The first reading group meeting is coming up! Info and cheatsheet

Next Thursday the Economic Science Fiction reading group will meet for the first time, and everyone is welcome. Here is how to enjoy it to its fullest.


Thursday, July 26th at 18.00 CEST sharp

Where and how (physical)

The Reef, Rue Pierre Decoster 75, Brussels. Ring both bells.

Where (online)

If you are not in Brussels but you still want to participate, we will be welcoming you online at Launch Meeting - Zoom

Zoom requires download of the Zoom app. Please allow a couple of minutes to download the app before joining.

To save bandwidth, we will be streaming the meeting in audio only. Remote participants will have two ways to participate: via the chat in the Zoom app, and by speaking to the room. An MC in Brussels will be watching the chat. When you want to speak, say so in the chat and the MC will give you the floor. We appreciate it if you speak from a reasonably quiet room, wearing headphones and, ideally, a headset.

What we will talk about

We will discuss the economy in Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and the kind of society it supports. We are especially interested in answering questions such as:

  • Is the walkaway economy a good fit for the walkaway society? Why?
  • Do you think the walkaway economy (in-world) was consciously designed by walkaways? Did it emerge?
  • Would you see yourself living in this kind of economy? Would you like to? Why?
  • Do you think an economy like the walkaway economy could sustain itself in the real world? In which conditions?
  • Can you think of real-world arrangements that remind you of the walkaway economy?

Preparation (+ cheatsheet)

  • Ideally, read Walkaway! Not only does it contain fantastic world building, with a super-interesting economy; it is also a highly enjoyable piece of SF, with lovable characters.
  • If you do not have the time for that, you can just read the first two chapters. Chapter 1 contains the main critique to our present economy; Chapter 2 presents how the economy works in walkaway. If you can only read one chapter, read Chapter 2.
  • If you do not have time even for that, read my long post on the economics of Walkaway. It contains quotes from the text and what I think is a valid economic interpretation for them. Doctorow agrees with my analysis.

Additional reading

If you finished Walkaway and you feel energized to sink your teeth into the economics, you can read the following:

  • Doctorow’s own economic essay on the book, Coase’s spectre.
  • My own reflections on Walkaway’s economic content. There are three of them: start here for a table of content.

Love this @alberto and a huge help.

Special shout out to those of you who’ve been involved in the conversation so far:
@alex_levene @jolwalton @sz_duras @joelfinkle @Kaibeezy @LStewart @anonandon @OmaMorkie @Enro @ralmond @rachel @mariacoenen @ireinga @coloursinside @Brian_Econ @johncoate @noemi

As per above, feel free to join us even if you haven’t read the whole book or Chapter 2 - all perspectives are welcome!

sounds great, and sorry I can’t join you… please warn in advance about plot spoilers because I got caught up in another book (Neal Stephenson’s latest co-written effort, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.), but plan to get back to the Doctorow soon. (Why did he have to start with that long name of names, I wonder!?! He is such a fun writer…)
thanks! @alberto!

1 Like

I have read D.O.D.O. – in fact I have read everything Stephenson has written, I think. Have fun!

1 Like


Really wanted to tune in, but looks like it may not be possible. Hope there’ll be some record though?

Really appreciated your posts @alberto. As some subquestions to your penultimate question, I guess I’m interested in:

  • The possibility, for a given individual, of limited, graduated participation in a walkaway-like society and economy.
  • For instance, what does it mean for a walkaway to be embedded in kinship networks with non-walkaways? Is this society feasible if its population are shaped by a mixture of normative influences, walkaway and non-walkaway?
  • Likewise abundance or postscarcity sometimes feel like quite “all or nothing” concepts. Is it necessarily so? Can you have abundance and scarcity side by side?
  • Thinking a bit more about “interaction protocols,” both those within the novel, and those that aren’t in the novel but could well have been!
  • Is the walkaway utopianism incompatible with state power, or could we imagine a more statist version?
  • For those who haven’t read the whole novel, what are the vulnerabilities, risks, unexpected side effects that the novel imagines? Are there side effects that the novel doesn’t anticipate?
  • Would we expect any kind of cyclicality in such an economy?

In regard to the last question, I guess it would be great to think about links with platform co-operativism, but I’ll try to think of a more concrete example.

Hope that makes sense, I’m melting on a train and not even sure who I am any more


Hi folks!

Thanks for organising this - I got a lot from the conversation this evening :+1:t4:


Hi @jolwalton, we have recorded it and probably make it available in the next days.

Unfortunately we prioritised some questions from those attending, but looking forward to continue the conversation. Everyone seems fascinated by the book so it will go on…

1 Like

And I hear it was recorded too, right?

It was! Thanks for joining us in the final moments @jolwalton. I’ll upload the recording ASAP

@jolwalton, these are great questions. They were missed in the group!

In the book there are quite a few not-quite-Walkaway communities. Some are introduced through the story of Jimmy in chapter 4. They are all peripheral. One is older people, for example:

“They’d found a way to stay still, on default’s periphery, without making much fuss. They kept their heads down, kept to themselves. They were walkaways because there was nothing for them in default—no rent money, no health care, no food. Their kids visited them sometimes, rendezvousing in the state parks on fake ‘camping trips’ that were the only way to hook up with grandma and grandpa without ending up in an ankle cuff."

Their reason for defaulting is heartbreaking: they cannot support themselves in default, and do not want to be a burden on their children and grandchildren.

“By coming here, we make ourselves independent. We’re like the tribal elders in the north pole, who’d go out on ice floes when they couldn’t hunt anymore, getting out of the way and not being a burden on the productive ones.”

1 Like

did this happen?
how are you doing??
our crazy 1st attempt with the urban gardening project will have it’s big wrap up 31oct. we are thinking about ‘live streaming’ just in case you are interested…
@winnieponcelet - this is for you too!!
Also - the big news… Hackuarium is searching for a new home!!!
yes, I know…
big hugs to all who were in Brussels for my first ‘IRL’ edgeryder’s experience (well, maybe except one!) . In an even further removed topic : @cindy did you manage to see Vanessa’s somerset house exibit?? London bienalle (or whatever it was called)??
and finally @albertorey I still would love your super book… :blush:

1 Like

Hey @rachel, good to hear from you! Not only this happened, but this week we met to discuss the second book:

1 Like

yes, I saw about that, but never managed to get or read it yet…
I was really wondering about the recording on the discussion of Walkaway!
Is there a link I can go to, to hear it?

What a super ride that book was, with such a satisfying ending…
I actually plan for his sequel to Big Brother as my next book (Homeland?), even if it is YA I think… (although Siri Hustvedt’s essays currently have me pulled in.)

Are there any chances for citizen science in another round of grants?? For some people from Hackuarium, funding could make a huge difference. Our first pea plant trial, testing the symbiotic bact culture, vs control plants, after a very the late start, is still wrapping up! A world record for late pea flowering and harvests, I guess!

Also have you heard at all from Bernard Dugas, btw? He managed to come to us at Hackuarium once, but I had hoped for a followup!

ciao for now,

is there a link?

Indeed we finally got it! Here you go @rachel and @jolwalton

We didn’t record the second reading group as dove in deeply straight away and got quickly lost in the ideas and knowledge flowing, but will be sure to record the third one coming up in November for those that can’t join us!

Hey there!
Even though I missed all the discussions over here, I listened to Walkaway in autumn and am now listening (and reading) it a second time. Just wanted to thank you guys for the recommendation of this very inspiring book.

Before Walkaway, I read Ernest Callenbachs ‘Ecotopia’ and am now very glad to have a modern vision for a viable alternative society - for a given value of viable, that is.

I’ll try to catch up on the other econSF books, because even if I miss all the discussion, if they’re half as good as this one, I definitely have to read them.

Hi @coloursinside, glad you found it interesting. The next reading group will be in February: stand by for an announcement.

1 Like