Nicholas Carr pointed to a 2009 speech by futurist Bruce Sterling on the possibility of two different futures for technology. One potential futures digital consumers was “Gothic High-Tech” embodied in the life of Steve Jobs:
In Gothic High-Tech, you’re Steve Jobs. You’ve built an iPhone which is a brilliant technical innovation, but you also had to sneak off to Tennessee to get a liver transplant because you’re dying of something secret and horrible. And you’re a captain of American industry. You’re not some General Motors kinda guy. On the contrary, you’re a guy who’s got both hands on the steering wheel of a functional car. But you’re still Gothic High-Tech because death is waiting. And not a kindly death either, but a sinister, creeping, tainted wells of Silicon Valley kind of Superfund thing that steals upon you month by month, and that you have to hide from the public and from the bloggers and from the shareholders.
The other potential future is what Sterling calls Favela Chic which should be eerily familiar to anyone who knows social games like FarmVille:
What is Favela Chic? Favela Chic is when you have lost everything material, everything you built and everything you had, but you’re still wired to the gills! And really big on Facebook. That’s Favela Chic. You lost everything, you have no money, you have no career, you have no health insurance, you’re not even sure where you live, you don’t have children, and you have no steady relationship or any set of dependable friends. And it’s hot. It’s a really cool place to be.
Now, Carr uses the distinction to discuss organ donation (the prospect of immortality for the Jobs-ian Gothics are thwarted by the democracy of organ donatio), but we could look at Sterling’s Favela Chic proposition as an eerie reminder of what the future of games (but hopefully will not be). This was exactly the world that Michael Thomsen warned us of yesterday where those with much time fuel an economy for those with a lot of money.