[FoRK] Chart of the Day...

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Thu Jun 10 08:33:40 PDT 2010

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 5:19 AM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> That is more or less what I was alluding to, although I would never call it
> communes and I would never advocate running with that mindset either.
> Although shooting for roughly the same goals of overall cost and stress
> efficiency is the idea.  Aggressively lean, aggressively competitive with
> feedback, highly unstable stability with constant innovation and graceful
> turnover.

So, uh.. capitalist communes.  Actually, you mention company towns, which
are also a pretty similar idea (albeit again at a smaller scale), except you
want to avoid the monopoly situation (which I aimed to do by organizing the
corp such that it is at least mostly member-owned).

I would aggressively avoid and subvert most kinds of clustering in any
> physical or strict social sense beyond family.  Think corporate, government,
> or military mixing based on accomplishing something, meritocracy (in
> movement, assignments, privilege), etc.

I certainly get where you're coming from, and there is some definite danger
in homogenizing, but given certain groups' tendency to naturally cluster,
and various cultural differences, it might be beneficial to the corp
(although not necessarily to society) to have clustering at least in some
places, especially since it'd be an additional attraction.  Some examples of
groups that would likely be pro-clustering are traditionalist-style
religious groups (Mormons, some Muslims, maybe certain Jews),
environmentalists (look at the various "green communities" already in
existence), vegans, academics... in general, any group that is "underserved"
by normal society and that would benefit from a town set up to serve their
needs.  There would also be some efficiency benefits, especially for groups
with dietary or other restrictions on their day-to-day life.

I don't think of the organization as being strictly inside or outside.

No, it shouldn't be either.  The problem with communes (in the small living
group, 1960s sense) is that they are too internal, and social squabbles tear
the thing apart.  The problem with company towns is that they are too
external, and have lots of monopoly problems.  (Okay, both of these have
other major problems, but these are quite big ones.)

My idea is to start with a more or less normal culture with some tweaks that
> are effected by special ownership, rental, employment, educational, and
> other contracts, rules, regulations, social norms, and principles that are
> allowed to rapidly evolve.  An interesting challenge, and perhaps the main
> challenge is to get people to operate in the most enlightened, efficient
> ways even as most of them are still being educated and often refusing to
> operate differently.  The main recourse might be to eject those who refuse
> to play well.

Yeah, sounds good.  Speaking of "rapidly evolv"ing, I think something like
this could be "evolved" into existence.  I started my premise as a health
insurance company providing cheap, healthy food to customers; that's
something that could reasonably happen  without any planning of the sort I
talked about going on.  Due to distribution costs, prices would tend to
favor those living in certain areas.  That itself probably wouldn't drive
these communities to exist, but imagining that the food thing was
successful, it's not too hard to imagine that the health insurance company
would provide gyms, with health insurance discounts if you participate.
 Then they might work in closer collaboration with certain doctors, giving
discounts if you do your regular checkups and participate in preventative
care.  Assuming they passed on these efficiency savings to customers, these
could quickly become compelling reasons to live somewhere particular.  Once
you've already got "efficiency clusters" in certain areas, it seems like a
natural idea would be to provide some sort group housing type situation (at
this stage I'd imagine it as being a bit like college living, albeit with
thicker walls and bigger living spaces) oriented toward those on the lower
end of the income spectrum--which would be profitable both because you could
provide services more efficiently, and because by passing on those savings
you could enable them to afford better health care, thus lowering your
costs.  Etc.

Actually, I can't think of a better place to start than from a health
insurance company, at least in theory.  Nobody else has as much  incentive
to keep you in good health, and with such built-in scale.

Perhaps the way to bootstrap it is to create a "company town", but one with
> copyleft-like agreement judo and similar shared-responsibility ownership of
> things, responsibilities, and consequences.  Perhaps a useful motto might
> be: "Take care of yourself, take care of others, do something useful and
> beautiful."  Not "take care of others" as in socialism or paternalism, but
> as in "pay it forward" and similar.  Just creating a place for people to
> exist is likely to be doomed.  You need to make self-improvement and
> goal-seeking intrinsic with running and being in the place.  That includes
> making it easy and hard to avoid, rather than how, for many people in many
> places, it is pretty much the opposite: be the human robot for work, etc.
>  And actively weed out those who are downers.

Another benefit of the health insurance setup; you can incentivize large
classes of self-improvement monetarily, since it's also beneficial to the
corp's bottom line.  You can make having a job even between "real" jobs
easy, by offering employment at certain jobs in the community, or doing

I feel like you could probably operate these even without a goal-oriented
philosophy at all locations, just given the efficiency, but making them
goal-oriented would certainly help.  The problem is that you have a lot of
different people with a lot of different kinds of goals, and a lot of the
time location plays a major part.  (For instance, if you're a ladder
climbing type you wouldn't be well served at a community in the middle of
nowhere.)  The "themed" communities I was talking about could help with
this, and was one of the reasons I mentioned them--since tighter groups tend
to have some sort of goal in mind, thus clustering them could help them to
better achieve those goals, and thus the cluster serves as an attraction to
the community.

As for "weeding out downers"--how would you even go about that?  Hard to
judge, for one (what about the depressed with lots of potential if treated,
your typical brilliant recluses, people who work primarily on their own,
introverts, people that just need a kick in the butt, or even people that
just value their own time highly enough to avoid "work" but who are still
productive in ways not directly visible), and it's a bit problematic to kick
people out of their homes.  I agree you should certainly try to make it easy
to improve yourself/be productive and hard to avoid--and this sort of
community seems well-placed to do so--but if you start booting people you're
gonna piss people off, probably enough to counteract the vibe or whatever
you're trying to maintain. and in the health insurance version you're sort
of counteracting your goal, which is to get people to live more healthily
and lower your costs.  In fact, people that would probably get judged as
"downers" would likely be a big market for these sorts of places, since they
would allow them to lower costs (and thus spare them work) instead of
increasing their money.  Much better, I think, to just incentivize good

Jebadiah Moore

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