by gubsheep, Sina Habibian and Albert Ni
Science fiction authors have been imagining shared digital spaces for decades, well before decentralized technologies like the Internet and blockchains became possible. Many of these works inspired the technologists, researchers, and engineers who lay the foundation for these spaces today.
Science fiction is powerful because it gives us rich and concrete visions for the future to reflect on. Below are a few of our favorite decentralization-related novels.
Snow Crash (Neil Stephenson, 1992)
- A novel about memetics and virtual reality, set in a future anarcho-capitalist dystopian version of the US. This book was one of the first to explore the idea of the "Metaverse," a shared digital space accessible to anyone with a network connection.
True Names (Vernor Vinge, 1981)
- A short story about life in a virtual reality precursor to the Internet and the role played by cryptography, hackers, and cypherpunks.
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, 2011)
- A novel about life in a virtual reality "OASIS", set in (surprise) a future anarcho-capitalist dystopian version of the US. A colorful vision of what future virtual worlds could be like.
- Honestly IMO this is really not a great work of literature nor is it particularly insightful, but it's a lot of fun.
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge, 1992)
- A space opera about the ecosystem of civilizations in a universe where faster-than-light travel is possible, connected by a decentralized web.
Daemon (Daniel Suarez, 2006)
- A novel about an AI that takes over the world and cannot be shut down (some decentralization-esque elements here).
Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson, 1999)
In the past, I've found a vague correlation between people interested in decentralized digital technologies, and people who enjoy the following more "spiritual" texts.
Finite and Infinite Games (James Carse, 1986)
The Tao Te Ching (Laozi)