

The project

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:

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!

To register, go here.

This event is organised by:


In partnership with:

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With the support from:

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself


Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
I just got to know the project, and I’m getting interested by the minute.
I can’t say right now, but I’ve been considering filming a short movie, and I see that perhaps Witness could be the right setting for this movie.

Witnesspedia entries
No particular interest at the moment.

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I’m personally interested (and, medium-term, hopefully invested) in alternative economic systems that are more in line with a sustainable future (by Natural Step definitions). I’m also professionally interested in how technologies and innovation can help manifest these better futures.

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I’m curious :slight_smile:

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
I am more of a passive than an active participant for this. More listening than talking, though if I have something to say, I will.

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I’m particularly interested in land governance futures (as part of my work at sharedassets.org.uk) and in non-exploitative organising structures and practices, and I am a big scifi fan. So I’m curious to see how this all pans out!

Witnesspedia entries
I don’t know what the witnesspedia is sorry!

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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
Much of my writing involves world building. The more I can learn the better my writing will be.

Witnesspedia entries
All of them.

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I’m an explorer that want to find ways to build a better future for everyone. After 22 years in industry I am now in government, and am since 2016 doing PhD student research on innovation engineering as a side activity to give room for my own self development and continued growth mindset.

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
I am a Futurist working to promote Flourishing World. I am an Industrial Engineer who has worked in the field of Development Planning and would like to see engineering systems thinking be more utilized in development planning. My SMART Futures framework is proposed as a lens from which more people can see the world as shared space. I would like to bring my capacity for storytelling as well as my experience as an Afro-Caribbean immigrant concerned about SDGs and how we not only survive but Thrive as a species to the year 3000 and beyond. We have to get Politicians and policy makers and technocrats thinking more long term. I am also working to get sustainability Module taught in all Engineering Schools. So this work would really help me with the New Economics question. Moreover I would like to see how to bring this back to the global Black communities I serve.

Witnesspedia entries
AvantGrid (as I come from the Caribbean)
Covenant (as I am an Interfaith Sacred Activist)
I have not read all of the entries as I am new here. I would like to find the one solution or work on a solution do one which includes the conversation on the issue of JUST Space Economics. As a playwright, sometime poet, and storyteller, I am interested in working on FUTURE Poetry set to music and images and would love to partner with someone to do MUSIC VIDEOS or short Animated Videos or a solo story performance video to help create a new way of sharing this information with the public. Ultimately it is vital that we get this information out to people making public policy now.

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
Just found out about the project. I have had an interest in futures, world building, and pluralistic worlds since I started my masters.
I would like to contribute my ideas to articles, stories and any future publications.

Witnesspedia entries
Haven’t gone through them yet, but i look forward to before the webinar :slight_smile:

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I am an economist who studies digital platforms and automation, and has a very strong personal interest in sci fi and philosophy. I’m interesting in helping to flesh out the dynamics of societies that rely heavily on either digital social networks or automation.

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
How each of us can bring a piece of a puzzle in world building.

Witnesspedia entries
How sci-fi shapes society throughout time. Also I see locks and keys as a better metaphor over solutions. I believe we all can bring our current locks or limits so that we can bring keys to unlock to a more limitless state.

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Sheila C. Mullooly is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy, and Futures Fellow at Portland State University. Her research interests include ethnographic experiential futures in international higher education, arts-based research related to social change, and translingualism. Sheila earned a BA in Biology (Grinnell College), became a Diplomaed Artist HGK (University of Applied Sciences & Art of Central Switzerland), and received her MA TESOL Studies (University of Queensland, Australia).



Witnesspedia entries
visual art and/or spoken word poetry–tba

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself


Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
I am a science fiction writer and someone who blogs, tweets and podcasts about sci-fi and pop culture. I am interested in how narratives in fiction shape political debate. I would like to contribute in any way I can, preferably by writing

Witnesspedia entries
The Assembly of People interests me the most as I am interested in the arts and also my politics lean towards anarchist. I have some interest/knowledge of economics so I can contribute fictional economics papers. My main contribution will be text, as my illustration, video and music skills aren’t up to much.

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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself


Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
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Introduce yourself
I am joining to find out!

Witnesspedia entries
As said above, I’d love to find out :slight_smile:

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
I love this initiative! I’m in the process of setting up a democratically owned company and I’m hoping to continue to work toward a society with greater collective democratic participation. I am happy to add whatever I can to the discussion, but I’m honestly mainly looking to hear what others have to say.

Witnesspedia entries


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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

Introduce yourself
Curious!

Witnesspedia entries
Not yet.

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