So let me backtrack a bit on a previous segment about what the answer is to how we can live. It does exist. But it isn’t what anyone wants to hear. It isn’t another way of controlling for systemic errors. What it is, is dismantling everything you think you know about how humans “should” live, and getting back to those ways that we so call “primitive”.
How do we solve the problems of alienation and powerlessness that cause the perpetual issues humanity has faced throughout all of history? Look back to when these things weren’t as much an issue. Look toward connected interdependence.
But that isn’t what you think it is… It’s not going backward. It’s understanding why those ways of living did work and how to apply them to a world that we can create that is new.
For a bit of reference about the condition we are in now, we need to look back at the biggest change in human history and ask if the agricultural revolution was actually a fraud. Please take a few minutes and consider the arguments, then continue reading.
And a Google search if you want to go deeper:
Feel free to disagree with the conclusions made, and read some dissenting opinions, but also try to listen to my take on it and see what you think…
If you missed the previous segment and could use to understand where this is coming from, read here: The Broken World (Part 1)
Part 2 — Defining and Understanding Connected Interdependence
The beginning of the biggest change in human social existence happened because of this idea of “advancement”. This historical change brought us everything we now know about power accumulation, class division, and property as a metric of value. In this change, we went from the state nature optimized us for, to a way of living that acted as the base model for everything about “modern” life that history illustrates to us as our constant failure model of (not) living in a fulfilling way. And it’s almost entirely ignored when considerations for creating a better world are brought up.
We can take a few things in the reflection of the problems already stated, and we can now account for the things that are actually useful about what the change did and not just throw them away. We have learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t, and there is no reason to throw out the lessons learned. But the most fundamental takeaway is that we transitioned from beings who lived adapted to constant change, to beings fixated on creating the most predictable world they could manage. On the face of it, this seems like a good idea, but as is plainly obvious when you can see it, it reduced the value proposition for life down to only a few things, and as an inherent function of the new way of living, divided people into segments based on those with, and those without; with the “haves” using the “have nots” as the primary mechanism of their survival strategy.
This kind of division was never possible in any reliably sustainable way until we redesigned our societies around the ideas of resource accumulation and property (ultimately, the state). The idea of labor value and worth were decidedly altered to be based on the capacity to produce and control the supply of resources. “Work” became a thing, and the value of life was defined by the ability to “exploit” the most effectively. The fitness of an individual as an advertisement of worth to a partner for things like breeding and providing protection was then determined by how good a person was at extracting and exploiting resources from other people. This was a paradigm shift for social living.
Humans survive because of cooperation. Competition is secondary and only gained “popularity” as life turned from a shared resource reality into who was the most effective at hoarding what was necessary for life. That is not to say the ones who were the most exploited did not cooperate with each other to get the necessary work done, as that is a requirement, but the establishment of rulership created a division of power from that point on.
There’s a mathematical concept of social connection called Dunbar’s number. I need to start here to make a lot of points clear. The basic idea is that as humans our brains are only capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with a limited amount of people. This is generally thought to be between 100–250, with the ideal at about 150 people. Most discussions on the concept use the idea to help you determine how big your “network” of people can be while still remaining useful, and while there is value in that way of seeing it, I think it really misses a lot of the point in the real value this understanding has.
Outside of this number it necessarily requires human social life change from one of an organic collective organization, to one which requires governance and policing (management/politics). Within this number, the necessary conditions for regulation are self-determined by the system (people). No leaders are required and no police are necessary to create order. The people are connected enough to create real interdependence and organically react to the aspects of social life where problems may occur.
At this level of engagement, the value of an individual’s life is determined by the connections they have and what they do to help support the group. Nothing can be exploitative because everyone is integrated and fills the gaps of need as they are seen to occur. There is no alienation even possible, as the needs of each person are directly interfaced with the health of everyone involved. Accountability isn’t an add-on to fix a problem in a broken system, as the system is self-healing, and due to the connections, all of the parts are already in the necessary feedback loops it takes to see where the problems are.
- In larger alienating societies we have to keep adding on layers and layers to check the checkers and to redefine how others should live. In smaller interdependent groups, the interests, will, needs, and problems people have are already understood by the group and able to be responded to as they happen.
- In larger disconnected societies the law acts to punish after the event happened in some kind of vague hope that instilling fear because of some cost either financially or to freedom, people will behave better.
- In a fully interdependent collective, the motivations to do so-called “better” are because it brings value to people you affect directly, and they bring that value directly to you; not in some promise of future reward or punishment, but because you see the effects of your harm and your help right in front of you and they directly affect your well being as well.
Standard society’s corrective strategies depend on deferrals of responsibility. We give up the direct feedback mechanism and codify whatever moral truth is decided by an authority, and the punishment or cost is extracted by the same authorities. In a connected community, the responsibility cannot be put on an authority because there is none, forcing us to have direct responsibility for the outcomes of our actions.
One of the most obvious issues with deferring the responsibility is the decontextualization of cause and effect, and the punishments being doled out in the form of absolutes that a person has no recourse for. When we give police the power to determine outcomes and actually call them on someone who is behaving outside of a comfort zone we are willing to accept, the police are only responding to the fact that they broke the law, not why they did. And the story they hear is coming generally speaking from two people who at that moment are in opposition to each other in the context of seeing each other as a threat. The police are only there to enforce the law as they see it, and this means if someone behaves poorly at one moment in a way outside of what they normally do, they are punished for it in a way that puts a mark on their social credibility and potentially their capacity to be a normal “citizen” with the same rights as others going forward. They (the police) don’t understand the conditions under which the problem arose, or who is lying, or if the supposed perpetrator of the crime was actually the cause of the outcome.
In an interdependent community-based scenario the people involved in whatever the issue is have available to them an entire community who has been there through all of the things that led up to whatever transgression occurred. They are aware of the context of the issues, as they built it. They understand that maybe what looks like one thing from the outside is not actually what it seems. In the case of something like a domestic issue where one person was pushed beyond a level they would normally be able to tolerate, the rest of the community would already have seen what had driven them to behave in that transgressive way. Then the full understanding of “blame” attribution would be present when deciding how to deal with the issue. And there’s another aspect of this that even makes this part a trick scenario, in that the circumstances that allowed for the conditions to get that bad would likely not even have existed to begin with, nullifying the requirement for any “disciplinary” actions after the fact. Keep reading down a bit and this will be covered more in the considerations of the concept of privacy.
The point being that the institutions of correction (policing, governance, religion, etc.) are added on as a control metric to account for the inherent faults in this form of social interaction at scale. This is a fundamental flaw in the way our societies and cultures are written.
One of the important things to get here is that without some kind of “rule of law” social contract that you are born into and have to accept whether you like it or not, you instead get to be involved in the process of constantly recreating the active emergent culture of life. As most of us have experienced, culture is essentially a religion of interest handed to and prescribed to us by the ones who came before, and we are expected to not transgress against it. It’s seen as the fabric which makes whatever social connections are there stay together and have value. I call this kind of culture “post-emergent culture”. It follows a lot of the same criteria as law and morality in that it acts to conform you to it, instead of it conforming to the conditions present as the needs present themselves. This is perhaps the most pervasive control system that humans have, even surpassing religion and the state. As Terrence McKenna has said, “culture is not your friend”. It is not open to real change and the adaptations necessary to deal with individual life and our capacity to grow. Like so many of the institutions we’ve made, its purpose is to limit your life to a set of standards that preserves outcomes it wants.
An emergent culture doesn’t do this. An emergent culture doesn’t need priests and police and government and law to make it stable. Emergent culture is a living culture. One that is fundamentally based on its capacity to change with the needs of the people. It’s like a living organism that’s self-supporting and helps everyone to express themselves and their potential without being constrained to expectations written by dead people. A “normal” post-emergent culture requires the codification of rules and laws to maintain its order because it is inherently unstable. It’s inherently non-adaptive. It’s an attempt to keep a way of living and seeing and being static, and calling it good and virtuous. It’s the engine of stagnation that has kept humans living essentially the same way for thousands of years. It may express itself in different ways and call itself peaceful and the “soul” of a people, but it is about control. It is about defining for you what you are supposed to be and how you have value before you even know who you are.
An emergent culture is about being one with nature and flexible enough to both hold the useful values and discard the ones that have no other purpose but to maintain power structures of the status quo; where you affect every single other person in your community directly, and every person can express their needs and wants, and every voice can be heard when it comes to making the decisions that affect everyone else; then you can have a living culture that’s responsive and grows and changes as the people within it grow and change. Instead of constraining our capacity to think and live in different ways, it can foster the need to continually find new ways of existing that are conducive to the health and development of everyone.
It’s also not tyrannical. It doesn’t make a rule that says that a vote by a certain percentage of the population determines the outcomes of how the rest of the population will live, under threat of punishment or a loss of value. It doesn’t leave people alone and afraid of engagement in fear that maybe the way one thinks might be considered wrong to others. Those thoughts and understandings are already clearly understood and applied and tried and tested every day for efficacy, and discarded if they don’t work. In this form, ideations of want can only thrive as long as the outcomes of the ideas are capable of working. They are tested at every moment and the practice of use determines whether an idea lives or dies.
It doesn’t require an exchange of value through an abstraction like money, nor does hoarding or wealth accumulation act to make someone more valuable to others. In fact, it would make others more likely to reject a person. Every invention or innovation that will help bring value to the table will be one that will benefit everyone in the group. There is nothing to sell to others in order to raise your value in their eyes, as the actions themselves do that already by the results they bring. And because this kind of knowledge is shared instead of protected from others stealing it, the capacity for knowledge growth is increased exponentially.
There is no property to acquire to begin with as everything is shared, so there is no advantage to be gained by hoarding property (in the form of ideas or goods), as that reduces the value of your interactions with everyone else. That’s not to say you don’t have your own stuff, your own tastes, your own creations. But those things aren’t made to be kept to sell for profiting off of and exploiting value to gain more than other people. The act of doing so would reduce your social value. Again, the accountability is built in as a function of the connection and does not require an external authority to enforce. You wouldn’t even have the interest in doing so because there would be no social mechanism that would make you think it would increase your value.
Regarding the previous two statements… If we assume this is an active world of groups like being described, there will need to be some kind of value exchange between groups. So even if money in the standard sense as defined in capitalism isn’t there to define value, some kind of information and resource trades would still exist. There are more complex problems now that we number in the billions, and how we would manage the interrelation of the smaller groups and the exchanges between them is a completely different consideration. This deconstruction illustrates the more basic group dynamics of the tribe/community/family. A different look will be required to understand how to navigate relationships between groups. To add to this thought, cryptocurrencies are what looks to be the most likely candidate for real trustless and decentralized exchanges of value outside of the community. Solutions are already being built that can effectively handle this task.
In case you didn’t keep the idea in your mind while reading, all the ideas proposed are under the requirement that the group does absolutely have to stay within Dunbar’s number. There is no great option otherwise without incurring the problems inherent in scale. We were not built for a social life that includes thousands, millions, or billions, under any singular rule or dogma, while also having realistic feedback mechanisms that offer real democratic interactions. What we are sold as “democracy” and “freedom”, are nothing more than marketing jargon sold as truth, which are fundamentally incapable of bringing human fulfillment to the table. Now back to the topic, and one of the harder ones to really grasp…
What we are sold as “democracy” and “freedom”, are nothing more than marketing jargon sold as truth…
The Problem with Privacy
There is no privacy! This one is very hard to get when you come from the world we are currently in. It sounds invasive. But we are forgetting what privacy is for. It’s to protect the value of our property from exploitation by others, either individuals or more so the state. It depends first on the idea that value comes from the unequal distribution of resources. Privacy allows us to believe we are safe from being taken advantage of. But it would be antithetical to connected interdependence. It follows the same logic as illustrating the problems in hoarding wealth or resources in general, is antithetical and even hostile to open communication, and breeds dysfunction. It divides the connections for the sake of safety, which makes no sense in a group that derives their “safety” from the connections.
Other aspects of privacy that are hard to understand are rooted in the cultural conditioning that leads to ideas like shame. Shame is the result of not conforming to some codified rule and being determined transgressive. Even the desire to be transgressive is rooted in feeling alienated and wanting to break out and find a connection. These things are all efforts to create solutions for problems that only exist when we live the way we do now. When we feel like we have to hide to protect ourselves from judgment, we create the problem we are trying to solve-to be free to be who we are. In a post-emergent culture, we are not free to be who we are, so we hide and create the very alienation that requires the privacy we need to not be exploited and judged. It’s a vicious cycle and would never even have a place to manifest to begin with when everyone is fully interdependent.
The abuse in the home by the father or mother who felt alienated as a child so then takes it out on their nuclear model family in privacy would never even have a chance to exist. No years of molestation or mental abuse, or guilting or shaming would happen as the entire community would be there to feedback on the actions and prevent the abuses from happening in the first place.
It would be a difficult thing to transition into coming from a world where privacy is essential for survival, but not at all hard for a person who grew up in it. And people, as a general rule, do prefer not to feel pain, so all of the other people there to give active feedback would respond to the problems *as they are happening* to rectify the issues of feeling the things that would lead to the transgressions before they even had a chance to develop. No abusers hiding behind their strong beliefs in privacy. No serial killers with deviant tendencies slowly developing their taste for hurting others. All of these things would be spotted very early through the active interdependent interests of all involved, and would not foster massive negatives due to feelings of alienation. If there were very problematic extremes to deal with, it would be caught very early, and choices could be made collectively, where everyone shares the “responsibility of choice” made, of how to deal with it, together.
While there is no luxury of hard choices being deferred to authority that isn’t accountable, like it is in our current systems, there also isn’t being left alone in those choices when the hard things come up and have to be dealt with. Plus, nature has given us people that are better at following through with some of those choices than other people would be. I’ll go into that at a different point so as not to derail this.
You don’t need therapy or counseling in any traditional sense when you live surrounded by people you are interdependently connected to in non-alienating ways where issues are in the open and nobody is holding in their emotional baggage building up resentments and mental “illnesses” because they have no release for living in a world that doesn’t care about them.
Even the nuclear family model of a couple trying to be there for every single need a single other person has, along with children, can never be enough. But a community of support, with those doing what they are best suited to do, is more than enough, and precludes the occurrence of almost any kind of mental illness or problem that isn’t deeply pathological.
So… Name a problem or a method of control that you think is required in the ways the world has defined its current societies and cultures. Think of how that problem would be dealt with if you were connected to and personally knew every single person in your community, deeply. How many of those problems would even exist to begin with? If they did come up, under what circumstances would you require an external authority to deal with it?
Once you have your head wrapped around the nature of these kinds of connections it’s highly doubtful you’ll be able to name any problems that will not automatically just be accounted for by the nature of the connections. It’s a good exercise actually. It does a lot to illustrate how screwed up the societies we live in now and have for most of history actually are. It’ll really make you think again about calling anything about our current way of living “advanced”. What we have normalized to in our current societies and cultures, is effectively a kind of pathological dysfunction of disconnection from a life full of the constant potential for real fulfillment.
Where we could be united, we are divided. Where we could be free to express vulnerability as strength, we treat it as weakness; further entrenching the alienation that makes us powerless and denies us the fulfillment of expressing our full potential. We live as prisoners of gods, governments, institutions, and cultures which have deemed us expendable resources to be exploited and used to support the survival of power that does not have our best interests in mind. There is no method available in our current models of governance that can ever be as effective as a fully interdependent collective tribe can be. Where oversight and accountability are a basic function of the system itself, and not a top-down control designed not to help you reach your potential, but use your energy to feed ways of controlling you.
And it isn’t about malevolence. It’s not simply bad actors trying to cause harm. It is that there is no method of control that works in a universe that doesn’t offer it as an option. Nature optimized all of the methods that actually work over millions of years of evolutionary time, and humans rejected them under the delusion that they had a better way of doing it. Society is a failure model, fundamentally. It accelerates growth at a cost to connection, and uses control where it was never needed. As it cannot actually work properly, it continually seeks more and more ways to control for its own failures. It cannot help but become more and more oppressive the harder it tries to fix the problems it creates. It cannot work. Not for moral reasons, or somebody’s vision of desired outcomes, but because it is a practical impossibility.
We have always had the model for social existence that will work, does work, and requires zero extra layers of control to work. Through connected interdependence, we already have the model that leads to fulfilling lives without alienation. But as history has shown, we’ve tried extremely hard to reject our own nature and to believe we were above it. And the result is apparent in a world that is currently collapsing under the weight of its own attempts to live by domination and control.
This isn’t philosophy. This is natural law. No attempts to live outside our nature will succeed. The harder we try to fix the problems of control with more control, the bigger and harder the collapse will be.
Going back to the tribe is the answer. The hard question we have now is how to get there from here; how to dismantle all of the structures of power we’ve created over the last few thousand years. And how to take advantage of the differing technologies we have developed in the meantime to bring about an age of prosperity never possible before.
As this blog has evolving ideas, and as the presentation will be refined as I learn how to better structure the narrative to make it more understandable, I will be adding an extra bit that will be integrated later. The next section is one of those additions that completely relates, but doesn’t have a place yet.
Interesting systems concept on limiting tribal size to Dunbar’s number… When you include the idea that by increasing the birth output of any given tribe, will end up eventually meaning that the tribe will have to split at some point, I’d tend to think the urge to have a lot of children might be organically curbed. Sure it would happen, but splitting the tribe would be a hard process, and I think people might be inclined to only have the appropriate amount of children necessary to replace the population instead of always growing it. Natural feedback.
A way to account for population growth would, of course, be to have an inter-tribal setup that builds new tribes from the remainders of the ones that don’t curb birth rates. It would be easier to adapt to this knowing that it would be the outcome, especially when you start to hit the upper limit (near 200). Then making the choice to grow anyway would be making the choice to send your kids off to form a new tribe, separate of you. I think the potential for loss might act as its own natural feedback resistance to high birth rates. Obviously, other considerations exist that sidestep the issue when needed.
As always, seek the feedback mechanisms that organically create the necessary balance and avoid using codified rules to secondarily build in the oversight. The point in avoiding post-emergence in cultural expression is nullified by exceeding Dunbar’s number and begins to create the top-down infrastructure that gives us the problems we have now in all large societies.
The structural systems understanding is pragmatic and organic, not dogmatic. Allowing the number to grow while in the same tribe will automatically create the dogma and control systems that lead to post-emergent “states”.
I have a part 3 published as a bunch of context came to mind due to some conversations I’ve been having lately in different places. In the next one, we talk a bit about how we got here, and how the development of power has created the conditions of our inability to reconcile the conflicts we have between our mind and emotions: https://binary-chaos.net/blog/the-broken-world-part-3/