Next Steps

The maiden voyage of the Sci-Fi Economics Lab is now over. Thank you everyone who helped make it happen!


Edgeryders is excited to announce that we have plans to scale up and structure the Lab in 2020. Please stay tuned for updates. Meanwhile:

  • Watch the video of the keynote event with Cory Doctorow, Kirsten Dunlop and Tom Bauler.
  • Join the Lab’s work in producing out-of-the-box economic thinking (start here).


Where does all this come from?

The mastermind behind this event is Alberto Cottica. He is an avid science fiction reader since primary school: “When I was young I saw sci-fi as a window onto new, wonderful worlds. I gravitated to economics as a way to understand human societies, and figure out pathways to get from the world we have to some of those SF worlds: better, fairer, more humane ones.”

Alberto is also part of Edgeryders, a global community and a post-capitalist enterprise trying to build the infrastructure for a more humane, fairer, greener society. We ­– Edgeryders – came together as we figured out that the society we have is badly broken, and that no help is coming. So, we started trying out new ways. We draw inspiration by 10th-century monks for serving local communities (the unMonastery); and from coral reefs for a new approach to co-living and co-working (The Reef). We contribute to an open source approach to health and social care. We experiment with off-grid living, radical transparency and open source everything.

We want to build a new society, because we see that the house is on fire. But no society can work without an economy to support it. Economists would, in principle, be the right people to assist us in designing new economic models to support new kinds of society. They did it, in the past. Famous economists like Marx and Keynes dominated the academic debate, and visionary entrepreneurs and politicians like Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and Adriano Olivetti attempted to turn their ideas into viable businesses and policies, sometimes with spectacular successes.

But in recent times economics has let us down. Economists have major influence, but they use it to recommend preserving the status quo, with a few minor tweaks. They are not thinking about radical, system-level reorganizations, that could potentially preserve the planet’s ecological balance, and include everyone in a meaningful effort to be a successful, fair civilization.

But that work is necessary. Someone has to do it. So, it falls to us.

We are not alone in this. A small super-brainy patrol of science fiction authors has paved the way: Cory Doctorow. Bruce Sterling. Neal Stephenson Ursula K. Le Guin, and others. We decided to build on their work, and forge from it a new alloy of science fiction world-building and economic thinking.

Building the Lab

Academia, tied down in publish or perish, is uninterested: we need a new space. So, we partnered with EIT Climate-KIC, the European Union’s largest climate innovation initiative. Together, we are organizing a Science Fiction Economics Lab, to bring together SF authors, economists, technologists, activists and just ordinary citizens who care, like us, to to envision different economic systems. We are not interested in tweaks, one percentage point of budget deficit more or less. By “different” we mean radically different. And these systems need to be rock solid, not some kind of delusional fantasy good for another round of electoral promise.

This will create a template for re-energizing society’s capacity for designing paradigm-level reform; help raise the awareness of the climate crisis as a carrier of opportunity and hope, and not just of disruption and dismay; and embolden would-be reformers, especially in Europe. This space is what we are asking you to support. In 2019 we will prototype the idea in a barebones format, and start building a community around it. By supporting the Science Fiction Economics Lab, you become yourself an active member of this community. Starting 2020, we will develop the Lab together.

The Impact

Change is coming. You know it is. You know its main driver is likely to be climate, and that it will interact with growing inequalities, mass surveillance and a rogue ultra-rich class. What nobody knows is what form it will take. This is where building a shared clarity of purpose and a shared basic economics toolkit might make a major difference for the direction the future takes.

At Edgeryders, we believe communities of radical activists, lifestyle hackers and artists have done substantial R&D in prototyping parts of the new world that could come out of the current crisis. Their knowledge and experience must now become part of how we, as a civilization, respond to it. In our mission, we have found in EIT Climate-KIC a powerful ally. They move a lot of money; they are part of Europe’s policy making machinery; and they one of very few organizations that actually behave like the house in fire, and we are running out of time.

If the Sci-Fi Economics Lab is successful, its impact would show in directly influencing the political agenda, at least in Europe. Radical voices would gain strength, as the economic basis for radical policies would be secured. This can have a lot of impact, because, maybe for the first time in our lifetimes, the Powers That Be are getting desperate, and are fundamentally benevolent. We need each other, and can swing this crisis the right way. Please, please, do not pass on this opportunity. We may never get another.

World-building papers: call for co-authors

The Science Fiction Economics Lab encourages contributions to economic theory and economic policy underpinning fictional economies. By “fictional economies” we mean economies that:

  1. Do not exist in fully realized form, but are nevertheless internally coherent and could, in principle, come to pass.

  2. Are radically different from the economy we do have.

The Lab plans to produce papers, to be written and published during 2020. We call on anyone interested in writing such papers to come forward. We will help authors with similar interests and complementary expertise find each other, and assist with the search for a publisher. We invite contributions from a wide range of disciplines including – but not limited to – economics, social science, philosophy, history, design. We encourage interdisciplinary contributions, and especially welcome applications from science fiction authors and readers. No credential is required apart from a keen interest in participation. We place no restriction on the contributions’ topic: examples of what we are looking for include value theory, fiscal and monetary policy, industrial organization, environmental policy, competition policy, economic history. This call has no deadline.

We encourage authors to draw inspiration from fictional economies depicted in (some) science fiction novels. For example, in Walkaway Cory Doctorow shows us some small-scale economies based on public- and common goods, and peer production. How is that economy micro-founded? How are incentives tuned? What does behavioral economics have to do with it? Would it work at scale? If not, why not? What kind of policies might support it, or vice versa hinder it?

To apply, write a post on the Lab’s forum on Edgeryders (you will need an account, which you can get here). Explain:

  1. Who you are (one paragraph).

  2. Why you are interested in being part of the Science Fiction Economics Lab (two paragraphs).

  3. What you would like to work on (maximum four paragraphs).

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Edgeryders is platform of over 5.000 people who have been sharing their stories, their ideas, their problems, and their solutions since 2013. All these posts together are what we call our "collective intelligence". Our data analysis team uses open source methodologies and technologies to create interactive visualisations of the conversations as they evolve. The visualisations make it easier for everyone to find and connect across common interests and new insights.

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