How to build a world: a webinar with the Worldbuilding Academy's core team

Registration link here

A while back, we at the Sci-Fi Economics Lab had a new idea: instead of writing academic papers, we could channel out-of-the box economic thinking around building a fictional world, to serve as the backdrop for works of science fiction or fantasy. In retrospect, it seems obvious: after all, this space exists because a small patrol of economically inclined sci-fi authors invested a lot of time and brainpower into dreaming up exotic economic systems. But we added a couple of extra ideas to that original insight.

First, we decided to build the world in a participatory way. We want anyone to be free to contribute ideas, analysis, references, visuals, and so on. 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? No matter how smart, an individual author can not keep track of all the possible variables and their permutations. So, we are going to do that as a community. It just makes sense. There are already over 150 people posting on this forum, many of us professional economists. We are licensing the world with an open source license: you can use it for your novel, film or game, and no lawyer will ever come calling if you make it big.

Second, we decided we want a world that contains several economic systems, not just one. Again, this is an old trick in sci-fi: Anarres and Urras in Ursula K. Le Guin The Dispossessed, the Hives in Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota, the Acquis and the Dispensation in Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids, and so on. This plurality creates a nice narrative tension, as characters can move across places and experience different economies. Also, readers tend to start thinking which economic system they would choose, if they were free to do so. For example, this poll about “which Terra Ignota Hive would you choose” is popular on the Internet (explanation of the Hives).

But participatory projects work best if someone makes an initial investment in them. Participating in filling an empty space can be intimidating, or simply not that much fun. So, third, we decided to offer a writers’ residency to someone to lead the charge. The residency is generously funded by Fondazione di Comunità Messina, the people with one of the weirdest, most fascinating real-life economic models we have found so far. Among the applications who flowed in, many stood out; but in the end, the strongest one came from Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, a Nebula-nominated author from Sri Lanka and a member of our community (as @yudhanjaya). His novel Numbercaste has been on our wiki of economic sci-fi since the beginning.

Yudhanjaya pointed out that, in order to bring the world to a level of maturity where contributing to it is fun and interesting, a small team is better than one person. So, fourth, we decided to create one. The other team members are Joriam Ramos (here as @Joriam), a Brazilian author and designer affiliated to Enspiral; Michela De Domenico and Marco Lo Curzio, Italian architects and illustrators; and yours truly, as the resident economist. If you want to volunteer for the core group, just let me know with a comment or a DM.

This group has the task to prepare, and pre-populate an online space where we all can contribute to build an open source. We are preparing a webinar which will be held Monday, 7 December at 17.00 CET, to present our concept and initial thoughts, and seek feedback from the community.

To register, go here.




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2020-12-07T16:00:00Z

6 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
I like the idea of extrapolating real world scenarios, taking technological research to a next step and considering what could happen if such discovery was made or a technology was developed. My main focus in on science fiction, but I’m open to ideas that merge technology and fantasy, since any technology advanced enough looks like magic in Clarke’s view. My academic background in semiotics, visual arts, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology can also add some further inspiration in terms of adapting theoretical concepts into the construction of scenarios – at least this is what I do as an author. Branched narratives with a gamified approach can also be useful in terms of taking the audience to new, customized paths rather than just sticking to linear stories. I’m open to try new methods and ideas.

3 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
The world, and thus the economines, needs to be conceived from the top down and then built from the bottom up.
Some of the questions to answer

  • how do common people live / work?
  • how do the policies affect economic life?
  • what is the climate / seasons? How do they affect daily life (holidays, planting seasons, etc.)?

3 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
I think and hope that thls would be a never ending process, a work-in-progress that offers a platform for imaginative action. I would also like to see connection to other worlds worlding (as in writings of e.e.cummings and the incredible Le Guin) as well as a transitional cosmos that is inviting for diverse communities. The common values and the raison d‘etre (grounding manifesto) would also be significant assets. All need discussion, sketching, visualization, action and in instances unlearning to learn by practice.

2 Likes

It‘s really amazing how ideas are coinciding; I wrote my world vision without seeing your session description and the core reference is already the same, @alberto :slight_smile: Thank you for organizing this, I am really excited to meet the small crew as well as those joining in like myself. Already started reading works by the writer in residence. Hope to catch up:)

3 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
No

My idea/suggestion for building the world:


3 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:


2 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
Refining social constructs. Most of current challenges are practically/technically solvable. The question is the stories that govern behaviours are flawed (economy, law, politics, etc).

2 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
It would be nice to have embedded conflicts between the different systems as no system can exist without its (seemingly) opposite.

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I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
Make sure every economy has some economists working on it!

One of the regions should have an economy like the Anarres

1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:


1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
Think about the evolution of philosophy and politics in the world you are building. It should not just be about how tech is different in the future, how have our thoughts about morality, religion, science, economics, family, etc. changed?

1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.


My idea/suggestion for building the world:
I’ll try to draw my idea for building the world.

1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
I would like to create graphic views of the world

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Welcome @marcolok and @michi1,
Looking forward to see your illustrations

2 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
I would like to tackle the issue of communication. How do you resolve conflicts, ensure contracts are observed, enforce the rule of law (and who’s law) when
a) communications takes months or years (no FTL) OR
b) if FTL is possible - and how could communication work in such a scenario (tunneling of a dimension, quantum entaglement, you name it)

2 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:


1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
Money is a tool, and just as there are different shapes, forms, functions for tools depending on the task to be performed, monetary systems can be designed to perform better in specific situations or economic context.
A short example and very simplified: Vehicles are designed to work better in the air, and those are called airplanes, while others are designed to work on the water, or on land. And then you have different types and versions for each of those environments, also deigned to carry out certain specific 'jobs" or tasks.

So, too, can happen with money. Rather than saying which monetary system is best, the idea is to create a Monetary Taxonomy. (Which I have created).

Also, Economy is at the moment considered a Market Economy, and it’s structurally inefficient. I have also designed the structure for a Teal Economy, with conferences on the subject given in Japan at an international congress after the Kobe Earthquake.


2 Likes

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:


1 Like

I want to take part in the webinar.
Yes

My idea/suggestion for building the world:
Include in your world-building plans for gardens, recipes, and events for sharing meals. Food provides a powerful lens for reinforcing or changing beliefs about society and culture.

1 Like