Kristjan's Reviews > Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
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's review
Jul 28, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: pulp-fantasy, book-club-selection, science-fantasy, reviewed
Recommended to Kristjan by: GR Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Club
Recommended for: Disney fans and Cyberpunks
Read in July, 2008

I am a big fan of the House of Mouse, so the title really intrigued me; what's not to like about the Magic Kingdom? In truth , the story centered around 2 attractions (Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion) with a brief mention of a 3rd (Pirates of the Caribbean ... My favorite) as the back drop to a story of power and greed that should have no place in a [post scarcity] society where all of our needs are taken care of and old fashioned money doesn't define power anymore. True wealth (power) is now defined by reputation ... Where public respect for what you are doing gives you "Whuffie" (street creed or political capital) that helps you accomplish things in the future. This is a lot like how bloggers work; readers vote on how much they liked or respected a particular article, which then helps increase its visibility and subsequently a bloggers audience giving the blogger greater power to influence society; not surprisingly, Cory Doctorow got his start as a blogger. Doctorow was not the first person to talk about a reputation economy, but his was the first pure portrayal of such that got me thinking about how it would truly work ... Or not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The second major theme of the story was more post [or trans] humanism. The new 'Bitchin Society (aka BS) is based upon the surreal assumption that we can effectively eliminate the supply constraint (curve) on our economy and thereby get whatever we need in any quality needed ... Including artificial extensions on life itself. Doctorow does this with a combination of information technology (or personal backups) and cloning technology (to provide a custom platform into which your backup can be restored). This concept is taken to an extreme where clones are destroyed and backups restored to a new clone simply as a common way to avoid the inconvenience of a boredom while traveling long distances or the effects of the common cold. Now comes the question ... What exactly is a human? Can our essential self be so defined that a backup is even possible? What happens if the previous clone is not destroyed and you now have two persons with the same starting consciousness that now have two different experiences? Are they now two different people? Doctorow doesn't really answer these questions well, but you can see his characters struggling with the answers enough to start thinking on your own.

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