Why do we cling so tightly to our property?
It was hard to get, yes.
But it is harder still to give away.
Shouldn't we then value even more being freed of it?

When the house next to mine burned, the fire was very close to my house.
I knew my house might burn with it.
I quickly tried to think of what I should rush in to save.
Nothing came to mind.
And I felt an unexpected feeling. Relief.

I think my house owns me.


There was a game called Ultima Online that tried to make a closed ecosystem except energy input (like the real world) where trees were harvested for wood, sheep for leather, animals and plants would reproduce, etc. Products made from them would decay with use so everything would recycle and the game would, in theory, self regulate.

But something strange happened. All the forests and animals disappeared and just a barren landscape was left and it wasn't fun anymore. The game designers started looking around and found that there were people hoarding thousands of, say, shirts or shoes in their houses where they were never used. They had no intention of selling them, they just wanted to *own* them. It's as if there is a hoarding instinct. Perhaps these people also had the strange feeling that their collections somehow owned them.

I wonder how much this happens in the real world and what the ultimate effect of it will be.

-- Steve

I played that game for a while. I think this is what my "traditional" anarchist
friends worry about happening in real life.


Steve Dekorte wrote:

Steve & Mike,

  Very interesting! Mike, I know what you mean about your feelings about your house burning. I've had similar thoughts before and wondered what to make of them. There is an aspect to our consumer culture that is troubling in a way that has nothing to do with standard leftist anti-capitalism, and yet I think a number of people on the left feel it intuitively, as do some libertarians. Yet others (some in the "Walk for Capitalism" participants come to mind) seem positively eager to celebrate not only freedom, but consumerism, without a second thought.

  Steve, I'm curious to hear more about the Ultima Online world and how that played out. What happened after what you describe? Was the game shut down, or did it recover? Were you a participant? Is any of this written up somewhere?

Yours in liberty,
                  <<< Starchild >>>

There have been a number of articles on it.
I think this is the one I read first:

-- Steve

Here's the part of interest for those not interested in the full article:

"U.O. took more than two years to design, and, according to Koster, who joined the development team in 1995, a great deal of that time went into trying to perfect what was known as the "resource system." Under this system, both natural and man-made objects were coded according to the imaginary resources that went into them—a sheep, for example, was a couple of units of meat and a couple of units of wool—and the total pool of each resource was fixed, so that there would always be a certain amount of meat in the world and a certain amount of wool. One of the goals of the system was to produce a naturalistic and therefore dynamic environment: the sheep would get eaten by wolves, and as the wolf population grew the sheep would decline.
Under the resource system, players could gather raw materials, like ore, and make them into finished goods, like armor, which, once used, would begin to break down and reënter the pool as raw materials. Players, it turned out, liked to make things—they were turning out hundreds, and even thousands, of swords and shields and gauntlets—but instead of using them, or throwing them out, which would have had the same effect, they hoarded them. One player reportedly had a collection of ten thousand identical shirts. The result was that there were hardly any materials available to replenish the pool, which deepened the environmental crisis.

At first, the design team tried to deal with the situation by funnelling in more resources, but these, too, were quickly grabbed and hoarded. No one could figure out how to keep the game going without giving up on the system: in the virtual world, as in the real one, economic growth and ecological stability can be tragically difficult to reconcile.

Now the game is programmed so that the servers continually add more ore and sheep and wolves to the landscape. This largesse has solved the mass-extinction problem, but not the hoarding, which continues, contributing to server lag. Why players hold on to so many essentially useless items remains a mystery. When I asked Koster about it, he said, "Why do you have all the junk you have?"

the UO experiment is very interesting... especially
the 'tragedy of the commons' component of it. I guess
the UO developers that went on to work on Everquest
learned something about free markets and capitalism as
a result.

I have a few friends who are deep into the Everquest
world and worth quite a bit if they ever decided to
cash out. Oddly enough, none wants to sell out and
start over due to the amount of hard work and tedium
it took to get to the level they are at now (60+ PS/2)


--- Steve Dekorte <steve@...> wrote:

I don't see anything in this article or the one referenced within that describes how the hoarding problem has been solved for systems with fixed resources such as in the origonal Ultima Online and the real world. Did I miss something?

-- Steve


  Your description of Ultima sounds a lot like a simple text-only computer game that a professor of mine at Chabot College was using in his classes. It was called Simpolicon, for "simulated political & economic model." Every player was given a country with a certain number of people and certain types of natural resources: riparian land, iron ore, farm land, etc. The countries each existed in a vacuum. The goal was to allocate your resources efficiently to maximize and balance production so that your population increased and prospered. Everything was made by combining two or more other types of things, and everything you had was measured in units. For example, X amount of people + Y amount of riparian land would produce Z amount of fish. New things could be combined to create yet more advanced technology. Every "year" you would choose how many units of people, land, animals, and so on to produce. It sounds like Ultima used a very similar approach.

  Although it lacked any bells and whistles, the basic concept of the game so impressed me that later I thought about trying to improve it and produce it commercially for sale. My professor had told me he got it from the inventor, an acquaintance of his who lived somewhere in the San Mateo vicinity if I recall correctly -- Denny Getz or some similar name. Unfortunately the professor was gone by then, and I was never able to track the guy down (this was around 1990). I wonder if there was any connection to Ultima, or if someone else came up with a similar concept? I guess I'll have to read the articles.

Yours in liberty,
                  <<< Starchild >>>

The simulation you describe sounds like simple equations which a single player manipulating their parameters. Such equations make (questionable) assumptions about how millions of people act as a whole. In Ultima Online, no such assumptions are made. Every transaction is between two real humans. What's fascinating is that so many humans and transactions are involved, that you can actually study large scale (macro) behaviors without making questionable assumptions and with the ability to study it in great detail as you potentially have complete knowledge of the state and history of the system.

-- Steve


  It's true Simpolicon wasn't interactive. I was just talking about the basic mechanics of the economy. That to me was a real innovation. It sounds like Ultima is a lot more developed, but I didn't include all the subtle details of Simpolicon either, because it's been a while and I don't remember it that well.

Yours in liberty,
              <<< Starchild >>>