book: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

A few weeks I was grabbing coffee with Craig Newmark … giving him the update on Rapleaf and getting his advice on our project to make it more profitable to be ethical. “you’re talking about Whuffie,” he said.

I admit, I rarely read fiction. I’ve limited myself to reading one fiction book a year … and last year it was a novel that a was written by a friend. But Craig convinced me. “Rapleaf is about Whuffie.” He said I needed to read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom right away. I have a huge amount of respect for Craig … so of course I went out and bought the book right away

… and then it languished on my bookshelf for a few weeks while we were big fixing. But I finally had a chance to down the book.

And Craig was right … this is a fantastic book.

And one that really defines what a futuristic portable reputation is. Cory Doctorow’s weaves a great story of Jules and his adventures in a futuristic Disney World. And it goes very well with the Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil which I read earlier in the year.

In this world, the reputation of the person is his currency. Wikipedia’s definition of Whuffie:

The usual economic incentives have disappeared from the book’s world. Whuffie has replaced money, providing a motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation, and Whuffie is lost and gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions. The question is, who determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable? In Down and Out, the answer is public opinion. Rudely pushing past someone on the sidewalk will definitely earn you negative points from them (and possibly bystanders who saw you), while composing a much-beloved symphony will earn you positive Whuffie from everyone who enjoyed it.

1. always listen to Craig Newmark’s suggestions
2. if you are interested in reputation and musings about the future, read this book

Thanks Craig!

4 thoughts on “book: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

  1. Michael Anissimov

    I wonder if Rapleaf will evolve into the universal means for judging whether someone is trustworthy or not. In a decade or two, we may all wear glasses that project images directly onto our retina. It could indicate someone’s reputation immediately, merely based on sight.
    Of course, Ray’s book is much more serious than Doctorow’s work. Recursively self-improving AI is a long shot from conventional futurism, which Down and Out more closely reflects.

  2. Sean Ness

    Agreed…great book! If you would like to (academically) dive deeper, reputation systems are a subset of research that IFTF and Howard Rheingold are working on that looks at cooperation and collective action. You can learn more about it at

  3. Technology Horizons

    Reputation…who has it?

    Auren Hoffman’s new company, RapLeaf is up and running. He writes about a book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, that I read back in January. Yes! Now it looks like we have the start of a common plaform for a worldwide reputation system! (This is gre…

  4. Smart Mobs

    RapLeaf Reputation

    via Sean Ness’ Hubber blog, Auren Hoffman’s new company, RapLeaf is up, an attempt to build a worldwide reputation system. You can rate buyers and sellers, and you can also provide ratings for your friends. Auren explains here how he…


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