Discussing Econ Sci Fi @ Istanbul Innovation Days

@alex_levene @Malka @Raffaele and I have just had a meeting on the panel design for the Econ Sci Fi Zone of Experimentation (ZoX) at the UNDP’s Istanbul Innovation Days on #nextgengov.

Our session is one of six ZoX’s introduced to attendees as follows:

Host: Edgeryders Research Network

Featuring a panel discussion between Malka Older, Writer; Raffaele Miniachi, Economist; and Alberto Cottica, Research Director, Edgeryders and immersive experiments with Anique Yael Vered, Head of Development: Edgeryders Research Network & Alex Levene, Associate Producer: Edge Arts & Culture, Edgeryders.

Frame: Does ‘science fiction’ writing point to alternative ways of organizing resources and building new, just economic systems? What can we learn from speculative fiction about potential future economics? The session provides a platform and fertile environment for the exploration of the economic ideas in science fiction. We explore the pairing between science fiction speculation and economic theory. What is already happening? What can be seen in the data? How does engaging this lens open up innovative ways of implementing new economic and development strategies?

The immersive experiments have been developed separately and can be found here.

As per this post by @alberto, the panel is featuring @malka and @Raffaele in discussion with @alberto to set the scene of Econ Sci Fi and offer attendees a tangible entry into how it can be useful for building governance of the future. And in @malka’s words: how “science fiction can be a tool to question the present.”

In our call - which unfortunately was missing the key person convening the panel @alberto - we came up with a panel formation everyone is comfortable with and thinks will work well. Everyone, please feel free to add additional notes and comments, I’ve opted for a light post with just the key information this time.

  • Intro to Econ Sci Fi by Edgeryders team
  • @Malka’s presentation to set the science fiction landscape and get to the WHY of econ sci fi
  • @Raffaele’s presentation to set the economics landscape and get to the WHY of econ sci fi
  • A panel discussion lead by @alberto with @malka and @Raffaele focusing on a deep dive into one Econ Sci Fi pair (see here). This is to highlight the HOW of econ sci fi - to demonstrate the mechanics behind it. The pair to dive into will be chosen by the audience (out of the four most recently listed), and panelists are comfortable with being able to call on the necessary insights pending which one.
  • A Q&A with the audience. If there are few questions some of this time can be reallocated to the end of the session after the immersive experiments.

This brings the panel to a total of 80mins, which will be followed by 70minutes of experiments for a full session of 2.5hours.

The reading list will be included in the booklet for attendees to take home, offering - alongside a few DIY rituals - a way for them to continue exploring Econ Sci as a potential tool in reimagining governance. @Raffaele @Malka getting your recommendations for the list by Wednesday latest Thursday will be a gem. Thanks

With unavoidable self-promotion, I’d like to add my short story Narrative Disorder Narrative Disorder and the accompanying essay The Narrative Spectrum The Narrative Spectrum. They are not about economics per se, but they will be useful for anyone who wants more on that framework. Also, they are short and available for free :slight_smile:

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@Malka, @Raffaele, @anique.yael! I am so sorry… I am in Tunisia, and not completely the master of my schedule. Things keep being re-arranged, and frankly I lost the overview and forgot telling you that I was going to miss the call (yesterday, that had previously been freed, got, hijacked by a sudden change of plans… Sunday afternoon :disappointed:).

That said, my contribution is:

  • I agree with your main conclusion. One pair is what we should do. Who chooses it, and when? This has direct implications on the reading list, which consists of the SF work(s) that does advanced speculation on the concept, and one or two Econ references on its textbook treatment.
  • I would encourage both Malka and Raffaele to think more in terms of message to be delivered than of time. If time is short, I would give more space to the presentations than to the Q&A. For this type of thing, I think many people will need some time to listen in puzzled silence before they can go participatory and interactive.
  • I would prefer Malka and Raffaele to make the choice. Specifically, I think the choice criterion is this: choose the pair that (a) generates the weirdest, most novel fictional economy, while (b) it is still possible to build intellectual bridges from known economics to get there. In the case of Walkaway, the main ramp to the bridge seems to be the Coase theorem (but there are others, from behavioral economics to value theory). It is very important that Raffaele’s econ arsenal does not completely glitch! Another, probably weaker critierion is (c) that the risulting fictional economy is attractive, utopian more than dystopian.
  • That said, if either of you needs a sounding board, I’m here. You might need to call me on my Tunisian phone number, though, as this is still Tunisia, and my schedule is still mostly in the hands of others.
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@alberto: the way in which I interpreted the conclusions was that I would use the 15/20 minutes to touch the economic side of the 4 pairs identified, just to show how on those standard themes economics (theory and reality) is under stress, and therefore economists can benefit (also) of SF. And we leave people the choice of which to deepen in the debate,

If we choose only one topic for the debate, then the 15/20 would be more on the “method”, and in this case in the reading list I would put the chapter of Ha-Joon Chang in Economic Science Fiction

@Malka, I enjoyed your short story and essay. When in you say:

… we’ve been conditioned to understand a certain pattern, from the first Disney movies … And here’s where narrative perception, the second symptom of narrative disorder, comes in: when we see those same plots over and over and over again in fiction … then we start to see it in real life.

I read: “many economists suffer from narrative disorder”!

We do have the tendency to project the narrative we are used and trained to on the real life, that is (too often) we mis-use our models (see Paul Pfleiderer on this). If you think of using this material for your 15/20 mins, I can keep reasoning on the “narrative disorder” of the economists, and leave one of the pair for the debate … which one?

yes, exactly! And I can tie it more closely to economics with this famous quote from Ursula LeGuin: ““We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.” It is easy to believe that our experience is universal and eternal, hard to see how it could change and what might replace it. For that we need to think wildly, speculatively, not necessarily to predict the exact thing that’s going to happen, but to begin to break the hold that the present and its persistent narratives have on us.

This is an interesting short piece about reputational economics, nice because it makes a pretty explicit but also nuanced comparison with capitalism: https://www.shareable.net/blog/the-guy-who-worked-for-money

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Yes, this is exactly the idea. You are an experienced presenter: If you can do this in 20 minutes (or even a bit more, maybe?), great. If you prefer to “zoom in”, also great. I guess you might have to spend some time introducing the Econ tools that are under stress: not everybody can call to memorize general equilibrium theory on a pinch.

Ok here you find my list:
Innovation and intellectual property rights.
Clancy and Moschini 2013, Incentives for Innovation: Patents, Prizes, and Research Contracts Easier to read than Stiglitz 2007, and with links to development,

Papers/topics I’d like to refer to in the talk:

Reputation economies and gift economies.
David Reinstein 2014, “The Economics of the Gift“ in: Gift giving and the “embedded” economy in the ancient world, edited by Filippo Carlà and Maja Gori, Universitätsverlag Winter Heidelberg, 2014, pp. 83-99. http://repository.essex.ac.uk/10009/1/dp749.pdf

Papers/topics I’d like to refer to in the talk:

Automation of labor.
Integration and Trade Journal: Volume 22: No. 44: July, 2018: Planet Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence for a Predictive and Inclusive form of Integration in Latin America (https://publications.iadb.org/handle/11319/9080) Ok, Istanbul is not Latin America, hope not to offend :wink:

Papers/topics I’d like to refer to in the talk:

Social (cultural and ecological) reproduction.
(The Great Gatsby Curve): Miles Corak 2016, Inequality from Generation to Generation: The United States in Comparison http://ftp.iza.org/dp9929.pdf

Other topics/papers:

  • Acemoglu 2013, The World Our Grandchildren Will Inherit, in Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio.; In 100 Years : Leading Economists Predict the Future, MIT press https://economics.mit.edu/files/10396

Fantastic thanks @Raffaele. And love that Le Guin quote @Malka. Do you have a consolidated reading list you’d like to include also?

Meanwhile, if of interest, this recent blog post can give you more context on how the immersive experiments are being approached.