If you didn't already worship visionary writer Charles Stross, a new virtual seminar on his works by a group of luminaries and amazing writers will convert you. Among the highlights: Paul Krugman on transdimensional economics.
As a huge admirer of both Stross and mutant economist Paul Krugman, it's particularly fangasmic to see Krugman analyzing Stross' Merchant Princes novels from an economic standpoint. In the Merchant Princes books, a clan from a medieval world learns to walk between universes and becomes obscenely rich by smuggling drugs where the DEA can't go and bringing back high-tech toys from America. As Krugman notes, this is a common fantasy in science fiction: the idea of bringing first-world technology and standards of living to the third world. Krugman adds:
But what makes Stross’s version different from everyone else’s is that he’s noticed something: the fantasy thought experiment, in which someone brings modern science and technology to a backward society, isn’t a fantasy. It is, instead, something that’s been tried all across the very real Third World, as businessmen and aid workers fanned out across nations in which the typical person, two generations ago, lived no better than a medieval peasant. And you know what? Modernization turns out to be pretty hard to do.
Krugman's post is well worth reading, and so are analyses by fellow Scottish science fiction writer Ken MacLeod and economic commentator Brad DeLong. Actually, the whole Stross seminar is well worth devouring. Check it out. [Crooked Timber]