With all of this Web 2.0 activity still building, I’ve been thinking about Cory Doctorow’s concept of whuffie or social currency (from his great short story Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) quite a bit. The idea being that you can “pay” others with a mythical currency based on reputation, not gold. Those with high reputations (creators of cool stuff, humanitarians, or shudder American Idle) gather whuffie, which they can use to purchase stuff. Those with low reputations (eBay scammers, spammers, or ideally American Idle) have less whuffie, and have to struggle to gain reputation in order to move back up the whuffie ladder.
Just as web 2.0 has the power to democratize government, it has the potential to shift the base of our economy from one of scarcity (gold bullion is hard to come by) to one of plenty (reputation is not a zero sum game). Google PageRank is the closest thing I’ve seen to whuffie – it is calculated by an algorithm that takes into account links and their context, which is an approximation of reputation. It’s missing sign, in that it only adds reputation and has no concept of “rocks” vs. “sucks.” A “bad” link doesn’t detract from the reputation of a site (and by extension its owner).
So, I have to wonder. How feasible is Bitchun Society now (without the scifi rejuvenation and brain implant stuff)? Between PageRank, “Friends” on social software websites, etc… are we starting to approach an effective social currency?