Flash Crowd

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"Flash Crowd" is a 1973 English language novella by science fiction author Larry Niven, one of a series about the social consequence of inventing an instantaneous, practically free transfer booth that could take one anywhere on Earth in milliseconds.

One consequence not foreseen by the builders of the system was that with the almost instantaneous reporting of newsworthy events, tens of thousands of people worldwide — along with criminals — would flock to the scene of anything interesting, hoping to experience or exploit the instant, thus disorder and confusion be created.

In various other books, for example Ringworld, Niven suggests that easy transportation might be disruptive to traditional behavior and open the way for new forms of parties, spontaneous congregations, or shopping trips around the world. The central character in Ringworld, celebrating his birthday, teleports across time-zones to "lengthen" his birthday multiple times (particularly notable since the hardcover first edition had the error of the character heading the wrong direction, increasing that edition's value).

Other reading

  • "Flash Crowd" is included in the short story collection The Flight of the Horse. The story (or parts of it) was originally published as "Flash Crowd" in Three Trips in Time and Space, by Robert Silverberg, ed.
  • "The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club" is included in the short story collection A Hole in Space
  • Other stories in this series are in these two books and in All the Myriad Ways.

Similar References

On the World Wide Web, a similar phenomenon can occur, when a web site catches the attention of a large number of people, and gets an unexpected and overloading surge of traffic. This usage was first coined by John Pettitt of Beyond.com in 1996. Multiple other terms for the phenomenon exist, often coming from the name of a particular prominent, high-traffic site whose normal base of viewers can constitute a flash crowd when directed to a less famous website. Notorious examples include the "Slashdot effect", the "Instalanche" (when a smaller site gets links by the extremely popular blog Instapundit), or a website being "Farked" (where the target site is crashed due to the large number of hits in a short time).

An episode of CSI: Miami, "Murder in a Flash" centers on a flash mob which is a very similar idea, albeit produced by standard transportation. A large group of people are gathered together by e-mails and text messages in a place identified by GPS coordinates.

World of Ptavvs (1966) · A Gift from Earth (1968) · Neutron Star (collection) (1968) · The Shape of Space (collection) (1969) · Protector (1973) · Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven (collection) (1975) · The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton (short story collection) (1976) · The Patchwork Girl (1980) · Three Books of Known Space (omnibus) (1989) · World of Ptavvs / A Gift From Earth / Neutron Star (omnibus) (1991) · Crashlander: The Collected Tales of Beowulf Shaeffer (1994) · Flatlander: The Collected Tales of Gil 'the Arm' Hamilton (omnibus) (1995) · Fleet of Worlds (with Edward M. Lerner; 2007) · Juggler of Worlds (with Edward M. Lerner; 2008) · Destroyer of Worlds (with Edward M. Lerner, 2009) · Betrayer of Worlds (with Edward M. Lerner; 2010)

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