Tom Crowl on Creating Communities

Guest contribution by Tom Crowl:

Some background:

When humans moved from living as Hunter/Gatherers to Organized Agriculture and then on to other forms of economic activity requiring a larger Social Organism* it resulted in some very fundamental changes to the communities in which we and our progenitors had lived for literally millions of years…
*A self-recognized and internally governed economic/political grouping organized for basic survival decisions and actions.

And it engendered some new forms for group decision.

While these new economic activities have brought enormous biological success (in terms of population growth and resource utilization)…

There are still unresolved issues in group decision systems (governance) which have persisted since that first move to agriculture some 10,000 years ago. And these still unresolved issues are now at a critical juncture and badly need to be addressed for the future of us all.

What are these issues? Let me see if I can explain what I see as a root of the problem:

We evolved in small groups. WE were those Hunter/Gatherers. If you were to meet all your ancestors on a particular line (Your mother, Your mother’s mother, Your mother’s mother’s mother, and so on… all the way back to Homo Erectus, you’d find that the vast majority spent their whole lives with a relatively small number of immediate family and not too distant relatives in small communities.

All others were considered something between wary allies, mortal enemies or even non-human altogether!

The size of these small societies is sometimes referred to as Dunbar’s Number, a hypothetical natural human community size to which we had so long been adapted. This very real (though unfixed and individually variable) limitation on natural human community size also has a direct relationship to biological altruism which is the irresistible impulse that can cause a mother to run in front of a bus to save her baby, or a soldier to reenlist only to storm a beach with his buddies even when the cause may be lost or foolish.

With the birth of agriculture… and for the rest of the lifespan of humanity… a fundamental change has taken place which we’re still struggling with. And it has a myriad of repercussions:

The most immediate response to this dilemma was authoritarian forms of governance with all the fixings… military classes, worker classes, slavery and oligarchy. A perfectly natural outcome. Specialized networks, forming networks of networks were required for such a complex social organism to function.

What may have begun as needed specialization by an even accidental decision-making group, with even the best of intentions (e.g. Plato’s philosopher kings), will tend to become self-reinforcing and isolated with it’s own internal loyalties and identifications related to the natural drives linked to their own personal associations and Dunbar’s Number.

Hence oligarchies are over time an unfortunately inevitable problem when society scales beyond natural human community size.

What’s important to recognize is that this is inevitably damaging for the organism as a whole and has always driven the civilization’s collapse, reform or both. There are clear reasons for this decision-system collapse related to ultimatum game issues, amongst others, but enough on that here.

Designs for Representative Government have all been attempts to broaden the decision system beyond the closed networks that tend to form if not interrupted. They do this generally by introducing systems of rules and horizontal or distributed networks to counter-balance or interrupt hierarchical networks; e.g. Constitutions, Bills of Rights, Legislatures, Suffrage, etc.

But even these current representative systems are having their problems and authoritarianism is still a very strong contender. And oligarchy formation is a constant threat for both.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and while I try to stay neutral in many things, I’m going to admit a bias…

Government by the people needs to work! And it must be capable of accomplishing this within a large civilization while retaining both maximum freedom and maximum diversity. Not an easy goal. There’s no guaranteed path to that end but there are guideposts and hints.

Some are mentioned above, others can be added, like the role of proximity in all its forms, the tendency of strong nodes in a network to become stronger, the actually essential criticality* in complex/chaotic systems which means there’s never a final fix and why vigilance really must be eternal, the role of technology, influence capability, etc.
* Here criticality refers to the needed balance between order and chaos in any civilization (or complex system for that matter), with too much of either being fatal as a mathematical certainty.)

Every characteristic of Representative systems listed above: Bills of Rights, Legislatures, etc. are attempts to address INFLUENCE CAPABILITY between individuals and groups within a larger social organism.

However, influence capability is itself influenced by many external forces and is never static. In a small town you might know the mayor and your city councilman personally as well as their opponents… or at least, your sister’s husband might! But that’s not the case anymore and a sense of helplessness easily spreads.

So much has changed about the fundamental nature of our “natural human community size” communities! Both technology and scale have radically changed our close social networks… often, but not always or necessarily for the better.

The Hypothesis:

  • Social Organisms inevitably tend towards Authoritarianism over time due to inherent characteristics which arise when scaled beyond Dunbar’s Number.
  • Further, as complex/chaotic systems, social organisms are inherently unstable.
  • Representative Systems arose as a response to repeated “Ultimatum Game” related disasters inevitably befalling Authoritarian Regimes.
  • Representative Systems are also inherently unstable.
  • The mechanisms of Representative Systems are NEVER finished and must constantly be addressed to maintain a healthy state of system criticality and hence, survival.

The Chagora financial function is designed as one tool, I believe an essential one for addressing a problem in influence capability. It’s a way to make giving them a piece of your mind an every day experience. Frequency of participation is essential to being part of a community!
But, more importantly, it’s a part of a broader framework to address changes in approach necessary for civilization health and survival.
I hope you’ll take a look!

This post is probably already too long so I’ll end here.

I’ll follow this post up with another on how Chagora’s financial function might change the system, how it relates to speech specifically as well as my personal adventure looking for support for at least the concepts, if not the project itself. (Which I believe is an embarrassing, sad but unsurprising tale of the mix of an inexperienced, uncredentialed, hermit intellectual/entrepreneur and a foolish “too big to fail” banking system with NO concern for the local communities it feeds on. Yes, I said “feeds on” and NOT “invests in” which I’ll defend in my next post. I’ll admit a bias here too since I’m facing foreclosure after 20 years in Granada Hills directly connected to this project and the current financial crisis.)

BTW, finance, banking and investment interests with their associated problems of scale and influence have already been devastating. They were brought to us by BOTH parties here in this country, and if unaddressed likely to get worse with very negative implications for sustainable economics and political freedom.

The Future of the World Lies in Finding Unity in Diversity!

7 Comments Tom Crowl on Creating Communities

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Hi David, I wonder if you could expand on this community typology remark, either by your own text, or by some references. If you want, we can publish a separate article on this by yourself,


  2. AvatarDavid de Ugarte

    Thanks Michel!! It could be great! It is very easy for us in Spanish because we have almost every discussion we kept during the last 21 years documented in (our wiki). In English, by the moment we only have few easy texts on phyle. But it will be very much interesting, I think, a more analytical contribution just explaining clearly our main concepts on network topology, social interaction in networks, community and identity… If you like I could write it during this weekend… but you should help us later editing the translation 😉

  3. AvatarTom Crowl

    Hi David,

    Thanks for commenting and very interesting re the different sorts of community attachment whether via identity and ‘real interaction’ or mere passive adherence. (If I’m understanding correctly).

    I agree with Michel and would like to hear more. I’ll start working through your links (but it will take some time.)

  4. AvatarTom Crowl

    I thought I’d copy that little section here since it’s hard to read in the light type (my blog has a dark background)

    The Hypothesis:

    *Social Organisms inevitably tend towards Authoritarianism over time due to inherent characteristics which arise when scaled beyond Dunbar’s Number.

    *Further, as complex/chaotic systems, social organisms are inherently unstable.

    *Representative Systems arose as a response to repeated “Ultimatum Game” related disasters inevitably befalling Authoritarian Regimes.

    *Representative Systems are also inherently unstable.

    *The mechanisms of Representative Systems are NEVER finished and must constantly be addressed to maintain a healthy state of system criticality and hence, survival.

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