(2005-10-11) Doctorow Themepunks

I'm enjoying Cory Doctorow's ThemePunks serialization on SalonCom. New Economy, Free Agent, Open Source Hardware, etc. Capitalism is eating itself. The market works, and when it works, it commodifies or obsoletes everything. That's not to say that there's no money out there to be had, but the money won't come from a single, monolithic product line. The days of companies with names like "General Electric" and "General Mills" and "General Motors" are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities (Network Economy) that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people... In her discussions with Kettlewell, he'd confided that it had turned out to be harder to find suits than it was finding wildly inventive nerds. Lots of people wanted to run businesses, but the number who actually seemed likely to be capable of doing so was only a small fraction... "They (Capital Market) can't figure out how to value us. Our business units have an industry-high return on investment, but there's not enough of them. We've only signed a thousand teams and we wanted ten thousand, so 90 percent of the money we had to spend is sitting in the bank at garbage interest rates. We need to soak up that money with big projects - the Hoover Dam, Hong Kong Disneyland, the Big Dig. All we've got are little Pro Ject-s."

His Oct'2007 "Other People's Money" story seems like a similar world. Gretl laughed. "You VC-s--scale, scale, scale! It's all you think of. You're wrong, as it turns out. This business decomposes into four elements: materials acquisition, design, fabrication and retail. They all scale like crazy. "Take materials. After the WTO, the Chinese spent 25 years brute-forcing the problem-space of all possible 3D plastic objects that an American might pay money for. There is no shortage of that stuff--most of it is sitting in international waters somewhere on a container ship, waiting for someone to pay the Carbon Tax-es to land it somewhere. I can bring in all the junk electronics and chassis and parts that I want, and I print the actuators, controllers, wires and the rest of it here. "DeSign? Design's easy. Roll the parts through the tumbler and let each one get scanned up good. Then run the evolutionary Genetic Algorithm to see how they can fit together. I just watch it, tweaking it, culling the ugly mutants, cultivating the pretty ones. I can do fifty original designs in a day, and by the time I'm done with any random container, I'll have used up more than 80 percent of its payload. The rest goes to some feedstockers to be eaten by Bacteria."Manufacturing--that's just monkey labor. Easy. Every kid takes Shop Class nowadays, especially the girls."

Jul'2009 update: the novel will be published as Makers later this year. Tor Com is serializing it. I Commented to ask how much is new, changed, etc. He replied: It clocks in at 185,000 words! There's been quite a bit of rewriting in the opening. (The Salon serial was 50k.) The Salon-equivalent Part I is the first 12 installments. There are 81 installments total.

"But Perry, here's something you're going to have to understand: it's going to be nearly impossible not to make a business out of this. Businesses are great structures for managing big Pro Ject-s. It's like trying to develop the ability to walk without developing a skeleton. Once in a blue moon, you get an octopus, but for the most part, you get skeletons. Skeletons are good shit." "Tjan, I want you to come on board to help me create an octopus," Perry said. "I can try," Tjan said, "but it won't be easy. When you do cool stuff, you end up making money." (Make Money)

People see stories like they see faces in clouds. Once we gave them the ability to subtract the stuff that felt wrong and reinforce the stuff that felt right, it was only natural that they'd anthropomorphize the world into a story. (Crowd Sourcing Emergent Story Telling)

"You can't be a Citizen of a Theme Park," Perry said.

Oct28: hey, I just remembered that the book (Makers) is out now! I'll pay for it in print at some point, but for now I just downloaded it so I didn't have to wait 10 more weeks to finish the dang serialization!

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