Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I’m Charles Ponzi and I Approved This Message

World’s most famous Virtual Economy may be a Virtual Pyramid Scheme

What I like about this little article: it takes a computer game very seriously. The methods the authors take are technical (from the field of economics) and it appears they actually used $10,000 in real money to test their hypothesis about in-game cash flows. It’s the new investigative journalism for the 21st century. What they discover is shocking, and will blow the lid off everything you thought you knew about online computer games, currency exchange rates and interest payments.

Also the article contains the phrase “online sexchat workers”.

Reminds me of a business plan I came up with in college: the ironic, self-aware pyramid scheme. Never got around to naming it, but had some candidates:

“Obvious Pyramid Scheme”™
“Super Pyramid Brothers”™
“Seriously Dudes, This is a Scam”™

So the business plan would be a typical pyramid scheme.

People pay to get in, and I’d pay them back when other people pay to get in. To get involved, you pay me $20 and I give each “investor” a tiny replica pyramid that they could display ironically. The marketing literature would describe that if enough of the little pyramids are stacked together, they’ll form a large pyramid, a “power pyramid” that can shoot a fountain of dollar bills from it’s single giant eye at the top.

The details on exactly how that happens are a little fuzzy, but they involve the ancient geometry of the pyramid shape combined with the power of mental concentration. Everyone involved can be all smug and ironic, knowing in their rational minds that it could never work. But deep in their hearts they wonder if it could.

The article also reminds me of my all-time favorite newspaper classified ad. Again, I saw it while I was in college back in Cleveland. It said something to the effect of:

Get Rich Quickly! Discover the secrets of making money through the mail! Find out how easy it is to have hundreds of people mail you $10. With my information packet, you’ll be able to set up a mail-based business with minimal effort. Find out how. Send $10 to PO Box 4930, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.

I think the person responsible realized how sketchy that sounded, so next week the same ad appeared in the classifieds, with the same ad copy, except the money amounts were changed.

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