Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Linden Lab economic model


The ebullient Hotspur O'Toole, on his blog Hibernia on the Skids, recently asked the question as to "what economic school the Lindens emulate."

His query lead me to post the following response, which I am re-posting here, being as I think it is worth consideration. I replied to his question in the following manner:

Personally I think LL's economic theory is based on the historic Rapa Nui model--picture a meeting, about 800 years ago on the island we now call Easter Island...

"Thanks for coming to this special strategic planning team meeting, everyone. Bob from the Divination and Ancestor Worship department has developed a concept that the elders in senior management thought you should all hear about. OK, Bob, you're up. Give it to 'em in a nutshell."

"Thanks, Chief. Basically I am proposing that we replace the sticks and piles of rocks that we currently use around the island for predicting and tracking celestial events with something that has much more presence--that's more impactful. And I wanted something that could multi-purpose and really hit one out of the park in honoring the Ancestors, as well as building the Rapa Nui brand."

*the other team members look intrigued. Lois from marketing/storytelling and mythology pipes up*

"What specifically do you have in mind?"

"I'm glad you asked that, Lois."

*Bob unveils a drawing of a giant Moai*

"Wow, Bob, how big is that thing?"

"I'm thinking for an average one, about 4 meters. But just to really make a statement, we could do some of them in the 10 meter range."

"Darn impressive concept, Bob. How many are you thinking we should do?"

"Oh maybe eight or nine hundred. As they say, Make no small plans, and all that"

*there is a pause*

" Bob, have you done a preliminary cost analysis on this yet?"

"Oh you bet. I figure that it's going to completely exhaust all the island's resources by the time we're done."

"Ah....ok...and when do you know that the project is done?"

"Easy...when all the island's resources are exhausted."

*the strategic planning team is in deep thought for a moment. Finally Wally from the Rock Carving department speaks up*

"Well, I gotta tell you, I see some real positives in the short term, especially for my department--we'll need to expand the whole rock-carving operation, and there are some pretty darn good stone-whackers I'd love to hire away from the islands back in Polynesia. A project like this has the kind of sex appeal that I think would get 'em to jump ship and make that long voyage to join us. But the long-term makes me a little nervous. When's the big payout?"

*Bob smiles*

"Oh, I estimate that in about 500 years after project completion we're gonna be going gangbusters in the archaeologist/anthropologist market, and the basic tourist segment won't be anything to sneeze at either."

*the Chief stands up and pats Bob on the back*

"Well, I think you've really thought this one through, Bob. I like what it's going to do for our Rapa Nui brand, and I know that just eight centuries from now, we're going to have more archaeology and anthropology guys runnin' around than our descendants will be able to deal with. I do have a concern about the basic tourist audience, but hey, if the island offers them a positive initial experience, say like in the first six hours, it'll work. And we can just let our descendants puzzle that one out, anyway. So, all in favor of including Bob's big stone thing concept in the Island Strategic Plan, raise your hands."


  1. maybe the rats will eat their nuts also?

  2. hey HB,

    of course, I did leave out the final part of the meeting in which someone asks, "what will the island residents do when the resources have all been exhausted?" And the chief sneers and replies, "Meh, who cares? They're just a bunch of weirdos anyway. Once they die off or migrate someplace else it'll be easier to make the island into a super venue for large corporate ceremonies."

    Hey Rar,

    That's an interesting hypothesis, but it somewhat begs the question of how early Polynesian settlers accidentally brought rats with them. Rats are standard issue on decked sailing vessels such as those used by the Europeans and the Chinese, because those kinds of ships offer great hiding places for the rats. The ancient Polynesians, on the other hand, most likely traveled in large, open ocean-going canoes, or Kon-tiki style sailing rafts. Rats arguably would have a harder time concealing themselves in those circumstances.

    At the same time, I must admit I like your suggestion of including the impact of rats in the metaphor, being as it is easy to conceptualize the vermin of Easter Island as the counterparts to our Second Life griefers and content thieves. The comparison holds up especially well being as I am reasonably confident that griefers and content thieves, like rats, have a predilection for nibbling on other people's nuts.