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Can this piece of art predict the future?
So, taxpayer. Sick of watching your federal politicians dig the country deeper and deeper into debt? Ever think you could balance the budget, if only they’d hand the reins over to you?
If you lived in France, you could find out for yourself — because the finance minister, Jean-François Copé, is about to release an online video game that challenges you to design France’s federal budget, and drag the country back into the black. It’s called Cyberbudget, and it’s supposed to come out any day now. As Copé told The Guardian:
“The idea is that when we cut taxes, we can’t do it without creating deficits,” Mr Copé told France 2 Television. “In this game each French person can pretend they are the budget minister and make decisions to understand how much each [ministry’s] budget costs — education spending, military spending, how it’s all organised — and see what kind of decision we can make when we want to cut taxes.”
I love it! Why doesn’t the US government do the same thing? Then everyone could compare their budgets online, or even vote for their favorite one.
Of course, this description of SimFrance elides the fact that you could never create a sim that would satisfy all political stripes. Budget assumptions are notoriously ideological. Libertarians would argue that massively detaxing capital gains would produce a blizzard of economic growth; left-wing critics say it only concentrates wealth in the hands of a few rich folks, and ultimately decreases the tax base. Since a game would have to adopt one or the other set of assumptions for its simulation of reality, it would necessarily have an ideological bent.
It reminds me of how Will Wright’s Sim City included the rule that when you increase property taxes, it drives businesses away from the city. I remember reading the manual back in the late 90s and thinking hunh? That rule seemed utterly context dependent. In New York, for example, high taxes don’t chase any businesses away; they pay astronomically high ones merely for the allure of being located in Manhattan.
(Thanks to Greg for this one!)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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