Economic Science Fiction: a selection of works and authors

Subspace Explorers by E. E. Smith “The Principle of Enlightened Self Interest” as the basis of an economy.

Ring of Fire by Eric Flint Unions as the basis of commonweal

Dune / Frank Herbert. The spice must flow!

At this point I definitely need to read The Dispossessed – I have not. I have read the Culture series, at least twice every book. I am a big fan, but there is not a lot of convincing economics in there. The way it works is widespread omnipotence: anyone can make anything anywhere out of the grid. No need for trade or allocation, so no economy is necessary.

Plus, there is a dynamic argument: it’s not clear how a civ could get to be the Culture. Somehow abundance is allowed to happen. Somehow, no élite steps in to create artificial scarcity and find itself on the winning side of things. When it was level 4 or 5, one assumes, its élites simply graciously stepped aside. Hmmm.

Welcome, @joelfinkle! This is shaping up to be a really enjoyable discussion. :slight_smile:

Down and Out is very interesting and I think is really conducting several thought experiments at once. It is difficult not to see Whuffie through the lens of the rise of gamified social media (likes, followers, shares, etc.), and platform capitalism … and of course there are important connections there, but it is also worth looking closely at the differences. For instance, in Doctorow’s conceit, nobody ever (apart maybe from one ambiguous exception) CHOOSES to award anyone else Whuffie, the way you would choose to give a seller a particular rating on a platform, or choose to like a social media post. Whuffie is rather imagined as somehow automatically monitoring how much you value everything and everyone you encounter.

1 Like

I haven’t been able to figure out the economic system in Neptune’s Brood yet to my satisfaction.

It is intuitive that slow money should be very stable, because we’re accustomed to thinking of a three-way trade-off between risk, liquidity, and return. Also we’re used to thinking of slow things, especially big slow things, as being long-lived (turtles, ents, elephants, whales).

But what exactly is slow money – a currency, a bond, something else? Why do people invest such confidence in it? Why is it so stable? In what ways is it like gold (and gold isn’t exactly stable, is it?)? How do you design a monetary system that is capable of outlasting the nation-states (or whatever monetary authorities) that are around when it is created?

I wrote a blog post about it here:

And a bit more here:

1 Like

Great stuff, @jolwalton! Heading over there to read. Will respond here. This is shaping up to be the best reading group ever. :slight_smile:

Malka Olders Centenal Cycle is missing. It’s more political than economic (main theme is a vote), but the “Information” is a half-governmental hyper google that does all the rating and fact checking, and e.g. complains about pictures on a restaurant menue when they are not accurate…

1 Like

I have only read the first book of the Centenal cycle. I loved it, so I’ll read the rest in due time. Indeed it seems interested on imagining a completely different political, rather than economic, system. I would say it’s not front-and-center in this seminar, but this is obviously just me.

That said, edit away, @OmaMorkie, this is what wikis are for. I force-increased your trust level to where you can (the platform would have done so automagically after a couple of comments, but what the hell). Same for @joelfinkle, @jolwalton, @Kaibeezy, @sz_duras , @LStewart and @anonandon.

Request: if you are not sure you are suggesting Econ-SF proper, create another category in the wiki, like “non-economy centered utopias” or whatever. I volunteer to clean the wiki up later, make a table of content, etcetera.

Thanks! :green_heart:

Hey, thank you man :slight_smile:

Slowing down money is a real problem for stock exchanges:


New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2017

The Villain: Soul-devouring stage-5 capitalism

The Heroes: You and me

Their Weapons: Pitchforks and mortgages

The Dramatic Twist: An oligarch’s change of heart

The Princess: Post-capitalist utopia


Thanks @Kaibeezy! Have not read that, though I do like Kim Stanley Robinson. I thought I was a heavyweight SF buff, but you guys humble me.

We are mostly interested in the princess here, but also in the weapons if their deployment draws a path from the present economy to the future one. In fact, I think an explicit treatment of it is one of the best features of Doctorow’s Walkaway. Subgame-perfect equilibria, anyone? :smile:

Can you update the wiki with NY 2140?

1 Like

I’d hate to drop a spoiler here, so I’ll carefully say the book is about a perfect storm of events, both slow- and fast-moving, and an unexpected tipping point, creating an opportunity for an epic global economic hairball-hacking-up hack.

It’s not about life with the princess, or even dreaming about rescuing the princess, but more like an unexpected opportunity arising among unsuspecting allies doing unrelated yet compatible things, whereby -tum-ta-DUM- the princess startlingly emerges.

Don’t worry. We are doing economics here. Spoiler is not a concern. If you want to be ultra-nice, put a spoiler alert somewhere, then spoil away. :slight_smile:

There’s a feature for proper spoiler alerts in our platform :slight_smile: You create a paragraph like this:

[details=Spoiler Alert! Click to open.]All the spoilers go here.[/details]

And it will appear as below, opening on click:

Spoiler Alert! Click to open.

All the spoilers go here.


I have just bought this book as well, so will bring with me to read in Turkey

I’ll see if i can find my copy

Spoiler Alert! Click to open.

I really hoped there would be some actually special spoilers in that link.



if uchronies are allowed, then we should not forget Red Plenty (Francis Spufford) which presents us with an alternative timeline that failed to materialize: the triumph of Soviet central planning over Western capitalism. Careful not to spoil, let me just share a quote from this “New Inquiry” review:

I think Red Plenty could perhaps be read as advocating another counterfactual: the Soviet Union would have succeeded if they had adopted a cybernetics-inflected version of central planning instead of sticking to the all-too-human model they had initially adopted.