The Gift Economy In Fiction

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Certain forms of "high-tech" gift economies have featured to greater or lesser degrees in fiction.

Cory Doctorow: Down and out in the Magic Kingdom[edit]

Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom[1] is based in a post-scarcity society, where there is no money, and almost all commodities are abundant. Shelter, travel, and food are provided to people at no cost.

Certain commentators have questioned the authenticity of the "Bitchun Society" as a gift economy, since it is predicated largely on the phenomenon known as "Whuffie". Whuffie, some argue[2], ultimately bears some of the same characteristics as money or forms of credit. Nonetheless, the novel may still be of interest to certain readers interested in the gift economy.

Doctorow's book is published under a Creative Commons License.

Larry Mason: Invisible Hand[edit]

Larry Mason's view is of a post-scarcity economy in USA, in which goods and services are divided into two kinds, basics and luxuries. Luxuries are still bought using credits (not quite money, since they're electronically allocated and the recipient doesn't get them). Basics are free to whoever needs them.

Bruce Sterling: Maneki Neko[edit]

A somewhat different sort of future gift economy is imagined by the author Bruce Sterling in his short story Maneki Neko[3] from the collection A Good Old-fashioned Future. Unlike Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Maneki Neko is not set in a post-scarcity society. It describes a nascent artificial intelligence network which mediates acts of kindness and "gift-giving" amongst widely distributed individuals in modern Japan.

Both of these stories - despite their differences - are predicated on the assumption of advanced technology. This idea can be contrasted with real-life movements - such as the freeconomy - which aspire primarily to local production and interaction.