Econ-scifi: can we imagine a completely different economic system?



I have a number of friends who live down in Bristol (and i went to Post Graduate there) so if anyone wanted someone on the ground to do some research and reporting i could easily go down there and explore on behalf of ER


Thanks @amiridina. Any effort is welcome.

For the seminar, though, I propose we look at “imagining completely different economic systems”. The alt-currency crowd normally does not make the cut. They are simply looking at small (though important) add-on to the existing system. They have to, or their solutions would not be viable.

This cuts out two huge swaths of thinking:

  1. Hacks bolted on top of existing systems, like alt-currencies. These are very important when trying to build anything workable. But here we are trying to come up with something that can act as a beacon, to give all these attempts a sense of direction.

  2. Critiques of capitalims, neoliberalism or what have you. Again, important stuff, but we are aiming for alternatives.

As for Eisenstein, Nadia and I went to a conference of his years ago, in Brussels, and, with respect, were underwhelmed. He played massively the guru card, appealing to people more through personal charisma and millenarism than via rigorous thinking. I may have misunderstood, or he may have moved on. But man, that was a lot of handwaving.


Good catch, @nadia. This is rather a generic selection, not oriented towards economics. But there seems to be at least one work worth exploring, Ada Palmer’s Terra ignota. I’ll look into it.


The bunny prince wants to join the seminar! This is very much down my line of work, as an (environmental, experimental) economist by training and a science fiction author myself :slight_smile:


Welcome, then, @OmaMorkie! Environmental-experimental sounds great. I used to be an Env Economist myself, but our brand of Env Eco, in my opinion, failed pretty badly. Maybe we’ll meet at the seminar, if we manage to organize it, and trade war stories. :slight_smile:

Meanwhile: the wiki is here:

Econ-SF: a selection of works and authors

Thanks @alberto for the clarification. 70% of the Egyptian economy is in the informal sector. We have practiced gift economy as a way for social solidarity which is linked in a way or another to religion. I mentioned Eisenstein, as I can reach him. There are other forms of alternative economies, known and unknow, that work in small communities. Bristol is an example of a city that applies known tools of alternative economy and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about was is already working.

Who are the top-notch economists of our days? Why do you believe that no one is trying to imagine a different economic system to the existing one? I am not economist nor researcher, you are better informed than I am. I based my knowledge on articles and movies that I watched about capitalism and the need and attempts to create a different system. And, the Oasis Game methodology which is depends partially on social solidarity (gift economy). For example: Entrepreneur Emmanuel Druon, CEO of the POCHECO company in the movie “Demain”. He has applied “ecolonomical” principles to his activities, guided by the three pillars of sustainable development : environment protection, respect of the employees and of social justice and productivity gains. Clearly, he has become a master in the art of producing more while being greener. He reconciles economy, ecology, human resources and profitable activities. He applies the principles of circular economy and limited growth in a ways. This is one example, there are also a couple of institute in the United States who are experimenting in the community their serve other economic systems. (…)

Maybe there are economist and entrepreneurs who are imagining a new system, but it is still young and unknown. Only highlighted by alternative media. Anyway I am looking forward for the result of your research / conference. This is a quiet interesting topic.


A good place to start is Wikipedia’s list of Nobel laureates. Most of the last 20 of them are still in operation, or at least alive. As you can see, not much dreaming up completely different systems there. The closest is Ostrom (sadly passed away), but even Governing the commons is a far cry from it.

As for the gift economy… it’s there. It always was. It is clearly important, but it looks like it’s been pushed onto some kind of residual role, doing damage control for loved ones in the wake of the market economy juggernaut. I’m wondering if anyone can dream up something that, though it might still use elements from the gift economy, it integrates them into a larger system that can maintain a road network, trade with distant countries, and build a spaceship. You see?


I counted 70 something economist among which 50+ are Americans. Do you think they will ever give the prize for someone who proposes a completely different economy, I doubt. The people you are looking for do exist. You will hear about them in alternative media. Italy has several initiative that are worth studying.


I was studying the possibility of going for post graduate there too. I thought, beside my studies I can explore the city’s economy. In Egypt, there are no real cooperatives. The law organizing the establishment of cooperative was made complicated with a high interference from the government under Nasser. The law does not allow communities to create an alternative currency, etc. And generally now everybody is suspected to carry foreign countries agendas to ruin the country. However, I believe from my visits to underprivileged communities that the people have the solution and the money, but the government make it difficult for them to move forward and make the change they want for their community to develop: centralization. How is the standard of living in Bristol? Why does the local government encourage cooperatives and has created an alt currency? Are their any other alt. economy tools used in the city?


The New Economy Coalition (NEC) is an American nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, formerly known as the New Economics Institute. It is a network of "over 200"organizations based in the US and Canada working for “a future where people, communities, and ecosystems thrive…where capital (wealth and the means of creating it) is a tool of the people, not the other way around.” as part of what it describes as “the New Economy movement”

So far the new economic system seems to becoming local.


Bristol is a very strange city.
It is amazingly wealthy in places (historic and new wealth) and was largely built on the back of the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th/18th Century. Over the years it decline and the power and prestige moved to cities nearby (Bath, specifically) but it experienced a renaissance in the 1960’s (largely as a result of immigration from the Caribbean) Becasue of the change in demographics it became a very cheap city to live in, and it attracted a large number of artists, performers and social activists to it between 1970-1990. There were some race riots during the 1980’s between settled Caribbean populations and poorer white communities. Mostly down to bad community management and racist policing tactics. This kept the more conservative elements in UK society away from the city, but attracted the revelotionary, bohemian and hippy fringe to the city. As a result the city now has 2 distinct sides: the old rich (University, banking, defence contracting) and the social activism/artistic exploration (Stoke Croft area, Banksy, Portishead (band) Dubstep (music genre))

The standard of living is split between the very rich (who often live in old 3-4 story townhouses, or outside the city), the general middle classes (who have larger properties around the city centre) and the poorer neighbourhoods (which are often a mix of long-term poorer white working class families and artists/social activists, etc) Overall the standard of living is very high, and it is known for being similar to areas of North London, but with a slower pace of life. A vibrant arts, performance, circus, music and festival scene can be found throughout the city.
The Alt-currency was created outside of the government structure, and therefore it started as a grassroots movement, embraced by the inhabitants and community before it was accepted by the government. Even now, i don’t think you can use the alt-currency to pay for any government services. Instead it is used as a way of keeping local money in the local environment (a bit like Disney dollars)
As with most of the UK, it isn’t about the government encouraging cooperatives, but rather just not being able to stop them or shut them down. Slowly, places like Bristol have seen community leaders and social activists make their way into the local government structures, which in turn leads to a faster acceptance and pace of change. But this is never top-down.

I would need to go back to Bristol and spend a few days looking around and asking to find out any more (which i will try to do anyway (I want to see my friend))

Hope that helps.
I’m not an expert on the city or it’s structures, but that is my take on what happened/is happening


The United Nations Development Programme is planning a large event around innovation is Istanbul, in early November 2018. To my great surprise, one of their officials asked me to bring the Econ-SF seminar to it, offering to contribute to organizing and paying for it.

After discussing it with @alex_levene, we have decided not to go for it. For several reasons: one is that it is too soon to do proper fundraising and organizing; another one is that we would like to freely develop the idea first, and only later, if at all, make it into some kind of product.

But this does raise some questions. Should Econ-SF become a series, rather than a one-off? Should we do many, instead of one? And where? And who with? What do people think?


I would do one and see how it goes, unless you have some high-level invitees who can’t make it to the first but could commit to a second.


Just discovered this old thread:

Is there any overlap between these people and the Econ SciFi? Because if so, then we may have a justifiable reason for engaging in the UNDP suggested event (but on a smaller, more exploratory scale) As i mentioned in the call, there’s probably a strong need for us to try to find more writers from non-western/non-english 1st language backgrounds. My gut feeling is that the ground may be more fertile there.


I don’t think so, Alex. The subset of SF that has any economic thinking at all is tiny. The Balkan-Middle Eastern sub-subset of that… I don’t know. Happy to change my mind if someone digs out some good title.

Econ-SF reading group: let's choose the first title

Hi @johncoate. Looks like everything is continuing with our plans for EconSciFi, with a event in the pipeline for Springtime 2019.
Is it possible to go back to Doctorow and see if this kind of timescale might coincide with any planned trips he has over to Europe.
We’re still really keen to have him as the centrepoint author for a larger event happening at this time.
We’d rather plan around his schedule than fix a set date now.

His response will then give us a scale for funding and development, as well as hopefully tell us exactly how much we will need to find to fund the event.

Is that something that can happen in the next couple of days?


I will write to him this morning and ask. Later this morning we are heading west from Denver for some days camping, but will try to get back to you as soon as I know anything.


That would be great, thanks John.
Have a great time in the mountains


Mail sent…but the auto reply says he is on holiday through July 14 and to write back then.


Ok, that’s fine.
Would you be able to resend when you come back from camping?