Google Cloud Presents FWDThinking Episode 17

A conversation with Infomocracy author, Malka Older.

Published On Sep 14, 2021

All opinions expressed in these episodes are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the organizations for which our guests work.


If you could build a perfect governmental model, from scratch, what would you do? On that very long task list, the top one would be figuring out how to elect leaders in ways that couldn’t be undermined—after all, the system you’re creating is perfect if it’s resilient to those who would subvert it.

The problem is that society is a consensual delusion. Groups of humans start to believe in a set of collective truths—let’s call those laws—and act in the interest of the group. If everyone woke up tomorrow and decided that they didn’t want to participate collectively—not showing up for work, not enforcing or obeying laws, not educating children, not turning on the power or the water—society would collapse pretty quickly.

That consensual delusion exists because of shared truths: News reports, historical proof of collective success, norms of conduct, and so on. So your perfect government would have to control information—or at least, stop the spread of falsehood—and radically increase what we all know and share about one another.

It’s this speculation that Malka Older has spun into three books, the first of which, Infomocracy, was the subject of our second Executive Book Club, presented by our partners at Google Cloud. For those who couldn’t read the book in time, I interviewed Malka about her writing beforehand. It’s a wide-ranging, speculative conversation. Malka had taken the stage in 2019 (you can watch her talk in the archives) to talk about speculative resistance, but I hadn’t actually read the book—so I didn’t realize it was also a rolicking adventure tale reminiscent of Gibson, Stephenson, and other cyberpunk pioneers.

Here’s what Malka had to say.


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