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A virtually identical Earth has been discovered. Its history is almost exactly the same, with only incredible differences before about forty years ago. As a result, many books and movies are the same in both worlds, many are the same save for choice of words in certain places, many have alternate endings, many have a totally different storyline, many don't exist in the other world.

Since the alternate Earth is made entirely of antimatter, it's thankfully impossible to send anything to it, except photons. Scientists have managed to rig a transmitter either side, so they are able to communicate. Pretty soon, they will be able to make enough of them to merge the internets.

How exactly would online transactions take place? What system would the world eventually settle on for the trade of information?

Back up with reasoning, the most realistic and well-reasoned scenario wins.

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Nearly (but not quite) identical information coming from two places cannot be effectively stored in one place.

  • Searches would end up yielding two copies of every source
  • General information credibility would suffer a harsh blow
  • Bandwidth issues would make live syncing impossible, as keeping the worlds a safe distance apart creates a 10+ second delay.

One possible solution is to label or mark all web addresses based on where they originated. Instead of worldbuilding.stackexchange.com, you would use a://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com or b://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com, where A and B are the names of the worlds.


The main problem with cross-world information trade is that credibility cannot be confirmed easily. All information short of the major sciences will be unique to either world, and it is difficult to confirm its validity. The governments of either world may need to certify participating parties, or online currency may only be exchangeable under supervision and scrutiny, in order to prevent widespread fraud and create accountability when sanctions and other punishments cannot be imposed.

In other words, when the facts you're buying are difficult to accept - or deny - and it's difficult to punish those who lie across the matter barrier - trade will take place under supervision, and the governments of either world may be involved.

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The question can be reduced rather easily by stripping away the context down to the bare model. You have two groups of individuals who cannot physically affect eachother, sharing information. What happens? As it turns out, we have some pretty reasonable models of this in the world of soverign politics. We can use those to make good guesses.

In the politics which govern nations, one of the key principles is the respect of the sovereignty of the other nation. You cannot force another nation to do anything against their will. When you do, it's typically an act of war. We have a similar situation here, because there's no way to actually physically affect the other group. The only difference is that in sovereign politics, there is trade of goods, while there are only ideas transferred here.

One major limitation is that we can't assume anything the other side is true in our world. We don't know exactly how similar the worlds are, so they may give us valid truths in their world which are invalid in ours. There are also major issues here with linguistics. The famous Twin Earth thought experiment dives into the sorts of linguistic and philosophical challenges which occur.

So what can we expect, based on this. We should expect to see a sovereign nation style approach, where both sides attempt to use influence across this thin thread connecting the worlds to gain power. We can also expect a large contingent of individuals who are willing to probe the deep philosophical issues. I would expect a lot of the initial interchange of information would be done in an academic manner, freely disseminating information for both sides.

In the end, however, the regulations and transactions you ask about will be dominated by a factor which you have not given us: how the communication works. If the communication can only be done by major nation-states with massive R&D funding, you will get an extremely different result from what happens if any Joe on the street can go to the local Radio Shack and get a cross-dimensional radio to talk to people on the other side. In the end, I expect your answer is 99% based on this detail, and 1% based on human nature.

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The simplest choice has the fewest ways to go wrong.

We already know how to communicate via photons. We use fiber-optics. So this would require us to use lasers without the annoying tube in the middle. But the underlying communications protocols would be about the same, since we already know how to do so. TCP/IP with 1s and 0s based on whether the laser is on or off.

We might try different light colors to "compress" the data or to have multiple data communications going on simultaneously.

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  • $\begingroup$ Assume there is already a way of making fully functional transmitters. What are the regulations in regard to online trading? $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Feb 15 '17 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ What would they trade? Sorry, I was reading "transactions" as communications transactions, like packets or events, not as trading events. $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 15 '17 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ Regulations? It's just another node on the internet. So the same regulations you already see for internet traffic. $\endgroup$ – CaM Feb 15 '17 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ The issue is, that the two worlds' currencies might have different values. A dollar in 1!America might have a different value in 2!America. Using 1!Dollars to buy, for instance, an e-book in W2 might be cheaper than using 2!Dollars. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Feb 15 '17 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Would the laser still work if there were an object in the way? $\endgroup$ – Cameron Leary Feb 16 '17 at 0:13
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Nothing would change... for private citizens

Why would anything need to change for regular transactions? In the short term you'd have a headache making sure that both sides have compatible versions of DNS, HTTP, HTTPS, HTML, Javascript etc, but in the end you just have twice as many currencies, possibly twice as many crypto-currencies, and twice as many online retailers that only mention they don't ship outside the USA (or their mirror the ASU) until you've spent half an hour registering an account.

With a VPN you could have two very different Netflix accounts. As with the real world each on theses online stores would accept some currency or currencies. There would be presumably also institutions such as the Free Software Foundation sharing information freely on both sides.

The would be a big difference if suspicion of the other world meant that the internet wasn't connected. Fear of hackers from the other side would be a reason to censor.

On the other hand, politics between nations may become more interesting. You can't directly attack nations on the other side. You could hack them, or give military technologies to their enemies. Also, might the USA be willing to trade military technologies with enemies of the ASU, knowing the enemies of the ASU can't directly attack the USA with them?

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