From Habitat to Global Cyberspace



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Economies in Cyberspace
Economies exist everywhere in Cyberspace. These economies provide a mechanism for the communities to flourish.
MUDs have two constrained resources: memory and compute cycles. The memory problem is addressed using distribution units called "quota". Quota allows MUD citi­zens to create objects and extend their virtual world. A fixed amount of quota is allocated to each new citizen, usually by a system administrator. Each object created by a participant consumes some amount of quota, and when the preassigned amount of quota is exhausted, the user must appeal to the administrator for more. This is an economy, but a very socialist one. Several MUDs admin­istratively require that the person applying for more quota prove that their work is deserving of consideration, per­haps meeting some theme‑oriented or social‑improvement goal. Prove to the central government that you are wor­thy, and you shall be granted the power to create. Citizens are (usually) not free to trade quota with each other. In these systems, a large amount of quota is a powerful status symbol.
Habitat has an internal economy, complete with play money called "tokens". Citizens are granted tokens for connecting, and as prizes for planned events. Tokens can be used to purchase items from vending machines. These items can also later be recycled for somewhat fewer tokens using pawn machines. But this interaction with machines isn't really enough to establish the Token's real value. The most important use of tokens in Habitat is for trade between players. Habitat customers actually use tokens to gamble with each other, along with buying special objects and publications (like poems and stories) from each other.
Unfortunately, the Habitat economy is inflationary, as tokens are added to the system at a higher rate than they can be consumed by the supplied machines. After a little while, everyone has all the objects they want. Vending machines can make infinite numbers of the items on sale with no production costs. As a result, there is a secondary economy in the Habitats: heads.
In Habitat the primary way to change your appearance is by changing your head. You can buy new styles of head from a vending machine in the local "Head Shop", or you might win a unique head in a contest sponsored by the service administrator. After a while, everyone has a copy of any interesting but common head that may avail­able from the vending machines, and there is nothing left to buy except the special one‑of‑a‑kind prize heads. As a result, these rare heads trade for hundreds of times the price of the others. Without a doubt, the dominant sym­bol of wealth and stature in the Habitats is a large collec­tion of unique heads, proudly on display in your virtual living room.



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