Sunday, 8 December 2013


'...What happens if you try to subvert in-game economics? Players in complex online worlds are well used to "gaming the game" – that is, trying to exploit inconsistencies of the economic model to scam other players. Last year one player, by bidding up the price of a worthless object and then getting his friend to destroy it, almost wiped out all the value in the entire universe. The game's fulltime economists – such jobs exist – spent days unpicking the trades.

What I am proposing is something different. What if, just as in an Occupy camp, where they try to "live despite capitalism", you could live "despite" the property forms and voracious market economics of a computer game?'

'Information goods undermine economic systems based on scarcity. Free, collaboratively made products, like Wikipedia potentially, kill commercial products in their market. Open source products – even when commercialised, like the Android system that runs on 70% of all new smartphones – can reduce the market share of closed, proprietary products.

'Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor, has described how the rise of free stuff, collaborative production and non-commercial products such as Wikipedia, create a glitch within capitalism.'

If Benkler is right, the real-world economy of the 21st century becomes itself a giant game, in which non-market forms interact with the classic models based on scarcity and competition. Monopolies form but are undermined by the impossibility of enforcing property rights. Hierarchies soften, but cannot react effectively to the rise of networks.'

Why free software matters

'Now imagine combining the power of open software and open standards. Anyone could communicate perfectly with anyone else, without being dependent on any third party.

This is happening today. It's called Open Source.'

'"Open" standards are owned by the community. By you. By your neighbour. By your boss, and your best friend. There are no royalties to pay because they belong to everyone. Why does this happen? Well, some people believe that by sharing with each other we can create bigger, better things than if we were to work alone.'