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Robert Charles Wilson

In my ongoing quest to read science fiction with sensible politics and economics, I thought I would give Robert Charles Wilson a try and am reading his novel Spin, which is very enjoyable so far. On his web site he has published some talks he has given, including this:

Total up the man-hours necessary to bring even a cheap conventional color TV into your home, and the result, I suggest, would be absolutely staggering. And that work in turn rests on an absolutely colossal body of prior knowledge, all of it generated piece-by-piece and preserved and transmitted over generations.

This reminded me of the famous pencil essay. He is writing about all the things that went into making a TV advert for a car:

So even something as inherently humble as an automobile commercial stands as striking evidence that we, as a species, have an absolute genius for collaboration. Even without conscious intent — and after all, of all the billions of people necessary to produce that ad, only a handful of them actually wanted it to exist — we can still create something in which our collective ingenuity is embedded and embodied.

Of course, he doesn’t mention what mechanism makes this collaboration possible, but we all know what it is.

3 comments to Robert Charles Wilson

  • nemesis

    Sounds quite similar to the ideas of Matt Ridley:

  • Paul Marks

    It is indeed the market – i.e. voluntary cooperation by people who (mostly)have never met and do not know each other.

    “I Pencil” by L. Read (the Foundation for Economic Education).

    Alas the disruption of the market (by taxes, regulations AND by the credit bubble financial system) has reached a point where the market is being destroyed.

    Take where FEE is based.

    Who in their right mind would try and create an honest (i.e. not government or Federal Reserve system subsidised) business in New York State?

  • MoscowEast

    Keep these reviews coming. I love science fiction and it’s great to be reminded that the forces of darkness haven’t subsumed every aspect of our popular culture. I actually go out and buy the books as well. It might well have been a Samizdata review from a few years back that led me to buy my first Neal Asher book (the first of many, I might add).