Bruce Sterling12

Bruce Sterling

Bruce is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which defined the cyberpunk genre. In 2003 he was appointed Professor at the European Graduate School where he is teaching Summer Intensive Courses on media and design. In 2005, he became “visionary in residence” at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He is also an acclaimed futurologist.

blog.wired.com/sterling/
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Sterling

Articles

Big Mama, Greifswald, Rebel kids, Brixels: The People of kashklash

Let's imagine four possible futures, based on two important variables. The fi...

New Draft of invite letter

*This draft is more verbose, but it addresses Heather's suggestions and it's a l...

final questions: latest proposal

Please help us create future scenarios for the project we call 'KashKlash' which...

Big Mama, Greifswald, Rebel kids, Brixels: The People of kashklash

by Bruce Sterling

Let’s imagine four possible futures, based on two important variables.

The first is the stability in exchange systems. It’s a given that these are already unstable. So our range of variability is from “confusing mess” — today’s condition — to some radical condition of “massive change“.

The second variable is telecommunication technology. That can plausibly range from “old and broken,” true in most of the world today… legacy landlines, shared and rented handsets, basic Third World conditions… toward blooming, high-tech handset technologies — with everyware, urban informatics, GPS, sensors: what we can call the “new cloud.”

So this gives us a classic futurist quadrant.

KASHKLASH 1. Low and low, or “a confusing mess with old, broken technology.”

KASHKLASH 2. Low and high, “a confusing mess in the new cloud.”

KASHKLASH 3. High and low, “massive change with old, broken technology.”

and KASHKLASH 4, the high and high scenario, “massive change in the new cloud.

It’s a mistake to play favorites in scenarios
. Don’t try to privilege one of these possible futures against any other. The benefit comes from imaginatively entering all these worlds and making them your own. Could you thrive in all four? What strategies and tactics would work in all four possible worlds, and which would fail? What would it really be like to live there? What’s in it for you?

KASHKLASH #1. low-low. Amanda “Big Mama” Botero is from the sprawling border town of Tijuana/San Diego. Officially, she calls herself a “fortune teller” and a “spiritual guide.”

She lives in a southern California “McMansion” that was broken up, shipped over on trucks, then patchily reassembled in a squatted part of the gigantic Mexican border town.

This rambling place is swarming with Big Mama’s many “guests,” who rely on her for food and shelter in her huge home, which is a thriving station in the semilegal Underground Railroad.

Big Mama, who is always on the phone, is a truly superb fortune-teller. She and her extensive international coven of net-savvy Santeria witches use search engines to puzzle out the secrets of her superstitious and easily-impressed clientele. This informational advantage makes Big Mama a pillar of the border’s shadow economy.

She deals in gossip, in secrets, in reputations, and in confidences. She’s also a police informant, though you’d never guess that when you saw the many happy faces gathered round the brimming tables at her underground hotel. Big Mama is calm, wise, and possessed of deep insights; even hardened cynics find themselves confessing their life stories to this generous, deeply spiritual woman.

Serenely indifferent to real jobs and the taxman, she has no visible connection with the conventional economy. Yet, “magically,” she never lacks for resources — ask her nicely, do her a favor, and Big Mama can find you a roof over your head, used shoes, clothes… a holy blessing, an effective curse for an enemy… A car ride across the border… a parole hearing, a favor at the Immigration office, a house-cleaning job, and even a husband.

And there’s not just one of her. There are thousands of her.

KASHKLASH 2. Low and high. Gerhard Knodel has always lived in East Germany. Life hasn’t given him many breaks, but he’s still an optimist. With very low birthrates and massive outmigration, beautiful Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is stubbornly mired in economic recession.

In the bucolic Baltic sea-town of Greifswald, the gas pipeline between Russian and Germany has long since shut down for ecological reasons. Except for the little university and the church, there’s just not a lot going on. The people are gray, the streets are quiet, and every day is much like the next. Can technology change that? Really?

EU policy keeps trying to “stimulate development” in lonely, drowsy Mecklenburg. Greifsvald has become a “test-bed” for weird technologies, which fall on the silver heads of the unresisting population as if they’d been dropped from Mars. Tracking systems in the groceries… talking refrigerators… RFID pay-toilets with sewer networking… Zigbee built into doorways, pigeons with tiny videocams… print-on-demand silverware… Even the cats and dogs in the town have their own social networking sites. Yet nothing seems to catch fire there.

Gerhard rather enjoys the unsought parade of exotic gadgetry… at least it breaks the tedium of tending to his 91 year old formerly-Marxist mother. But all this high-tech boosterism seems detached from his personal reality. You can’t make an exciting, vibrant place without some exciting, vibrant people; a marketplace can’t bustle without human desire. After all, machines can’t get excited about themselves. Can they?

KASHKLASH 3. High and low.

Dhani “Donny” Tedjasukman has one thing on his mind: fame. Nobody’s going to call Djakarta a high-tech capital; it’s never shiny like Singapore, it’s hot, grimy, sordid, overcrowded and hectic. But once the oil business finally collapsed and a new generation took power, something ignited in the streets of Indonesia. The baby-boom of Moslem kids is sick of decades of hijab shrouds and life-denying jihad ranting. They’re a new generation, baby! They want bright lights, multimedia, booze, fabulous motorcycles and girls in short skirts. The rebel kids have run amok!

Donny is a party animal. Intellectual property doesn’t work the way it did, so he can’t make money from recording music. Instead, he’s an Indonesian rave party organizer, a Malay electro political folk-singer.

Wherever there’s a get out the vote effort, a labor union rally, or a chance to intimidate aging Moslem puritans, he’s there with a stack of amplifiers. Donny doesn’t see a lot of money, not directly — but kids dress like him, everybody copies his dance moves, and boy does he ever get a lot of girls. Even guys who stand next to Donny, with their hands in their pockets, get girls. Indonesia’s got several million girls, and they all network on fan sites.

Donny doesn’t write his own material — that’s up to his political handlers, who say they want a revolution so they can seize the economy for the people. Donny’s fine with that idea — to the extent that he cares. He’s a hero popstar: it’s about web-hits, limos, phones, satellites, sound-checks and streaming video. The bean-counters are smiling; the band manager nods from the shadows.… the celebrity endorsement tactic is paying off. The posters, T-shirts, betel-nut and associated merchandise have got traction. Now if he can just brush up on his Cantonese and crack the China market…

KASHKLASH 4. High and high.

When his son simply “grew himself” a new house, Luigi Monaco decided it was time to retire.

Luigi had been in construction his whole life. It seemed like such a sensible line of work, real estate. After all, real estate was “real.” It wasn’t one of these made-up cybernetic things, some virtual reality without groceries or toilets. People needed shelter. The eternal truth of the human condition.

But when the real estate market broke for no sane reason and then *stayed* broken, people stopped believing that houses had to be real. A city like Torino — it seemed conservative on the outside, but huge acreages of it were abandoned car plants. Or abandoned railway repair yards. There were empty Baroque churches where Italian sunlight slanted over the nesting pigeons. Torino was a city with a lot of available nothingness.

The trouble had started when the Turinese moved into these echoing, gloomy halls to do “design events.” Little tents… constructions of cardboard, sheetrock, fabric, foamcore… artists’ lights… no more substance to them than the props in an opera. At first they hadn’t seemed like any kind of threat to the builder’s status quo. But then his son — who had gone into “cloud design“, God help him — started referring to bricks as “brixels.”

A brick house was a byword for solidity. “Solid as a brick house.” For a brick house to be malleable, temporary, gaseous, was a weird, crazy, extreme idea — as crazy as a trip to the moon. But a brixel was a brick: a mobile brick. A smart brick that was also a phone. A brick built around a phonechip, phones so high tech, so cheap, that they were cheaper than bricks. So that yesterday’s crown jewels, mobile phones, because building blocks.

Brixels locked together like children’s toys, and they were picked up and dropped, not by honest union bricklayers, but by little blind robots like an iPod lashed to Roomba. It took very little machine intelligence to move “brixels” around or to stack a huge wall out of “brixels.” A wall of brixels grew overnight. It was extravagantly patterned, like a computer screensaver. It was gorgeous. It was magnificent. It was very Italian.

Real estate had melted. It had melted into the air. Shelter “wanted to be free.”

Every trouble Luigi understood had gone away. Housing regulations — subcontractors — safety inspections — the supply chain, and especially the banking and financing — they had crumbled, gone away like the telegraph and the lire. Huge institutions, vaporized, unremembered. The things Luigi thought were common sense had simply failed him.

This didn’t mean Utopia. His son’s world had new troubles Luigi had no words to describe. Luigi was surrounded by bewilderment. He had no troubles.

To have no troubles did not mean that he was free. It meant that he was old.

New Draft of invite letter

by Bruce Sterling

*This draft is more verbose, but it addresses Heather’s suggestions and it’s a little more alluring for the intellectually curious — bruces

How do you rob a bank that’s no longer a bank?

How can you rob a bank in a world without money?” wonders science fiction writer Bruce Sterling, one of the collaborators of the new foresight project KashKlash. 

KashKlash is a lively platform where you can debate future scenarios for economic and cultural exchange.  Beyond today’s financial turmoil, what new systems might appear?  Global/local, tangible/intangible, digital/physical?  On the KashKlash site, you can explore potential worlds where traditional financial transactions have disappeared, blended, or mutated into unexpected forms. Understand the near future, and help shape it!

KashKlash is coordinated by the user-experience company Experientia, and instigated by Heather Moore of Vodafone’s Global User Experience Team.  The project was kicked off by Régine Debatty (we-make-money-not-art), Joshua Klein (author and hacker) and Nicolas Nova (LIFT), who together with Bruce Sterling have been collaborating to frame the discussion. 

IMAGINE yourself deprived of all of today’s conventional financial resources. Maybe you’re a refugee or stateless — or maybe it’s the systems themselves that have gone astray. Yet you still have your laptop, the Internet, and a broadband cellphone connection. What would you do to create a new informal economy that would help you get by? What would you live on?  E-barter? Rationing?  Gadgets?  Google juice?  Cellphone minutes?  Imagine a whole world approaching that condition.  Which of today’s major power-players would win and lose, thrive or fail?  What strange new roles would tomorrow’s technology fill?

KashKlash is seeking your opinion, as one of thirty passionate thinkers and action leaders.  Your expertise is of great importance to us, so we hope to awaken your curiosity.   Please have a look at our KashKlash questionnaire, which we will directly use to generate future scenarios.

You are cordially invited to contribute to KashKlash in any way you like (post, comment,  photos, video/audio file, Skype interview, painting, excel spreadsheet).

We have already created an account for you:

login:
password:

KashKlash is a public domain project, it’s yours, visible, usable and sharable from anybody else in the world. Check the full project description for more info.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you, or better yet, to reading your contribution directly on the website! 

final questions: latest proposal

by Bruce Sterling

Please help us create future scenarios for the project we call ‘KashKlash’ which is about the future of money, sociality, and alternative currencies.
We plan to share the results with all the correspondents who answer our poll!

We are envisioning a new world where today’s aging, less useful and even dangerous financial systems are replaced by disruptive innovations with new user experiences.
For instance:
Community bartering skyrockets! Facebook monetizes, FlickR is a means of survival….


[This graphic is built through http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/ service and property of IBM.]

Now for some specifics. Please lend your expertise! If there’s a question that baffles you, skip it!

Imagine yourself deprived of all of today’s financial resources. Maybe you’re a refugee or stateless. Yet you still have your handset and laptop and Internet and a broadband cellphone connection.

You may be in a remote part of the world still ruled by barter and tribal allegiances, or in a weather evacuation camp where all your neighbors are there but no one has money. Please pick the goods and services you might offer to create a new informal economy that would help you get by!

A. Rank them from one to ten — one is useless, ten is absolutely vital and certainly something you would use!

1. Sex
2. Shelter
3. Esteem — good publicity
4. Weapons
5. Food
6. Toys
7. Rations
8. Drugs
9. Cigarettes
10. Software Code
11. Programs
12. Cooking
13. Nursing
14. Babysitting
15. Hardware
16. Music — singing, dancing
17. News
18. Matchmaking — finding lost dates or relatives
19. Blood transfusions, hair, skin, organs
20. Transportation services
21. Games
22. Little theater or other alternative realities
23. Protection services
24. Arbitration, fair judgment, political services
25. General “fixer” services
26. Religious services
27. Psychoanalysis and grief counseling
28. time/attention/bandwidth
29. inspiration
30. healing
31. cooking
32. storytelling
33. tourguide services
34. translating
35. Other __________

B. How would you persuade people to join your alternative economy?
How would you publicize it? How would you prevent defections and
assure loyalty among people who joined?

C. In conventional modern capitalist society, the movement of money from hand to hand calculates value and publicizes prices. Can you think of an alternate method of doing this?

D. How can values generated in a small closed community (Like a camp,
corporation or town) be transferred to a global one? How about moving values in the opposite direction, from huge systems to personal ones. How can enemy communities/economies trade goods and services without the impersonal value of money?

E. Help us list potential catastrophes for today’s conventional economy, which might cause it to be junked for radical substitutes.
Please rank these in credibility from 1 to 10 — one being very unlikely to happen, 10 being very probable.
1. Credit freeze.
2. Currency hyperinflation
3. Stock collapse
4. Massive natural disaster
5. World war
6. Revolution
7. Environmental collapse
8. Major world depression
9. New New Economy
10. Peak Oil etc
11. Massive fraud
12. Other ________________

F. If there were no agreed-upon global currency (such as yen-dollar-euro) how would nations trade with one another?

G. How could sub-national entities like provinces, cities or ethnic minorities start their own currencies? How can very small local economic systems become global?

H. Please help us rank the possible activists in a future socially dominated KashKlash scenario. If you think they find the issue of little consequences and are not very interested in alternative economic systems, rate 1. If their success OR failure are of great concern during such a change, rate them 10. We are trying to judge their degree of possible influence.

1. Bankers.
2. National treasuries and finance bureaucracies.
3. Transport systems.
4. Energy networks and utilities.
5. Transport and logistics services
6. Political parties and leaders.
7. Non-Governmental Organizations.
8. Scientists.
9. Drug dealers/mafia/terrorists/child pornographers
10. Refugees and the undocumented.
11. The unbanked (people in developing economies who have never
seen a bank or any credit services)
12. Immigrants
13. The underclass
14. Beggars, derelicts, buskers
15. Social security
16. The aged and retired
17. Think-tanks
18. Telecom
19. Internet service providers
20. Google
21. Microsoft
22. Futures markets
23. Stock exchanges
24. EBay
25. Craigslist
26. Freecycle
27. The global art market
28. Newspapers
29. Satellite television
30. cable television
31 broadcast television
32. video streaming services
33. Peasants, farmers
34. small scale crafts people; the self-employed; micro-enterprises
35. Multinationals
36. Postal services
37. Gamers
38. Police/law enforcement
39. Offshore financial services
40. Community organizers
41. Advertising and public relations.
42. Creative commons
43. Web 2.0 style “collective intelligence” groups
44. Green energy enterprises
45. Green sustainable “neo-urbanism”
46. Small-is-beautiful groups
41. Other__________
42. More Other__________

I. What do you think your child will hate most about the way you have handled money?

KashKlash 2015 A.D

by Bruce Sterling

KashKlash 2015 A.D

Is there any global currency?  The euro?  The amero?  The globo? What?

Is there any national currency powerful and influential enough to behave
rather like a global currency?  Dollar, pound, yen, yuan, euro, ruble, rupee?

Is there financial turmoil so severe that experimental kash-klash services
look attractive and inviting by comparison to the older status quo?

What happens if conventional financial systems are hyperinflating, deflating,
crashing in value or radically destabilized?
  Does a status quo even exist in future?
How do people live without any financial status quo?

What does a “closed currency,” or a nonconvertible currency, look like
five or six years from now?  Are wealthy people avoiding these locked currencies,
or running toward them so as to escape the scary, unstable, open global markets?

How can I get rid of my old-fashioned, burdensome, physical possessions,
and directly strengthen my important social networks online?  Can I trade my used living room couch for more Google juice?  Can I give away a camera and get more people to look at my FlickR photos?
Can I offer food and shelter to the people who help me play my online games effectively?

Can I be “more kash-klash” and “less kash-klash”?  Can I be rightwing kashklash and leftwing kashklash?  Do men and women have different kashklash styles?  How about ethnicity, age,
postal code and religion?  Where are the demographic kashklash segments? I certainly want to be in the nicest ones, if you don’t mind.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/bohman/219249582/

Where are the tipping points between financial power and social power?
Is it easier to be famous and to get mere money, or to be rich and just buy myself some cheap fame?

Can I get political figures elected to office without giving them huge chunks of political campaign money?  Can I move my political party into a kash-klash space?   If I can’t do that for a fancy US President, can I at least do it for my local mayor?

If I happen to be near an important event, will somebody pay me to stand there with my cameraphone waiting for something interesting to happen?  Is my position on the planet’s surface worth some kashklash?

I just got here off the train or plane. I need a cup of coffee, a shower and a place to sleep.
I don’t care who gives this vital thing to me.  I can pay for these useful services in any of 130 different ways, or not pay at all.  Who wants to talk to me? Now. Hurry.

I’m very old and tired here in the future.  Can I retire into a kash-klash? Who will look after me?  How?  I’m confused.  Can you help?  Keep helping, I’m getting older fast.  Also, there are many millions of me.

How do I rob a kashklash “bank”?

I want to put every valuable thing that I own, safely, into my beloved kashklash.  How do I do that?  I don’t care if it’s “real” or “virtual“, but I do need a safe-deposit vault.

I’m very scared by this highly insecure future that is so direly threatened by terrorists, climate change, landslides, wildfires, earthquakes, feminists, epidemics, liberals, etc.  Normally I lug around my cumbersome “survivalist bag” full of bandages, food, water, compasses, handguns, big gold bars and so forth.
Now my back really hurts from lifting all that, so I think I should have a kashklash instead.  Can you handle this for me?

Access to all my favorite items are stored in a kashklash vault.  An enemy tank just ran over my kashklash cellphone.  Now what?

I have a kashklash in one pocket for all my network services. I also have a steel multitool and fancy keychain in my other pocket for all my analog services. Can I combine these, please?  It annoys me to carry so much  tech junk that I need big ugly clownlike cargo pants.

I’m really and sincerely evil, and would like to break all Ten Commandments with my kashklash, starting with murdering some people.  Can you help me? Failing that, can you stop me?

Here in the future, I’m not worried about the past any more.  I made my peace with the past because I buried it.  Instead of just selling me some future, can you offer me an open road toward MORE future? How am I supposed to get from 2015 toward 2105?  Show me.

bruno a.

KashKlash

by Bruce Sterling

by Bruce Sterling

If the grip of conventional cash loosens, we can expect  some suppressed patterns of human behavior to re-emerge.

First and foremost, Western feudal society. Feudal society created the original, money-based, Western capitalism. Feudal traces are still clearly visible on the Western cultural landscape. For instance: modern women, selling sex-work for cash money, are still actively subjected to an old-school feudal shame and honor-standard. In the past, much larger areas of human activity were actively money-repellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were long centuries where the landed aristocratic nobility actively avoided the money economy, and despised all its minions. In an honor-bound aristocratic society, money was considered shameful. The use of monetary advantage was dishonorable and weak.

Some of this was due to highborn family connections and blue blood – a sharp distinction between the people you were willing to acknowledge and breed with (”our kind of people”) and the people you didn’

t want to know at all (serfs, merchants, the computer illiterate, etc). In any functional aristocracy, marriages are always strictly arranged. People, and especially women, become a non-monetary trade-good.

Who do you marry — where do you go for “dates”? Do you hire some matchmaking service (mercenaries) or go mate-shopping on a social network? Who owns this ultimate means of human production?

The core value of a feudal society was military command. The great lord had the ability to rouse his feudal retainers and get them to loyally die on a battlefield. This meant grandeur and honor. Cash was not a major issue.

The warrior ethos still despises mercenaries today — although mercenaries are now known as “private militia companies,” and do pretty well behind the battle lines. There still seems to be something grotesque and contemptible about warfare for a fistful of dollars. Sex and war, you can’t bank on them. Why?

Feudal aristocrats were always committed to the land and its inhabitants — aristocrats were named after their domains, commonly. He’s the “Prince of Wales,” he’s not the “Prince of Rolls Royce.” In feudalism, major actors in the money-economy were considered to be conniving, cosmopolitan flyweights, upstarts here today and gone tomorrow — an annoyance, something like day-traders.

What design intervention would make people with money seem like an annoyance – people grimy, unstable, grasping and declasse’, more trouble than they were worth? They are forbidden to come to the front door. They have to knock at the sordid “tradesman’s entrance.”

Aristocrats were famous for running up huge bills and not paying them. Was this a passive resistance? What is today’s equivalent? There must be many.

I’d suggest that we see a distinct nostalgia for feudalism springing up in digital war-games such as WORLD OF WARCRAFT. Warcraft has an economy, but “gold farmers” in Warcraft are actively despised. Players who buy their way into Warcraft — by snitching expensive game-goods on eBay, or by paying Chinese drudges to “level them up” — these people are distrusted by other players.

Why? Because they lack battlefield craft. They just don’t know how the game is played and how it’s properly done. They lack the game’s complex social background and its intricate codes of acculturation. They are parvenus. They’re not gentlemen.

Big infusions of cash will not help Warcraft players pursue their Warcraft goals. Players are much better off socially ingratiating themselves with feudal “guilds.” Warcraft guild leaders spend most of their time and energy diligently rallying subordinates to show up for Warcraft action, and persuading them to risk their virtual lives and armor in the fields of Warcraft combat.

People pay real money to play Warcraft. They stay within Warcraft because of cumulative social pressure. Pressure from their guild overlords, from their own social-climbing aspirations, and from their colleagues.

There is no massively multiplayer online role-playing game called “World of MerchantCraft.” Why is this?

Conceivably, people could play in some post-feudal, exciting milieu of Renaissance bankers, buying wool in Flanders in exchange for Italian garlic. They could overthrow the backward feudal character of Warcraft, in much the way the Medici bankers ate away at Europe’s blue-blood establishment.

But this MONOPOLY style of capitalist gameplay has never had any big multiplayer hit online. What accounts for this?

Similarly, nobody plays WORLD OF WARCOMMUNISM. There’s plenty of room online for an exciting game where the players seize the means of production, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, divide the military and the factories into Soviets, liquidate the Whites, then form a Politburo and publish Five Year Plans. Plus, exciting purges and gulags!

Why is simulated Communism missing from the Internet? Open-source peer-production is flourishing. Where is the digital Communism? Why is there no Communist eBay?

There are millions, even billions of people who are keenly familiar with Communism. Many were career Communist apparatchiks, and they have computers and cellphones now. Why do virtual worlds and economies lack any Communism? There isn’t even a multiplayer Communist fantasy game.

Theocracy. The Roman Catholic Church is often justly called “the first multinational.”  The Church uses money — it has its own banks — but it is never a money-centric organization. One never hears about members of the College of Cardinals or the Vatican Curia comparing their stock holdings or their personal fortunes.

The Pope is not the richest guy in all Christendom. However, he is the Pope.

Why does the time-tested organizational structure of the Church lack any online parallel? There are technology zealots called “evangelists” — but they never receive the tender care and feeding that actual evangelists can count on. Where are the digital equivalent of sisterhoods, brotherhoods, the monasteries and convents, the confessions, penances and forgiveness, the vows of poverty and obedience? Where is the ethic of service and salvation?

There is an interesting principle — I believe it’s from the Jesuits — concerning advertising. These evangelists were forbidden to preach (or to advertise). Instead, they had to earnestly engage in public good works. Then — and ONLY then — if someone came and asked them, “Why are you doing these fine things?” — THEN they were allowed to preach. Only then they were allowed to explain the Good News of salvation.

I’m thinking that this has a visible parallel with an effective micro-lending bank.

Imagine a sophisticated, historically-aware social-software bank that does not directly seek profit or loan opportunities. Instead, what it seeks is commitment and some visible results in the community. This approach is wise, patient and deliberate: it’s an entry-barrier.

This “bank” does not advertise or trumpet its services. “What have you done to DESERVE the right to talk about our kind of resources?” “Yes, you are one of us now — but you are not allowed to TELL ANYONE until you have done something to compel their admiration and respect.”

Maybe Gandhi. Gandhi’s financial backers used to say, “It costs us a lot to keep him in poverty.” Maybe Gandhi was quite right when he said, “We must become the digital bank we want to see.”

Actually, Gandhi never said that. And if he saw “Hello Money” in India right now, he would fall right over.

POSTSCRIPT:

Some other social enterprises one might usefully think about.

The Knights Templars. They loaned money to kings, and were fantastically rich, but their emblem was two poor knights sharing a horse.

Islamic hawala systems. They are very old. They are digitizing now and they mostly run on personal reputations. The police hate them.

Offshore money laundries. One may not admire them, but they are highly-evolved and it is stupid to pretend that they don’t exist.

Botnets. If you don’t confront the “dark side of the force,” you don’t know what the force really is.

Academia. It’s “publish or perish,” but the contributor whose papers are the “most frequently cited” gets enough resources to support a thriving horde of graduate students. It’s not his own personal wealth that is central. Not at all. The survival of his graduate students makes him the dean of his field.

Literary reputation. All the major players here are dead. Does Shakespeare care how many books he’s selling right now? Does Moliere sweat blood about the digital rights management over his performances?

Hoboes. Tramps do not pay each other. They do leave informational chalk marks that allow other tramps to beg as successfully as they themselves begged.

Gypsies. Why do these ancient global meanderers look and act so much like they did when they first arrived in Byzantine Anatolia in the 1100s? Cellphone “wandering” is very like a Gypsy practice. What kind of deliberate social engineering would it take to make a group of cellphone users behave like general Gypsies? Clearly there would be some festivals (tech conferences), folk music (ringtones), folk markets (electronic markets), soothsaying (blogging), magic (technology), small-scale handicrafts (programming, web-design, user-experience, etc), fortune-telling (venture-capital, market forecasting, etc).

The unborn. What would they not blame us for?