An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: sociology (Page 1 of 3)

Dunbar’s Law and Economic Relationships

On page 306 of Scale, Geoffrey West discusses Dunbar’s Law and its implication for human social networks. To summarize this law: it claims that humans have multiple levels of bonding strength. At the lowest level a human will have around five connections of the strongest type of friendship and intimacy. Typically this would include some members of one’s family or a best friend. At the next level there are around fifteen connections that are not as strong as the first level, but are still firm. This would include close friends you might talk to on a daily or weekly basis. At the next level there are about fifty connections… and so on… The numbers of connections scales by tripling the connections at each higher level. In the book the levels are labeled as: 1) Kin, 2) Super-family 3) Clan, 4) Tribe, and 5) Strangers.

When I first read this in Scale, I was immediately reminded of David Graeber’s anthropological work regarding economic relationships among humans. In his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Graeber observes on page 99-100 that baseline communism (sharing) follows a similar structure. Thus, using the terminology from above: At the kin level Graeber notes that there is much sharing between members and the relationship is baseline communism. Thus, you can extend this and map these economic relationships with those of Dunbar’s Law: 1) Kin (~5 people) : Almost all sharing with very little debt or IOU, 2) Super-family (~15 people) : IOU with a good amount of sharing, 3) Clan (~ 50 people) : Mostly IOU and little sharing, and 4) Tribe (~150 people) : Almost entirely IOU with very little sharing. Anything outside the tribe would be exchange via a cash medium except in rare occasions, such as a child falling in front of an on-coming vehicle (a person would naturally share his strength to save the child’s life). Although I may not have followed Graeber’s observations exactly I find this train of thought to be interesting as it requires one to rethink the concept of currency, exchange, and economic relationships. Indeed, Graeber’s book challenges the entire paradigm of the historical development of currency and debt by analyzing the anthropological record.

The Quigley Formula – G. Edward Griffin Lecture

Oh!? you believe in conspiracy?… What are you, a conspiracy theorist of some kind? Well, I am certainly not a conspiracy ‘theorist’ … When people take that position I have to laugh… because I feel sorry for them, they obviously never read a history book. Because anyone who knows anything about history knows that it’s built on conspiracies — from one end to the other. Conspiracy is the engine of history! Every major event in history, when you examine it, has come to pass largely as a result of at least one, and in many cases many conspiracies. And it goes on today.

Politics and Vision – Sheldon Wolin

After watching Chris Hedges’ interview with Sheldon Wolin, I desired to read Wolin’s books. Democracy Incorporated provided a creative perspective with which to interpret recent American political and social events. Upon completion, I had an urge to continue extracting the political ideas of Wolin and I concluded that the best way to do this would be to jump into the deep end and open his book, Politics and Vision. Not only do I now have incredible respect for his ideas but I also feel that he has broadened my personal awareness of my place in society and history. There are criticisms I have toward the content (exclusively focused on “European/American”), but they are rather minimal in scope compared to the benefits any reader would gain by reading it thoroughly. I would say that Politics and Vision, as time progresses, will turn out to be one of the most important books I have ever read.

Thoughts – Autocosmocracy

Order can exist without a hierarchy, yet I constantly confront the word anarchy in contexts which assume its manipulated definition of disorder. This association degrades the ideas of political anarchists. To remedy this issue, I propose a new word:

Autocosmocracy – a form of society in which the political relations between its members, without the aide of any hierarchical institution, continually gives rise to a self-organized society. A continuously existing society without a higher power structure; a system where authority lies in the absolute freedom of the individual. All members are autonomous agents.

The world of the biologist is filled with organisms which are self-organized. In the natural sciences there are numerous phenomena in which order arises out of agents acting autonomously. Is not man himself a biological creature in the physical world?

Imagine a hypothetical situation where the form of civilization is an autocosmocracy — all individuals completely autonomous, bound by no institution. I would postulate that inevitably, after a certain number of generations, the civilization would form groups due to scarcity; and that these distinct groups will form their own government. These new groups will throw away the autocosmocratic forms and create novel political frameworks in order to achieve various goals. For instance, there is great dominating strength in having a mass of brutish men who will obey all commands unquestioningly. In other words, in an initial state of complete freedom and liberty, humans will group and band together. It can be shown mathematically that this will be the equilibrium state. Those individuals who fail to join a group will be out competed or destroyed by those who do join a group.

A similar situation occurs in the distributed cryptocurrency mining networks. This system, which is initially distributed with all individual miners acting autonomously, inevitably transforms into a network of groups due to competition and scarcity. So the natural question arises: how to prevent the formation of such groups in the presence of scarcity? Or is it a better question to ask how to eliminate scarcity?

In terms of Plato’s cave of shadows, it would be a society in which all members are able to discover the source of the shadows. All members would exist as philosopher kings.

Steps to an Ecology of Mind – Gregory Bateson

The papers, essays, and lectures contained in Steps to an Ecology of Mind showcase Gregory Bateson’s incredibly unique perspective. Due to the wide range of discussion within this collection, it is very difficult to write a concise summary. There are a few points which made a lasting impact in my mind.

He explains the levels of learning and how the animal mind can “learn about learning” and “think about thinking”; concerning humans – they can reach a third and possibly fourth level in this learning recursion hierarchy. He discusses this in the context of various subjects: anthropology, psychology, evolution, information, ecology, cybernetics and epistomoglogy in general.

He emphasizes that western science should adjust the way it thinks about relationship and form and discusses how these are relavant to the study of matter and energy. He questions the western conception of mammalian emotions, aesthetics, and the ego-self. On several occasions I found myself with the desire to re-read Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. Both books I think contain some overlap in their treatment of information and the mind. Overall, Bateson was an incredible thinker and you will improve your intellect by reading this collection of work.

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