Interesting Reads – July 28, 2013

Turning the Herd, by Albert Bates

“…We are a herd species and our herd is galloping towards a cliff. Salvaging hope has to do with finding some wayward lead animals who are running oblique to the cliff’s edge and trying to persuade other members of the herd to follow them, in hopes that collectively it may actually slow momentum or even reverse direction of the herd, or at worst, save a few animals from being swept over.

We might think of these as “seed” experiments — complimentary currencies, ecovillages, “cool” stoves, and non-violent methods of conflict transformation — as the fringe of society but they are actually the leading edge of our inevitable future, if we are to have one…”

Dunbar’s Number (Wikipedia Entry)

“Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150.”

Communities that Abide – Part 1, by Dmitri Orlov

[Contextualizing Dunbar’s Number]

“…Thus, larger groups are, by their very nature, less efficient, squandering resources on organizational maintenance, which smaller groups avoid. The number 150 is ubiquitous. It is the typical size of a farming village, the splitting point for a Hutterite colony, the ideal size for a military unit, and (in my experience) the point at which a tech start-up company ceases to be a start-up, becoming burdened with layers of middle management, human resources specialists, marketing and other corporate bloat. Even at Dunbar’s number, cohesion requires that 42% or so of the time be devoted to “social grooming.”

It is important to note that even at such small numbers a well-designed community can provide everything its members need: housing, nutrition, education, medicine, entertainment, companionship, social security and, perhaps most important of all, a sense of belonging. To people who live with the feeling that they belong to a cohesive community, where each member puts the interests of the whole ahead of their own individual interest, this is an incredible source of power…”

Megabank Ownership of Tangible Assets: Congressional Letter to Federal Reserve, by Representatives Grijalva, Grayson, Conyers and Ellison

“…Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley are no longer just banks – they have effectively become oil companies, port and airport operators, commodities dealers, and electric utilities as well. This is causing unforeseen problems for the industrial sector of the economy…there is a significant macro-economic risk in having a massive entity like, say JP Morgan, both issuing credit cards and mortgages, managing municipal bond offerings, selling gasoline and electric power, running large oil tankers, trading derivatives, and owning and operating airports, in multiple countries.

Such a dramatic intertwining of the industrial economy and supply chain with the financial system creates systemic risk, since there is effectively no regulatory entity that can oversee what is happening within these sprawling global entities…”

Prometheus Among the Cannibals, by Rebecca Solnit

“…what I am also saying is that we now live in a world of us and them, a binary world.  It’s not the old world of capitalism versus communism, but of the big versus the little, of oligarchy versus democracy, of hierarchies versus swarms, of corporations versus public interest and civil society.

It seems nearly worldwide now, which is why revolts all over the planet have so much in common these days, why Occupy activists last month held up signs in New York’s Liberty Plaza in solidarity with the uprising in Taksim Square in Turkey; why Arab Spring activists phoned in pizza orders to the uprising in Wisconsin in early 2011; why Occupy spread around the world, and Greek insurrectionaries learned from the successes of Argentina in the face of austerity and economic collapse. We know our fate is common and that we live it out together and change it together, only together…”


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One Response to Interesting Reads – July 28, 2013

  1. Ellen Dannin says:

    Very interesting and thought-provoking ideas. It would be interesting and instructive to compare the benchmarks and effects described in the post with how the spring creek homesteading community operates. How does its existence as part virtual and part person-to-person affect its operation?

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