July 21, 2005

The Wrong Size

Pixy Misa has a post on size and scaling issues in governments. Go read it.

This touches on something I've been thinking about with regards to Life, Liberty, Property, with regard to Singularity Sky, and with regards to cohousing.

A friend of mine used to be interested in cohousing [quick definition: a group somewhere between a condominium association and a commune] [longer definition: you have your own space, either a small house or apartment, but also share some facilities and some meals with the rest of the group]. With regard to LLP, you're voluntarily giving up some rights - where and what to eat some days, for instance- in exchange for being part of a community.

Singularity Sky is a SciFi book, in which a colony in a totalitarian empire, mostly at an Industrial Age tech level, gets hit with a bunch of cornucopia machines, basically granting every wish of every person, peasant and lord alike. The government is pretty much instantly overthrown. The revolutionaries try to create a government, but quickly realize everyone is ignoring them.

Humans are pretty much set up for being part of a group of somewhere around 30-100 members. A corporation with fewer than 30 employees can run efficiently without a bunch of rules: everyone knows everyone else, and gets the job done. If someone isn't pulling their fair share, everyone knows it, and either peer pressure has an impact or the person is kicked out of the group [fired, exiled, etc.] More than a hundred or so, and you spend so much time in meetings trying to make personal contacts that you can't get any work done, so you start making rules [or laws, or whatever]. A republic tries to stretch that - you start with a person who is connected to a lot of other people, who say, yes, this person represents our interests, and then put that person in a room with a lot of other similar people, and boom! you've got a government.

We did ok with small groups, but then we invented agriculture, which meant you often had a surplus of food, which meant other groups would try to take it away, so you banded more and more groups together to fight off the other groups. And then it's more efficient to have a small group of well equipped, well trained people fight off the other groups, and that makes a feudal society.

Where the frag am I going with this? Oh yeah.

We just got through the Industrial Age, which seems to have had as an organizing principle "Bigger is Better," including governments. Now, at the beginning of the Information Age [apparently anyway] it looks like we can go two ways - either a constantly monitoring totalitarian state, with cameras, GPS devices, and all transactions done and stored electronically, or a much freer society, in which a congressman actually knows what his constituants want [H/T: INDC Journal]. I'll take door number 2, thank you very much.

At this point, can we break things and get back to a bunch of tribes? I don't know, but I suspect [and hope] that's the way we're headed. In which case, going towards Floating Cities makes a lot of sense to me.

Posted by Owlish at July 21, 2005 01:11 PM | TrackBack

Charlie Stross is a socialist too. Of some description. Nice guy, but a bit confused politically.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 22, 2005 01:54 AM

Ok, how many libertarian communists or socialists are out there, anyway? And why don't the contradictions cause their heads to explode?

Posted by: owlish at July 22, 2005 07:02 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?