Fifteen of globalization’s children collaborate to design a piece of software that renders visible the invisible networks of the Internet Age.
Readers should be warned at the outset that this is no novel in the conventional sense, but a Socratic dialogue for the early 21st century of globalization. That dialogue is sparked when Oskar Feller, an IT journalist and international jet-setter, gazes out of an airplane window at the nighttime lights of the cities of Belgium far below. Oskar, or â€œOK Fellow” as his friends call him, feels a sense of frustration that those city lights can’t tell him much about the people they serve: What are their incomes? Where do they work? What do they believe in? How many are BMW-motorcycle enthusiasts like him? To get answers to questions like these on a global scale, Oskar enlists help from his 14 fellow members of the Golden Sky, a loosely coalesced think-tank whose membership represents various economic, political, scientific and cultural professions. At the palatial Hawaiian home of Internet entrepreneur Winston Chee, the 15 â€œGolden Skyers” collaboratively give birth to the computer-modeling program dubbed â€œ8W8” (a strange-seeming choice of name, until they explain that â€œeight” is an auspicious number in Chinese numerology and â€œW” stands for â€œworld people”). The notional 8W8 program allows the user to enter the cockpit of a virtual helicopter and tour a dynamic landscape representing not Earth’s geography, but its invisible demographic, economic, environmental and even religious characteristics. The author’s decision to present this intriguing concept as a novel is an idiosyncratic one, making the book feel at times like a tug-of-war between an inventor and a novelist.
At its best, 8W8-Global Space Tribes provides a gentle, relatively harmless way to introduce the reader to a bevy of interesting new terms and concepts; at its worst, it comes off as the novelization of a software user’s manual.