Friday, August 8, 2014

The Currency of Good Manners

In the freaky, transhumanist sci-fi setting of Eclipse Phase (which, as I've written before, I kinda like), there is no money. In a world of replicators capable of making anything, money can't be measured the same way it is these days. Book-readin' types call that a post-scarcity economy.

So you may have a question: what differentiates, say, a good restuarant from a bad one? How would a bad restaurant, or barbershop, or masseuse parlor, or whatever, be able to survive in a world where there's no money? Wouldn't everyone just go to the best? How do we evaluate the quality of goods when money isn't what it used to be?

(Please, bear with me, here, my love of Eclipse Phase is making me take a scenic route to my point...)

The answer: reputation. In Eclipse Phase, your reputation is a computational, mathmatical thing, which you can use as a currency. A high-end dance club that only wants to cater to certain clientele may require a reputation rating of X before you're allowed into the door. An experimental weapon that the government doesn't want just anyone carrying around may require a reputation of Y before you're allowed to make one. You can gain and lose reputation in all the usual ways: social media, word of mouth, etc.

So in the future of Eclipse Phase, your reputation is your livelihood. Making an ass of yourself could get you barred from places you'd like to go. Being polite, smart, and sophisticated can get you surrounded by the finest a post-scarcity economy can offer. In a world where everyone's got similar resources, what you have becomes far less important than what you can contribute. 

Where could the game designers possibly come up with such a wild idea? And finally, we get to my point:

We already live in a post-scarcity economy. It's called the internet.

The anonymity of the internet puts everyone on equal ground. Information, entertainment...all of it is fairly easy to acquire, if you know where to look. The difference, the quality of the experience, now becomes the new sign of prosperity. For an RPG fan, for example, knowing Monte Cook's intention when he designed a certain mechanic in Numenera isn't impressive to anyone with access to Google. Actually getting to talk to him on your podcast about it, or visit your blog...now that's impressive.

And getting him to do that requires being a good host, producing fine content, and not being an asshole. Because why would anyone want to waste their time on you if you're an asshole?

So I'm sorry to say, Dear Reader, that you've read this entire blog post to come to a very simple "The More You Know" message: don't be a dick on the internet. Be awesome, instead. Because being awesome can open doors for you. Being a dick keeps them shut.




1 comment:

  1. "Where could the game designers possibly come up with such a wild idea?"

    Irony aside, reputation-based economies have been discussed for quite a while. Cory Doctorow used one in his first novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", back in 2003.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whuffie

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