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Whuffie is the ephemeral, reputation-based currency of Cory Doctorow's science fiction novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and his short story "Truncat."[1] This book describes a post-scarcity economy: all the necessities (and most of the luxuries) of life are free for the taking. A person's current Whuffie is instantly viewable to anyone, as everybody has a brain implant giving them an interface with the Net.

The term has since seen some adoption as a synonym for social capital, including its use in the title of the Tara Hunt book The Whuffie Factor.[2]


  • Explanation 1
  • Similarities to other stories 2
  • The Whuffie Bank 3
  • Whuffies in use 4
  • Etymology 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


In the novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, industrial-era economic constraints and scarcity-management regimes have been made obsolete by technology: Whuffie has replaced money, providing an esteem- and admiration-rewarding motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person's Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation and is gained (or lost) according to a person's favorable (or unfavorable) actions. Public opinion determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable. The Whuffie of one who rudely pushes past others may suffer, as she falls within the disapprobation of those pushed, or witnesses of the event. A much-loved symphony, on the other hand, continues to earn the composer Whuffie as more people enjoy it. Some judgments contributing to an individual's Whuffie are automatic and require no conscious thought on the part of others, as all possess brain chips. As brain dumps allow machines to carry consciousness, the machines can do the thinking for people and allow them to know the results automatically.[3]

Two different methods are explained as being right-hand (the amount you directly attribute to an action) and left-hand (an aggregate of the right-hand Whuffie of the people who have given you left-hand).

Example: A person gave me 50 right-hand (direct) Whuffie for a song I wrote, that they like. I also received 100 left-hand Whuffie from the people that that person has also given right-hand Whuffie to (indirect).

While there are few details in the novel of how this system actually works, it is described in idealistic terms:

"Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success".

A person with a score of 0 is just as capable of giving and revoking Whuffie as someone with a score of 1,000,000. The person with the million-point score would be invited to parties and elite events while his bottomed-out counterpart would probably not even be allowed into reputable clubs or restaurants; but both of their opinions on someone else would count for the same amount of gross Whuffie.

Like all economic systems, Whuffie has effects that seem undesirable to many. It might tend to favour popular speech at the expense of public discourse, and it could frequently be uninformative: if a person has a high Whuffie score, is it for guitar playing or auto repair? However, both of these are already the status quo under a money economy, and the concept of weighted Whuffie helps make better decisions on a person-by-person basis, and thus is more flexible than rating someone by their bank account. Also, the Whuffie system (in the book) keeps a public history of how each person's Whuffie was earned, unlike the secret origins of many people's money.

Similarities to other stories

The Whuffie Bank


  1. ^ Cory Doctorow on , Aug 26, 2003Truncat, retrieved 17 January 2014
  2. ^ Lydia Dishman (28 September 2013). "Why Ashton Kutcher Couldn't Save This Stylish Startup". Forbes. 
  3. ^ Richard Koman; Cory Doctorow (2003-02-27). "Cory Doctorow's Bitchun' World: P2P Gone Wild". O'Reilly Network. Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  4. ^ Jason Kincaid (September 15, 2009). "TC50: Meet The Whuffie, A New Currency That's Based On Your Online Reputation". TechCrunch. 
  5. ^ Archived October 4, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ A Handy Currency Converter For Alien Money, iO9
  7. ^ Cory Doctorow (2003-01-14). "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1". Retrieved 2006-09-23. 


See also

Whuffie is mentioned in Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe, but appears to be in the general sense of building reputation.

Doctorow has indicated that the word Whuffie is a made-up word he used in high school, and is not a vocalization of an abbreviation (in the style of 'Gazoo' — GSU, or Grad Students Union) or of Wi-Fi as is often believed.[7]


The science fiction convention Penguicon is known for compensating its volunteers for their time using Whuffies, a paper currency inspired by Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.[6] It can be traded in for T-shirts, a place to sleep overnight, or a refunded convention membership.

Whuffies in use

[5] However, their URL and Twitter feed became inactive on April 2012. As of December 2013 the website is inaccessible and relays the message "No more Whuffies :'(."[4]

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