Is There an Upper Limit to Community Size?

By SkinnerCrypto | Magic and Lasers | 1 Feb 2023

Well, hello there errybody! I've been away for a bit. Real life sucks, guys. BUT I'm back to continue my increasingly idealistic enterprise to see exactly where we go next! ALSO I just finished Chapter 2 of Community Cybernetics if you wanna take a look-see. I showed it to my patrons first (JOIN ME!) but now you get to see it. Check it out at this Google Drive Link Here! It's a rough draft of course, so mind the bits and pieces that still need t be polished.

Today I'm talking about something that I believe is really important and was in large part brought about by my Anarchist-In-Chief SirGirardThe1st, a reader and a gentleman. FOLLOW HIM and learn how eschewing contemporary governmental structures might be right for you. Don't talk to your doctor about it. Neither Gerard nor I are responsible for your rectal bleeding.


Play Sexy Games, and Sometimes the Prizes are Stupid. Be Careful.

All due respect to my friend, I don't necessarily ascribe to anarchism, though I see the value of Anarchist thought. I'm definitely not biased towards governmental control. There is some nuance I believe should be enumerated to understand why.

Government (or in this case, the root "govern") is, strangely enough, etymologically related to cybernetics. To quote Etymonline:

late 13c., "to rule with authority," from Old French governer "steer, be at the helm of; govern, rule, command, direct" (11c., Modern French gouverner), from Latin gubernare "to direct, rule, guide, govern" (source also of Spanish gobernar, Italian governare), originally "to steer, to pilot," a nautical borrowing from Greek kybernan "to steer or pilot a ship, direct as a pilot," figuratively "to guide, govern" (the root of cybernetics). The -k- to -g- sound shift is perhaps via the medium of Etruscan. Intransitive sense from 1590s. Related: Governed; governing.

This is pretty interesting because the field of Cybernetics deals with the communication and control of systems, specifically how we can create stable systems of all kinds. It's a transdisciplinary science that helps us understand the world with a systems view, but also tells us what exactly it means for a system to have regulation.

Of course, the first thing a lot of people think of when they hear the terms "control" or "regulation" is some stuffy, clinical bureaucratic monolith that imposes upon the liberties of its people. I'm here to tell you that contemporary government isn't some separate "other", but merely a special case of systemic regulation.

What in Merlin's Balls Does This Even Mean? GIBBERISH, I SAY!

Actually, you might be right. I have actually retrofitted my keyboard to produce text when I flatulate, and the patent is pending. The rest of the time, it's violent self-harm in the form of banging my head against the keyboard to make words. Either way you slice it, I understand the sentiment because I used to believe it too. There's either government, or there isn't... right?

Well, maybe not. A system can be defined in many ways, but the way I like to do it is with set theory. A System is a set of interacting parts that may be "atomic" or indivisible for all intents and purposes, or an array of these "atomic" parts organized in some form of "sub-system". The actual exercise of getting down to the nitty gritty of systems becomes more difficult the further down the "level of analysis" path we go, but we can say at some point, we don't hit a downward directed, infinite regression of turtles. This is a philosophical position I hold, but I hold it for pragmatic reasons.

Consider Conway's Game of Life. We have a system with a particular number of members, and each of these members can hold a particular state, namely "on" or "off", "live" or "dead". In addition to this "Universe" we made, there are also additional rules in place that directs the behavior of the members:

1.) Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if by underpopulation.

2.) Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.

3.) Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overpopulation.

4.) Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

When you add these... "ontological qualities" to our little system, order emerges. It's actually pretty goddamn cool to watch in action:



(Side Note on this image: It's supposed to MOVE but it isn't. Check out this LINK to IMGUR to see it in motion)

What should this tell us? Well, life and OUR Universe runs in much a similar way, though FAR more complicated than this. Our system, by virtue of existing has regulation and order as a natural consequence. It emerges from the very system itself. This applies to us as well: Societal systems are not in a vacuum. Rules emerge, and by their emergence, regulation occurs. Ever been thirsty? That's because your body is following the rules of the game to signal your brain to say "WATER, BITCH". I've felt that way many times. This is homeostasis, which is a fancy cybernetic term for regulating dynamic stability.

Point is, and my guy Gerard would likely agree that Anarchism is not about the abolition of regulation, but perhaps a more enlightened way of understanding it. Regulation exists no matter what we do, and it is incumbent upon human civilization to find a way to make that work better, because the current way we do it (with TRADITIONAL GUBBMINT™) has incredible flaws. On that, we might agree. BUT there is something else we can agree upon which is common in anarchist circles, and that is the question of Community Size. In a sentence, how large must a community system become before it is impractical to regulate it or have meaningful coordination? Gerard, and many anarchists before him would probably say not too terribly big.

And you know what? I AGREE! Agreement is good, and the world needs more of it. Smoetime's you just have to un-clusterfuck the details to really get down to the agreement. Or, in less base terms: Re-analyze the terms and concepts we understand to achieve a new synthesis.

In this article, I'm not REALLY talking about government or anarchism because as I see it, it is simply exchanging one type of regulation for another. In effect, government or no government, that's what we are dealing with. So, what scheme of organization of people groups would lend itself to the facilitation of regulation while maximally ensuring the liberties of those involved?

This isn't merely a question of social behavior, but also that of political leaning and for every view on the subject matter, there are a thousand more that disagree. In such a state of affairs, how do we determine the right measures? We can't sit around all day navel gazing. Surely there is a way. I believe I might have a potential solution. But to understand this, we must first look at Loci of Regulation.

What The Hell is Loci of Regulation?

I went over this in a previous article where I discussed this concept in relation to Centralization and Decentralization. I also refined it at the end of my book in Chapter 2. Essentially, the members of a system (In this context I'm referring to its elements per set theory) can have a particular number of "powers" or "states" which can be instantiated by the member. In a situation where one member holds all the "states" and no others do, we call this Perfect Centralization. In a situation where all members hold an equal number of states is called Perfect Decentralization. The point is that ALL systems can never be perfectly centralized or decentralized, but certainly can have some aspect of each, or tend toward one end of the spectrum or another. This is Loci of Regulation.

If you really look closely at Loci of Regulation, you see that it is ultimately a problem of optimization between the latency of action of a system and the redundancy of a system. For example, if you get all your energy from say, one or two large power plants (Looking at YOU, Texas), then you'll see hat there are very few points of failure in the system. The tradeoff is that decision making can be made relatively quickly. In a decentralized system, Redundancy is prioritized over latency of decision making. For example, if every house or local community in Texas had their own means of energy production, one power plant outage won't negatively affect large swaths of the system. However, if changes need to be made across the board, you must spend more time getting agreement from all the parties/stakeholders involved.

This isn't merely an optimization problem limited to social organization or electrical grids, but also one of biology. If an animal had all of its organs work in some decentralized fashion, the latency of decision making could mean life and death. The redundancy of a such a body plan might be great, but in the end, it wouldn't matter if all the organs had to organize and deliberate on whether running from a vicious lion was a good idea. Sure, you can take off a limb, but the rest of the body can compensate.

On the other end of the spectrum, a wholly centralized organism might be able to react quickly to danger, but if it fails, then it comes across the issue of the centralized decision-making system becoming compromised, thereby shutting down the whole thing.

The question is, which one is best? There is no "one-size fits all" solution to this problem, though the principles themselves can be used to design much more efficient systems of any kind. One of these attempts is the Viable System Model, which I could go into detail here, but you can read it in Chapter 2 of my book, as well as the Wikipedia Link Here, which is a good starting point for learning more. If you're REALLY interested, I'd recommend picking yourself up a copy of Brain of the Firm For more information. I guarantee it will be one hell of a read. Also, that's an affiliate link. You get something kickass, and I get a little cut to further my endeavors.

When looking at systems that find optimize between centralization and decentralization, my go-to example is the octopus. They have things figured out with their Loci of Regulation. Only a portion of the neurons in an octopus are located in its brain. TWO-THIRDS of their neurons are in their eight arms. These arms are able to carry out particular actions without any input from the central brain. Their decision-making equipment is this "Centralized Decentralization", which in my model puts it somewhere in the middle of Loci of Regulation. The viable system as a general model applies to octopi's neuroanatomy in much the same way as it applies to ours, which is much more centralized in comparison.

What should this tell us? Any effective system of social organization must be optimized in this way. How much variety can a single social system endure before it becomes cumbersome? How many associations of individuals in a single group is too much? These are open questions, but I think that minimization of the number of managed people is important for both interpersonal relations between those people and the management of their societal system as a whole. I think the Viable System Model provides us with a way to manage this effectively through its use of recursive structures. Every viable system in and of itself consists of other viable systems. I could see a structure where there is a meaningful "central influence" that subtly interplays with distributed networks of influence throughout its recursions, and there are several "levels" of recursion that is both compatible with its topmost level as well as its bottommost. Something like this:


Oooh, Fancy!

Each level is based on "manageable size", where "top level" directives are the most general which all recursive systems "below" agree to follow. These directives delve not into minutia or sweeping (and potentially oppressive) policy, but essentially the "Foundational Ethos" of organization, which is then carried forward in greater detail as our levels of recursion approach the person, or individual within. Each level is in and of itself a viable system, which is composed of viable systems until we reach the individual.

One might think once we reach the individual level, we are placing quite a lot of directives and "rules", but I would stress this is not as it might appear to be. The top levels are not established by fiat, but rather emerge from the levels below. For example, we build one community, and with success, we build another in a local area. Once we reach say, 5 communities, then a "local group" has emerged. These all share the same generalized values which were endemic in the establishment of the respective communities, and propogates these values through the action of creating new communities, which form ore groups.

The local groups created then create an emergent "coordinated groups" structure, and the coordinated groups together comprise the Coordinated Conglomerate. Throughout each of these establishments, the original ethos for community flows from the individual to the whole. Creating this Ethos and operations is the project of my book, and I call this constructive scheme "outward recursion".

In short, it begins with you and me and the community we establish, based on the values laid out. Then, it grows from there, each level painstakingly integrated into the viable system as we go.

We can also see that each level has particulars it might manage, but all of this goes though the same voting process as we see on a community level. Technology has granted us fast communication, and from this point we can take the pulse of the people on any given level.

If one can get enough people to agree on the ethos as laid out by say, my book, then community establishment is possible. If successful, then it will serve as a beacon of hope for more individuals who wish to render the current system obsolete. If they are unconvinced, by our fruits, we shall compel them. Not by the sword, or even by the pen, but by the practical results of wellbeing for all. It's hard to look at the sun (duh) and deny its effects over time.

So should the Cybernetic Community be; we are not the slaves of a clinical bureaucracy or an oppressive authoritarian regime as in a lion's share of Humanity's past, but a new synthesis which prioritizes the development of people over all else. That's the goal, at least, and maybe my anarchist counterparts can see the wisdom in coordination without oppression.

Idealism at its finest? Maybe. But it wouldn't be a value I'd freely part with. But let me know what YOU think.

And subscribe to Gerard because he kicks the most ass.


How do you rate this article?



I'm a futurist, cryptocurrency enthusiast, techie, artist and aspiring land surveyor. I like to solve problems. Part Time Ginger Asshole with an Opinion. I have some ideas for a planned community.

Magic and Lasers
Magic and Lasers

This blog is dedicated to the talk of Cryptocurrency topics, Futurism, Technology, And the general rantings of a Bearded Ginger Internet Assmaster. Enlightenment is possible here, but humor comes standard with every purchase.

Send a $0.01 microtip in crypto to the author, and earn yourself as you read!

20% to author / 80% to me.
We pay the tips from our rewards pool.