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"..But the second-order effect is it will figure out who you hold in high esteem, who has an opinion about some restaurant you've never been to. And this opinion, and this esteem is called Whuffie.
Koman: And there's left-handed Whuffie and right-handed Whuffie.
Doctorow: That's right, well, it's idiosyncratic. Unlike things like Google PageRank, it's not a beauty contest; it doesn't tell you what the average person thinks is right, or beautiful, or worthy of esteem, it tells you what people like you--people who bought this book also bought clean underwear--think about this resource. And because it's not domain-specific, because it spans all these domains, it's got this incredibly rich dataset, so it's like people who are like you on lots of different axes telling you what to think.
Now, everyone sort of runs their lives as a consequence of this because those few resources that are scarce--like esteem itself, attention, locations--are themselves regulated or apportioned according to Whuffie. The way that happens is that someone asserts that they are in a position to control the distribution of that resource. A group of people--an ad hoc--comes along and says this is our restaurant. And if people behave as if it's their restaurant, if people sit at the tables when they're told to sit, if they order food when they're told to order, if they eat the food when it comes on a plate, then in fact, those people are running the restaurant. But they're only running the restaurant for as long as someone else doesn't come in and successfully assert that they are now running the restaurant. And so there's this built-in incentive to always behave in a way that always makes everyone feel good.
Koman: So this is not unlike deciding who's going to run Venezuela."