Again a post about the group of themes involving society models, autarchy, community, the power community idea, technology for all that, and more. The pieces are coming together now … but slowly.

Here is the problem that has to be solved: it is the one and only, the universal problem of humankind. The problem of how to lead your life. (Of yourse, there is a second, even more important problem: getting to know God; this is tackled in the Second Acts series of blog posts, while we keep here with the earth-bound stuff.) Leading life on earth is quite a difficult thing … for some people it is impossible (those who starve to death etc.), for some it is hard (those in the developing world), for some it is boring and lonely (those in the developed world).

Here is the latest solution idea:

There should be a mid-sized (50-150 people) monastery-style community of hackers anywhere in the developing world. That community gets around loneliness by close monastic living, doing so much together. And it gets around the problems of money-induced captivity, loneliness and mind-dullness (all by the “normal” professional occupation) by being autarchic. Where autarchy is here a quite radical concept, including food supply and even medical treatment. That is because to live freely, one has to avoid close coupling to the captivating, exploiting forces in the rest of society (which is always done by money), and to avoid handling money one needs to avoid also buying food and paying health insurance, pension insurance and the like. It would save some money, however, by community integrated companies, for emergency situations and for buying stuff that really cannot be made oneself. Such a thing has to be started in a developing area, as existing on very little money is possible there because it is the norm (cheap food available, free living space in squatter areas, no complex conditions to meet … perfect for a startup). Another major problem that would be solved by such a community is the ever-increasing complexity of highly-civilized societies, where one regulation (like “overhaul of the financial regulation system”) chases the other, and concepts are stacked in more and more meta levels above each other. On the contrary, this community would be a “basic building block” of society: all the complexity is within it, but society itself (made from multiple such communities) is very simple; and therefore, very stable; it cannot break down like our current society is always in danger to do, last time in the 2008 financial crisis. Ah, not to forget: monastery has nothing to do with celibacy here; the community would embrace romantic relationships and marriage.

Any of the ideas that wants to build society from communities has this insight at its core: essentially all of human activity is directed to “happy private life”, including work in companies (their products are directed to improve private life, directly or indirectly), health care (which in effect wants to improve peoples private life), government etc.. Now the problem in highly civilized societies is that we gradually started to do all these activities in centralized organizational forms, and then these forms developed a life on their own, demanding more from the individual that they grant. For example, working in companies is normally a highly stressful and demanding thing, leaving nearly no room for creativity, and social and spare time activities … and all this just for the sake of some money. The community ideas do invert such a society, because: if the central thing is private / individual life and well-being, this should be at the center, and all other stuff should be integrated into that, to serve that goal. Unlike now, where the the individual serves the stuff in the form of centralized institutions like government, companies, health insurance etc.. In this inverted society, the formerly small elements (family / community) now include and incorporate the formerly large / superior elements (companies, governing people) because living (community, family, well-being, being creative etc.) is much more important than keeping organizations running.

I think that the time is quite mature for starting such a thing, because all the ingredients have come into existence in recent years:

  • The Internet, as the all-encompassing source of cost-free knowledge, so that the community can learn anything it wants to. The Internet, with its current content, is the most important ingredient!
  • A vibrant do-it-yourself community on the Internet, which has created an awful lot of concepts and techniques for producing stuff in autarchy. For example, see my recent discovery of the fab lab idea.
  • Prototype communities with proven concepts, such as hackerspaces; see my blog post on that.
  • Abundant technology of many sorts; for example, cell phones have been produced in such vast numbers by now that they are essentially ubiquitous and cost-free.
  • Medical knowledge all over the Internet, allowing to learn and practice medicine from that, for free.
  • Globalization in general, and of the markets in particular; which enables people to get also very special items in short time, and to sell across the globe for the remaining monetary needs.
  • Technology for computer supported communication. A power community needs computer support to enable its highly efficient work style. (I wrote my diploma thesis about such stuff.)
  • Open Source Software and Open Content. These are the really free resources to build upon as a community that has no money. And it can give back by handing modification results back to the general public.

 

This is an invention meant to produce, eventually, an island in international waters, to legally found ones own state on it. That’s because of the difficulties of choosing an island for such an endeavour … there is essentially no terra nullius left.

The idea is this: one or more solar powered, autonomous, self-steering, unmanned ships that has an excavator on board that will dig up stones etc. from the sea bed. When full, the ship drives fully automatically to a GPS location for dropping the dirt. It does so night and day, driving within an area that is closed for normal ship traffic. But it also has radar with automated evaluation on board to avoid collisions.

The ship also needs a catapult-type device for unloading the dirt once an area is too flat to float over it, or even is visible as land but needs to be more elevated above sea level.

Of course one would operate these ships in shallow waters, ideally dropping the dirt over something like a sunken atoll or something else that has less than 20m water above it.

And of course, the politically correct way today to reason for this invention is to “help those islands endangered by global warming”. Governments would let rain down the money to build the technology for this … and if not, there is a polemic video to persuade them. Yea, or show them the stories of all these “submerged islands” already existing. And then, after the technology was in use for some years, I would get a chance to rent it for building my own island-state … 🙂

So-called single points of failure “are undesirable in any system whose goal is high availability”; so teaches Wikipedia.

Now, systems for social security are, on the one hand, designed with this in mind: resources that need to be highly available in individual life, such as health care and nutrition, should not depend on the individual’s ability to pay for them, as this would be a SPOF. But on the other hand: in the Western “developed world”, social security systems are central, government based systems, which makes these systems fail if the state fails to pay for them. Which is a very real danger, as can be seen from the German pension insurance, which crashed for demographic and other reasons.

Again, Wikipedia teaches us the principles of reliability engineering to avoid SPOFs: reduced complexity, redundancy, diversity (of implementation), and transparency (Wikipedia article “Single Point of Failure”). All of these are not, or only to a low degree, implemented in these centralized Western social security systems. The extended family was able to perform the task better, as it was a highly redundant system, existing in tens of thousands of instances in a society. However, this type of family does no longer exist in our society.

What to do? How about experimenting with the idea of the “small autarkic community” as a shared risk community. This is not about anonymous insurance, as this is doomed to fraud and inefficiency: it lacks for example tools to really educate and motivate people to lead a more healthy lifestyle. The autarchic community is about the smallest thinkable group that can bear all risks of individual life on its own; which might be about 100 people. They would live in one house together and care for each other in all aspects of the shared risks, like caring for the sick and elderly, supporting the unemployed financially (and emotionally), etc.. One could enter at all times if one is admitted (depending on ones currrent issues, and the ability of the community to bear them, and the number of free places). And one could leave at any time, to switch to a like community at another place or back into government-backed system. But one could not be kicked out of the shared risk community; which is necessary to be a true “social insurance” type of community.

Such a 100-person community could take over other tasks that are simplified by load balancing or risk sharing in a community. Like child care. This would then be called “human crechès“. Yes, why not use this animal concept in human culture also. This is way less expensive than government’s child care units like kindergartens etc.. It can also be implemented in even smaller groups: for example, five families could form a crechè for the time before the parents return from work. Which would mean that from each couple, one person has to take one day off in two weeks to organize the crechè at this family’s home.

The Peter principle says that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” And the higher people get, the more rights (to money, power etc.) they get. Combined, this means exploitation of people on lower levels, who have fewer rights (as we are in a hierarchy, after all). Applications:

  • As hierarchies are found in the economy, they create financial problems. People at the start of their career need to do all the hard work and get very little money for that, and start climbing the ladder that way, while people higher on the ladder exploit them.
  • As hierarchies are found in states and other power constructs, they create problems of power abuse.

IMHO, the problem is the hierarchy itself, not its application. Hierarchy is cool for reducing complexity in technical items, but prone to be abused when applied to social systems.

First of all, thhe concept of national sovereignty in international law should be modified: it should be possible to do “worldwide democratic decisions” on what people are searched for because the committed severe crimes against the international community (like war crimes, genocide etc.). Such decisions can be organized in large intergovernmental organizations like the UN, in “representative democracy style” involving the UN committees. This is of course a very poor approach to world-wide decision making, but other ideas for this are lacking currently. The special thing would be that these searches would be possible without respect of national sovereignty, i.e. it would be internationally accepted (and considered a breach of sovereignty) to arrest such people in states that want to prohibit that. The new idea behind this is that national sovereignty is itself a negotiated concept, and should lose its “God-like” status that it has currently (i.e. total control over a certain part of land). The benefit would be that, if such search statements are issued against heads of state, they could be arrested in their own state without any breach of international law!

What we then need, in addition to that, is “special forces of international police”. They would be trained to execute arrests of such persons that are on these international search lists. And if this involves taking a head of government into capture, this would be done in covert operations, comparable to military operations behind enemy lines, or to secret service captures. Most of the technology for such operations still has to be developed (like capturing people by drones, etc.). The task is always to capture people alive, without hurting anybody, so that they can be brought to justice. The court that has to deal with these cases probably has to be invented also; as the ICC deals only with cases from countries that ratified the statute).

To prohibit power abuse and corruption in these international police special forces, and to get a motivated, powerful, hard-hitting group in this business that will cost many of the contributors their life, the following structure should be used: all members are volunteers; members must go through admission tests, which require extraordinal intelligence and being pure from non-rational / non-sober (mostly extremist) thinking; members undergo a 5 year education that is essentially self-regulated, but where states can contribute lectures; members are trained in this education in reflective thinking and personal decision making; every member is then free to choose, bound only by his or her own conscience, which of the search warrants to carry out; and only this international police special forces would be allowed to carry out these search warrants in the area of sovereigns who want to prohibit that; members of these special forces can organize themselves into small groups to do one or another capture, there is no central military command-and-obey principle at all; also, these people organize and invent their own equipment, the only external contribution is money, which can be paid by states but also by individuals. So perhaps individuals will start to pay for them, and to like doing so, just like it might happen with wikileaks.org or similar organizations that are a counterforce to the abuse of government power.

In the end, this idea can even lead to a new mode of “death-less” war, if applied in larger scale. War is currently an extrajuidical event, in which extrajuidical killings do happen on a regular basis. Which is a bad thing. Instead, every wrongdoer should simply be put before justice. And war should be modified as follows: the army is a group of people trained to capture the wrongdoers of the opposite side, without harming anybody. This could be particular effective in war against Guerilla groups. The principle must be to hold people personally accountable for what they do in war. The technology for this (week-long full stealth operations in enemy-controlled area, capturing by drones etc..) is not yet there, but possible.

Employment is a supra-individual state of an economic system: in a society, people depend on each other, and on infrastructure, to be able to do economic activity. So without other peoples economic activity, and without infrastructure, there is a deadlock: all people wait on other people (the customers) and on infrastructure to be able to start with economic activity. (The fact that modern market economies use counter-cyclical economic politics, investing both in salaries and infrastructure during times of economic crisis, seems to prove this “bad economy by deadlocks” thesis right.)

This does not only relate to total unemployment, but especially to inefficient (subsidizing) employment that only helps to survive, but not to a decent standard of living. Because: survivors need infrastructure to do more efficient economic activity, but for infrastructure to be built it needs money from a flourishing economy, and hence there is again the deadlock situation.

The way around this deadlock would be that government uses taxes to centralize money that can be invested into infrastructure, first in a limited area to get it “running”, and from the outcome of that area the infrastructure in other areas can be built. This is like the re-starting of cells in the electric grid after a total power failure: one cell helps to start its neighbour, and so on.

Government also has the option to build infrastructure by organizing people (like putting them in “labour armies”, as was done in the US during the Great Depression, which also did employ people). And it has the option to gain humanitarian help funds and invest them to build infrastructure. The problem in nations that never emerged out of this economic deadlock (like many African economies) is that government failed in all three points. It wasted its chances to start the economy, and major contributors to this are corruption, fraud and fraudulent conversion of aid funds for private purposes. That way, the “excess resources” that are present even in the poorest economies and could be used to improve the economy by building infrastructure are simply wasted.

Unemployment is also a problem of governments in highly industrialized countries. Here, governments try to force employment by the forced creation of new infrastructure that nobody needs (like environment protection projects of some sorts, esp. climate related). But this just distributes the existing economic resources to more people, so the standard of living falls. Also, large amounts of people in such countries still stay unemployed, as nobody has any interest or vision to create infrastructure for them (the underclass). They are just fed to keep them calm.

Infrastructure that enables economic activity (and hence, employment) includes:

  • Education. This is probably the most important thing: it is the “brain infrastructure”.
    • language
    • trade culture (you need to know what to expect to do trade)
    • collaboration
    • math, physics, sciences of all sorts (as they help to utilize natural resources)
  • grid supply systems
    • electric grid
    • water supply pipelines
    • phone network
    • data connectivity, Internet
    • roads
    • parcel shipment network
    • public security (as criminality hinders economic activity)
  • education system
  • trustable monetary system as the infrastructure to make payments
  • money supply systems to make investments (banks, …)
  • waste management systems
  • necessary supra-individual systems like mining etc.

So we saw that unemployment is never (!) a problem of natural resources, because their lack does not necessarily prohibit the economic development of a region. There are Russian scientific centers in deepest Siberia. Unemployment is always a social problem, a problem of organization of people.

And because it is a social problem, a problem about people on a systemic, supra-individual level, one individual alone cannot solve its own problem of unemployment. The question is now, in light of the government failures outlined above, what is the minimum amount of people, and what are the requirements for their organization, so that they can relief themselves of the unemployment problem? Such a group is called here an “autarkic community with respect to employment”, or simply, an “autarkic community”. Such a community would be able to start other like communities by “divide and multiply”; the hardest job would be, of course, starting the first one, as this starts from zero. Starting from zero is the task of crushing the deadlock situation described above, with the scarce resources one does not need for immediate survival; but this is possible, as it has been performed for example by the “Trümmerfrauen” after WW II: they did the upfront investment of building infrastructure, without getting a direct repayment for this hardest part of all work.

Because all communities would govern themselves, no mismanagement of centralized power can emerge that could damage this economic system again, as it does in mismanaged states. The worst thing would be for individual communities to fail and disband, allowing people to regroup into fresh start-up communities.

A quick outline of on such autarkic community as envisioned here:

  • Approx. 50-100 “economically desparate” people, with 15 being the minimum for such a community to work.
  • At least 15-20% of the members have to be already educated people (“bringing in the brain infrastructure”), but apart from this, no other infrastructure or resources are needed. The education mainly needs to be about organizing people efficiently to do collaborative tasks (e.g. in XC style), and some technical knowledge to make best use of natural resources.
  • The community can start with what they find, even if this is trash, and sleeping outdoors. All of human civilization was built from what lies around (and grows naturally), orchestrated by the power of the brain.
  • To be effective as a self-help for employment (which is the ability to work for improving ones own living conditions), the community has to be independent of government activities like building (or not building, or not maintaining) infrastructure. That is, it has to provide its own infrastructure: own schools, own roads (in the sense of cars that need no roads), own tools, own internal markets, own health system, own security, own electricity, … .
  • To not mess with the government any more than necessary (because corrupt governments tend to hinder the communities economic activity by corruption, high taxes and all sorts of mismanagement, as they do with all the other people): the community should be in a remote, scarcely inhabited area. See inspirations from the post “The monastery as a revived society model“.
  • As with monasteries, long (multi-generation) periods of calm, politically and socially stable conditions really help such communities to build up their infrastructure. Permanent need to re-orient in an ever-changing society structure (like in Western countries) is as adversive here as is war and the like.
  • A system that “all time is worth (and paid) equally” can be established here: it allows people who create infrastructure to accumulate time that can be later exchanged in goods produced with the help of this infrastructure.

This idea is mature if it is possible to jump-start such a community with 15 “organizers” and 85 economically desparate people.

Now this idea might sound much like libertarian economic theory  that advocates a no-regulation area as the best thing for economic activity. But this post is not about libertarian economy, not exactly. Because it acknowledges the organizing role of a government as necessary for people to be able to achieve a good standard of living. But because governments are not fulfilling this task for the unemployed, this is about self-help.

I would even go as far as to say that even the most highly “developed” nations live way belong their potential. Where the potential is the most intelligent, most orchestrated, most efficient, most sustainable solution to the problem of “getting from nature what mankind needs to live”. So that such communities could even be an alternative to economic activity for employed people in such highly developed nations.

A good part of this idea was inspired by me taking part in the foundation of a new company for electronics remanufacturing. It will eventually provide employment (and income to pay for life’s expenses) to all contributors, but it was a really hard task, nearly impossible, to set it up from zero. If this task of setting up the company infrastructure had been just a little harder, we would have been totally locked up in the “no infrastructure deadlock”. So in effect, the communities proposed here are little command economies, those of the smallest possible autarkic size. Where autarkic means that the employment of people does not depend on external parties; while the supply with raw materials may depend on them, as this is regulated by market forces well enough. Command economies have to be small, as the large ones die from the mismanagement present in large governments … .

I should add that the ultimate trigger for this post was an article about economic refugees from Africa: “Attacking Europe’s border fences” from BBC News. And also the first two parts of that story: “Billy’s journey: Crossing the Sahara“. And very especially, the comments from African people to these stories, commenting that Africa’s poverty is mainly because of greed and selfishness of the African leaders. So that I thought again how to help these people in place. But this topic of understanding the reason behind the “lack of work” kept recurring in my thoughts for approx. 2-3 years now, and also the topic of autarkic communities. But up to this post, I never really understood why people are unemployed, and did not have a clue as for the solution.

Now it is no new thing to propose to “build ones country” and “serve ones country” instead of fleeing for economic reasons. But what all these proposals miss is practicability. Because they all focus on individual self-help (which is impossible because the state of economy is a supra-individual problem, as stated above). Somehow these proposals believe, individual self-help would become a “movement” of many individuals, and by that society and economy would be transformed. But exactly in how to become a movement these proposals are silent. Surely not by starting with individual activity. And the idea of the autarkic community presented in this post is exactly about filling this gap of “how”. The autarkic community is large enough to be a “movement” on its own, on the supra-individual level where economy improves; and it is small enough to be feasible (in terms of organizing it bottom-up) and stable (in terms of being robust against the danger of mismanagement and exploitation, which endangers current large and centralized structures like states). It is the working hypothesis of this post that such a medium “size of society” exists which will make a society both economically feasible (and flourishing) and robust. If such a size cannot be found, there would be no hope for human economy in the long term.

The idea in this post can also be put otherwise: the autarkic community is a self-sustaining company (indeed, a micro-economy itself) that does not depend on centralized infrastructure and does not have gain maximization as its goal, but instead an equally well standard of living for all its contributors. Because, gain maximization in capitalist companies is the analogy to exploitation by corrupt regimes: some people get the money, and the others get not what their work is worth. The capitalists that get the money claim that this is their right because they set up all the infrastructure as investors (while their workers get only as much as they could produce without any infrastructure, so keep lacking a good standard of living).

In an article called “Choosing an island” I explored the options which island could be available for building a sovereign micro-state. The islands that are available have all their implications, however … it would be a difficult thing to do. So if we cannot choose an island to live on, then why not on an iceberg? Let’s see:

  • map of iceberg sightings from the International Ice Patrol, around Newfound Land
  • report of an enormous 80x30km iceberg that recently was created in the antarctis
  • general information, also about size and life expectancy, from English Wikipedia and German wikipedia
  • in-depth information about icebergs
  • The English Wikipedia mentions that people camping on icebergs are called “icebergers” [source], but it was impossible to verify that anywhere else on the Internet.
  • Instead of camping on the iceberg, one could also cut a cave in it and live there.
  • The iceberg could be driven by using one or more big kites, like they are now used for large ships.
  • discussion about using icebergs for seasteads (creating ones own country)

And instead of using an iceberg, one could also use an artificial island of any sort: