Tabular Data

title author publisher date text
Distraction Bruce Sterling Spectra 2011 This novel focuses on politics, but the action happens against a backdrop of economic semi-collapse, where only about a third of people participate into the mainstream economy, and many of them do so by forming parts of the retinues of rich people (“krews”). Many people are nomads, and live on cheap-and-open tech and biotech. Nomad society is organized around “reputation servers” storing reputation as a currency. The book also contains a funny (but chilly) conversation in which one of the character, a car industry executive, explains why radical innovation is bad for business.
Makers Cory Doctorow Tor Books 2018 A near-future novel centered on Schumpeterian creative destruction, as enacted by a movement called New Work. New Work is all about very small, networked business units working as independent companies within large corporates (who no longer have a viable business model, but who do have viable plumbing and cash from the good old days). These companies dream up new products, build them on top of cheap, open source components, immediately get imitated and undercut by others, and move on to the next product, surfing the wave of novelty and high margins. The movement gets eventually busted by Wall Street pulling the plug on something it does not understand. Many ideas generated in economics are floating around Makers beside creative destruction: Bertrand competition, building-blocks technical innovation, Arrow’s paradox and others. @alberto wrote a complete review from the point of view of an economist.
Walkaway Cory Doctorow Tor Books 2017 Depicts an economy entirely based on DIY production, in the book made cheap at an arbitrarily small scale by advanced 3D printing and biotech. Production is organized like a Wikipedia-style project. The book makes the argument that reputation bookkeeping (kudos, karma etc.) invites gaming of the system, and is an inferior way to organize production to a pure gift economy (given some key abundances). It also makes the case for defection from mainstream society (exit in Hirschman’s terms) as a viable strategy when cheap, open tech is available.
Autonomous Annalee Newitz Tor Books 2018 It’s a far future, earth-bound scenario with advanced biotech, under a corporate rulership primarily powered by extreme intellectural property rights. She goes deep in the debate between master-servant relationships, as the world features both classic human indebted servitude and autonomous artifically intelligent robots as well as into piracy, open knowledge, addiction and freedom.
The Webs of Varok Cary Neeper 2013 In the book a woman from Earth is adopted into an alien family on a world which has a green, steady-state economy. (Mild spoiler) The villain of the book is somebody who doesn’t want to abide by the economic restrictions. Dr. Neeper (PhD in Microbiology, not Economics) uses the book to envisage what a steady state economy might be like unencumbered with Earth’s political history. She posts about her sources for the economics on her website at The book interesting, but questions remain about how productivity growth (the economy of Varok devotes a large portion of is research to science) would effect the steady state economy.
Red Plenty Francis Spufford Graywolf Press 2012 A mix of history and fiction, it is a sort of docudrama on the Soviet Union’s 1960s attempt to upgrade its economic planning using computers and scientific methods. The main economic concept called into play is that of shadow prices. These are estimates of the cost of a product or service based on the willingness to pay, that is, what the relevant economic actor is willing to give up to obtain that product or service. A group of Soviet economists attempts to reform the way the economy works: now factories are supposed to pursue a “shadow profit” made by meeting their objectives while using preferentially those inputs that have a lower shadow price. The reform collides with the “folk” ways in which these decisions have traditionally been made, and finally fails. This book is rich in insight about the nuts-and-bolts of a deep economic reform. Also discussed in the thread below, especially this post.
Numbercaste Yudhanjaya Wijeratne Independently Published 2017 A near-future novel where a Silicon Valley corporation replaces credit scoring with a quantification of their influence, scraped from social media. Sold with a bottom-up microservices model, the company integrates the use of this system into every customer-facing aspect of life - from restaurants to banks to nightclubs. Also examines a similar system being constructed in China but pushed using top-down methods. A key theme is how this quantification of social influence eventually cripples upward mobility (except in those who can game the system), due to children inheriting the social networks of their parents. A late-stage concept is how this ‘stick’ in turned into a ‘carrot’ - by means of an app that will now tell people who to talk to, who to mingle with, who to know based on the likelihood of it increasing their Number.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Cory Doctorow Macmillan 2003 Explores the idea of a reputation-based economy.
Metagame Sam Landstrom Amazonencore 2010 Describes a world rebuilt on a more or less clean slate after a pandemic wiped out most of the population. As a new starting point, Landstrom has chosen Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow. Since Flow is achieved in play, it follows that a total gamification of the economy leads to the maximally efficient outcome. For example, a minor character works (or rather “plays”) as an operator of small robots who clean public spaces such as tunnels and hallways. To him, he is playing a game (itself a part of the economy-wide Game), where he earns points for clean surfaces, but he has to spend points to rent the robots. Points are used as the system’s currency. In a sense, this is a Coaseian world where hierarchies have no reason to exist, because the Game brokers between players’ supply and demand schedules. On the other hand, he does imagine s form of collective production unit: the Great Houses, large families with thousands of members, that have replaced corporations. The author explains they grew out of civil unions, after some activists successfully fought for the right to have civil unions between more than two people.
New York 2140 Kim Stanley Robinson Hachette UK 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
Utopia Five A. E. Currie 2019 Utopia Five, by A. E. Currie. Depicts a post-event, capitalist surveillance economy, where surveillance data have become public record. Entrepreneurs like the main characters build profit-making applications on those data including games, search engines, social credit, and law enforcement systems. These are then operated under the constant threat of a form of nationalisation. The day-to-day operation of the world is loosely based on Cuba and its reimagey from the special period of the 1990’s, which was characterised by sudden severe shortages of hydrocarbon energy sources and necessitated a complete overhaul of the country’s agriculture, diet and transport. The novel is clearly influenced by the current high levels of private and state surveillance, particularly in the UK and China, and the uses to which that data is put.
2312 Kim Stanley Robinson 2014 Set in a later epoch in the same future history as the Mars trilogy and New York 2140. It depicts a solar system economy, with a fully terraformed Mars, Venus, Titan and Triton well on their way to their own full terraforming, colonies on Mercury, Luna and other moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and plenty of hollowed out asteroids. The economy is dual. “Space” meaning everything except Earth and Mars, is run by the Mondragon Accord. This is a network of space settlements, which started out their economies as scientific stations (and so as planned economies). As these economies grew in size and complexity, they drew inspiration by Mondragon (“a small Basque town that ran an economic system of nested co-ops organized for mutual support”). The Mondragon Accord is depicted as a more sophisticated planned economy, run by quantum computers making real-time adjustments in production schedules. Markets and capitalism are still there, but they “tended to be private unregulated individual enterprises in nonessential goods. Capitalism was in effect relegated to the margin, and the necessities of life were a shared commons exchange between Earth and individual space colonies was on a national or treaty-association basis, thus a kind of colonial model”. Earth is still run by late-stage capitalism; Mars has withdrawn from the Mondragon Accord and is described as a “planetary social democratic economy”.
The Culture Series Iain M. Banks McFarland 2018 These novels are set in the far future. The economy they depict is one of post-scarcity, sustained by technologies of inconceivable power (“handwavium”). The Culture is a galactic polity whose citizens are both biological and non-biological sophonts. Humans predominate among biologicals. AIs, many of which embodied in ships, are vastly smarter and more powerful, and do most of the societal heavy lifting. The most important economic concept deployed is that a post-scarcity society which is leisure-oriented. Culture people (and AIs) focus on “serious fun” elaborated games, art forms, extreme sports, re-enactments of past events, and so on. In this sense, Banks is following up on the Keynes’ famous 1930 essay, Economic possibilities for our grandchildren. His contribution consists in giving an “architect’s rendering” of what it would feel like to live in a post-scarcity world. He agrees with Keynes’ strategy of boosting the arts as a way to keep people engaged and happy in a world without work.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Robert A. Heinlein Hachette UK 2014 The Moon is a former penal colony, where convicted criminals have been deported and left there with a skeletal surveillance crew. Escape being all but impossible, authorities are unconcerned about what prisoners and their descendants do, as long as they keep farming grain and shipping it to an overpopulated Earth. In this situation, a free market “Randian” economy has evolved. Everything is purchased on the market, including health care, insurance (from bookmakers) and oxygen. The book has some an unusual attention for economic matters, but according to this editor (@alberto) its economic system is familiar (as an abstractiion) with anyone who’s been through Economics 101.
Freedom ™ Daniel Suarez Penguin 2010 Suarez imagines a market economy based on “darknet credits”. It looks like prices of different things as denominated in darknet credits are determined by market mechanisms, but it’s hard to say. The darknet economy emerges in two steps: first, a complicated scheme enacted by a weak (but very effective) AI extracts money off large financial corporations, funding the transition to the new economy (a pretty bloody one, that entails eliminating some plutocrats and violently wiping out drug cartels). Second, the fledgling economy turns out to be very efficient, because it wastes much less energy in corporate bullshit and does not care about IPRs. The critique of the inefficiencies of late capitalism is sharp enough, but there is no real explanation for why the agents of the darknet economy do not become extractive and bullshitting like those of the mainstream economy.
Infomocracy Malka Older 2016 More political than economic but placing here for high relevance
Neptune’s Brood Charles Stross Penguin 2013 Loose sequel to Saturn’s Children and inspired by Debt: The First Five Thousand Years. “Neptune’s Brood invents an economic framework for space colonization, complete with fast, medium and slow cryptocurrencies. Because colonizing a star system is an insanely large investment that takes an insanely long time. Stross discusses his economic thinking on his blog.