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Thread: Limits to collective organisation

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    Limits to collective organisation

    What are the limits to collective organisation? Do you think they can be transcended. How?

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    Limits to collective organisation?
    Heterogeneity and misanthropy.

    Do you think they can be transcended?
    No.

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    A collective organisation of what? Rocks? Stamps? He-Man action figures? I feel ignorant asking for a definition of terms but to be fair, this phrase doesn't come up in wikipedia.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Dunbar's number.

    To cut a story short - there is much evidence that social group size is related to brain size. Why? Because by this hypothesis normal dominance hierarchies induce stresses (through dominating bullying and so on) which actually causes infertility, especially among female members of a group. Larger groups need larger brain sizes to work together and settle differences, compromise - and not get freeloaded, which requires a certain degree of personal trust. There is a sort of onion effect whereby we give greater trust to larger circles within which we engage in something more like a co-operative prisoner's dilemma - after all those closest to us we can punish the most for transgressions.

    Now human civilisations are based on much larger groupings, forced by agricultural and economic necessity as population sizes grow. All such systems rely on power and legitimised violence because that's the way you get large numbers of people to co-operate (along with a certain degree of domestication by the elites) - exploitation is part of the fabric of civilisation. Our circle of trust remains the same however and there is psychological evidence we treat such people differently. Collective organisation at the small scale is perfectly possible - but trying to extend it beyond the natural size of a human hunting party (or a stretch tribe) and you run into the problem that human's are not really wired to deal with such people except instrumentally or at the least at a tit-by-tat sort of manner.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator View Post
    What are the limits to collective organisation?
    The speed with which the organization as a whole makes decisions, specifically about how to utilize things that are owned by the collective. Negotiating legal contracts for the collective either happens by executive fiat, very slowly or sometimes just not at all because the other party gets impatient and goes away. This is often why collectives end up being tenants or partners with other collectives because they also work on a similarly glacial time-scale.

    That being said, *sections* of the collective are usually lightning-quick to jump on a new thing and the whole organization can be architected to empower them while the group as an entirety takes for fucking ever to take an official action.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

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    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator View Post
    What are the limits to collective organisation? Do you think they can be transcended. How?
    I was struck by your comment in the Razzies describing your current co-hab situation as an Utopian Ideal, and my immediate conjuring imagined it as a Terrarium:

    An environment artificially isolated & insulated by the best mass-produced & corporate branded, wide-mouth Jar that a 1st. world income can buy.

    I should imagine any attempts to scale up such an arrangement would start, as they always do, by first self-appointing the founding cabal as the Animals more Equal. Next, one needs to come up with a sales-pitch to, you know, attract the masses that are willing to actually Till, Sow, Weed, Harvest, Thresh, and Bake all that groovy Hippie bread.


    Quote Originally Posted by ferrus View Post
    Dunbar's number.

    To cut a story short - there is much evidence that social group size is related to brain size. Why? Because by this hypothesis normal dominance hierarchies induce stresses (through dominating bullying and so on) which actually causes infertility, especially among female members of a group. Larger groups need larger brain sizes to work together and settle differences, compromise - and not get freeloaded, which requires a certain degree of personal trust. There is a sort of onion effect whereby we give greater trust to larger circles within which we engage in something more like a co-operative prisoner's dilemma - after all those closest to us we can punish the most for transgressions.

    Now human civilisations are based on much larger groupings, forced by agricultural and economic necessity as population sizes grow. All such systems rely on power and legitimised violence because that's the way you get large numbers of people to co-operate (along with a certain degree of domestication by the elites) - exploitation is part of the fabric of civilisation. Our circle of trust remains the same however and there is psychological evidence we treat such people differently. Collective organisation at the small scale is perfectly possible - but trying to extend it beyond the natural size of a human hunting party (or a stretch tribe) and you run into the problem that human's are not really wired to deal with such people except instrumentally or at the least at a tit-by-tat sort of manner.
    The latter bolded sounds like off-the-shelf Liberal Social Elitist rhetoric.

    As for 'much evidence', I'm very skeptical.

    Everything I see about me tells me that the volatile unclean masses have no problems nor social inhibitions (quite the opposite actually) in being fruitful.

    Whereas I do agree about Dunbar's number as it relates to the ascent of many vis-a-vis the troglodytes, in that language allows an individual & group human social advantage via way of Gossip.

    Yet, Gossip too is something high-brows are more apt to shun. Again, contrary to the premise as proposed.

    Having said as much, where we do see Nature and not Human Machinations playing a role is when prenatal maternal stress triggers a greater likelihood of homosexual male off-spring.

    This is not a detriment to reproduction because humans have always been able to find willing partners within their social group.
    Rather, when Natural Male Testosterone-fueled aggression become more of a negative than a plus to survival of the group, a mother can feather the brakes. As it were.
    Creativity is the residue of time wasted. ~ Albert Einstein

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OrionzRevenge View Post
    The latter bolded sounds like off-the-shelf Liberal Social Elitist rhetoric.
    It strikes me as based on a lot of well justified theory of iterated prisoner's dilemma simulations, observational evidence of primate groupings and to some degree archaeological evidence of australopithecine behaviour who seemed to be both much more polygamous than modern humans and roamed in much smaller numbers, even in spite of their bipedalism.

    Everything I see about me tells me that the volatile unclean masses have no problems nor social inhibitions (quite the opposite actually) in being fruitful.
    You're talking about post-agricultural societies though, not hunter-gathering ones where this kind of logic works. Of course large-scale modern civilisations produce plenty of troglodytes and freeloaders and have low-class workers breeding en masse. They aren't being dominated in the same way that say, a low-ranking member of a wolf pack is or even a chimpanzee. They exist in a somewhat rarefied, if boring existence where they are protected by such things by the aforementioned legitimate source of violence. In fact I'd argue they show traits of domestication - after all counter-civilisation traits have been selected against by most societies one way or another.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    I ask because this came up over breakfast the other day with a housemate and someone who is currently staying with us as a guest.

    I live with some people who are very ardent communists and socialists, who really cherish the idea that people could choose en masse to work together for some common benefit. The people I was talking to are more skeptical, as am I, though in my mind I lean left. It's clear to me that the market, on its own fails to provide certain classes of goods and services, and fails to provide for certain groups of people, be they disabled or elderly or whatever.

    I'm toying in my mind with the potential of co-ops. They're better than straight socialism because membership is explicitly voluntary and lacking in coercion.

    The community I live in works on the basis of mutual trust. You can go down the street to all the houses, introduce yourself to people and borrow things from them. The other day someone I didn't know arrived at our door with a load of laundry and asked if she could use our washing machine, so I let her in. Stuff like this happens all the time. The number in my community is very close to Dunbar's number, though that changes, because there's a bit of turnover as people travel and sublet, and the community includes an itinerant cast of people who don't live here but are around often.

    And I think that overall, it works. That cooperation enables people to be housed in reasonable accommodation for very cheap with a rich and varied social life in a city where rent is extremely expensive. To work it requires people to be vetted for similar and compatible values before being admitted into the community, and I think that that process is probably the most important thing.

    But I'm unsure as to whether it would be possible to scale up such a community, with more people and the provision of more services. Even at approximately 120 people, there are cracks. There are some tensions between some members. There are also some freeloaders and antisocial people. And at times the governance can be very bureaucratic.

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    So we're talking about not-for-profit communal organizations? Where agreements are made democratically and not by the guy with the gun? Not trying to be pedantic, but there's just so many ways you can interpret this. I think it's a question difficult to answer without context. A vegetable co-op run by well-off people living in a secure place has a good likelihood of doing just fine, because they aren't as exposed to the stress that breaks down cooperation and causes desperation. Of course they still might fall due to various drama, but that is culturally and personally dependent. As more and more comes to be at stake -- as in, your housing, ability to eat, or very life (rather than your basket of laundry), the effects of scarcity play more of a role and make trust and cooperation more difficult to come by.

    A hierarchical society maintained by violence (what we have now) is the lowest common denominator, and it's inevitable when there isn't enough to go around for everyone to eat. Incidentally there is enough to go around for everyone now, but the top of the hierarchy is naturally interested in maintaining the current order, which it has been doing for hundreds of years now. I think it's hard to say whether or not it's impossible to overcome the pitfalls, because we've never been able to really try on a large scale. All attempts are hijacked, derailed, or outright attacked by the old order of things. Classical Marxism says that this structure will inevitably break down and there will be a socialist revolution and establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, but I don't agree with that, I think it's entirely possible for humanity to pathetically putter along for the rest of our existence being lead by the worst people that we produce. More likely is a return to barbarism, which is the same thing on a smaller scale.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator View Post
    It's clear to me that the market, on its own fails to provide certain classes of goods and services, and fails to provide for certain groups of people, be they disabled or elderly or whatever.
    Well as a system it is designed to - with proper information signals and initial property distribution - produce the most efficient outcome rather than the best by some moral value system. This is kind of inherent on the tin really. As Oso says, as an information system it works because it decentralises planning decisions to individuals - though actually much of the production in real capitalist systems happens in large companies that effectively run internal economies that are every bit as planned as anything Gosplan could envisage. In any case real life capitalism is sufficiently close to the efficient ideal model to allow some degree of semi-consistent growth and increases in economic consumption premised by liquid investment flows. It's survival as a system is simply that it is capable of fulfilling human desires - and manufacturing them - so that everyone feels as if they have a part in the system and it plays directly into the hands of the short-termist reward centre of the brain (even long-term saving and investment does this for its later tangible benefits) as opposed to any supposed reward one might get for thinking in some kind of long-term collectivist manner. As I've said before I am deeply skeptical about the capacity, on a large scale, for humans to rewrite their neurological predilections and behave in ways that go against everything they have been evolved to do over the last 3 billion years.

    The interesting thing when you look a neolithic society is that both capitalistic and socialistic kind of organisation developed and existed side-by-side - as they still do in many parts of the world. This is why both systems and mixtures of the two reoccur throughout history because neither in any sense comes close to capturing the full capacity of human relations - which is why modern capitalism can often seem empty when not mixed with hedonism or family or whatever. Whilst neolithic humans did tend to stick to groups with a maximum of Dunbar's number - and living in a fairly socialistic manner - they had trading relations with each other that took in thousands of people. I seem to remember reading evidence for certain kinds of tools and rudimentary pottery that from neutron activation analysis was found to have occurred in Spain and ended up through a series of networks in the Black Sea. These trading partners were extra layers in the onion of social relationships. (From direct family, to friends, to clan, to tribe and then the coherent network above this of trade.) There have been psychological experiments where individuals are asked to record time spent thinking about various individuals and they often correlate directly to how close they are to this centre. In any case this is where capitalism emerged from. It took cities - and global networks of trade - to turn it into a formal system of merchants and businesses, but nevertheless I'd argue the essence of the capitalistic relation to someone else has always been there after a certain level of cognitive development.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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