The democracy of cooperation.

In the previous blog, 2JAN12, I said:

“Our formal democracy seems at present to be pretty much blocked for us. But in all societies there is an informal democracy of communication and cooperation which is much more important and which is the foundation of the formal democracy. Societies don’t work very well without it.  Our system now depends heavily this now worldwide communication and cooperation system.”

What is this “informal democracy of communication and cooperation”?

A number of people join together in order to work toward some goal or goals together. We can call this  a human group or a human organization. The individuals in the group are cooperating, more or less. It is more or less because nothing is perfect, cooperation is rarely 100% however cooperation is measured. Cooperation requires communication among the members of the group. They must all have more or less the same goal or goals. Working together requires communication to coordinate the group members’ activities, their behavior. So cooperation can never be perfect because communication is not perfect since information transfer always has a possibility of error, and understanding of goals will never be 100% alligned. So there are degrees of cooperation.

This then is the democracy of cooperation.

Humans are social creatures. We cooperate, more or less. How did we get this way? We became what we are now through two processes of evolution: biological and cultural, genetic and memetic. The biological, genetic evolution gave us our bodies and basic physical structure. The cultural, memetic evolution gave us our thoughts and ideas. Actually it is not as clearly cut as this because each evolution affected and affects the other. Cultural evolution could only build upon the capabilities biological evolution gave us. But also, cultural evolution fed back on and influenced the biological evolution of our bodies and brains. So it is really only one evolution where the biological, genetic evolution has morphed into the cultural, memetic evolution. Cultural, memetic evolution is occurring vastly faster now than biological, genetic evolution. Cultural evolution has overwhelmed biological evolution.

So, our biological and cultural evolution led to our cooperation in groups. Through science, technology, art — all human activities — cultural evolution continuously adds information and new knowledge for us to use. So our cooperation has much more information to communicate among the individuals in a human group. In a word, our cooperation, how we cooperate, is also evolving. Consider the speed, even the acceleration, of the recent evolution of corporations.

Since in order to cooperate a group of humans must communicate with one another, the size of the group and the locations of the individuals were constrained by the means of communication. For a long time the size of a group of humans working together, cooperating, was limited to that of a family or small number of related families — a clan or tribe — because they had to be able to speak to one another. This also required that the individuals be physically near each other.

Not any more. The individuals in a cooperating human group can be almost anywhere on the surface of the earth (or near earth in space). And the size of a communicating, cooperating group is no longer limited by the distance a single human voice can go before it can no longer be heard by another person. Note the Mic check of Occupy Wall Street. Nor is the locations of the individuals limited by the necessity of being physically close to a speaker.

So every human group has its informal democracy whereby the people in the group vote with their communications, their speech, and their actions, their behavior. Other members of the group receive these communications and observe the behavior of the other members of the group, and then react in one way or another. This ongoing evolving process influences the behavior of the individuals in the group and thus the resultant group behavior toward its goals. This is legitimately a kind of democracy.

Is this informal group democracy a “one person, one vote” system. It would seem to be unless there are some rules, some structure that the members have agreed to that would say otherwise. It is also true that in many even informal groups, some individuals often have more influence than some others. This can occur if some individuals have more or better knowledge about the goals or how to attain them, of if they can communicate better, or if they have more charisma, more charm, or by whatever combination of qualities more people listen to them than they listen to others. Similarly for some copying the behavior of others. Also some individuals for whatever reason do not choose to participate as much as others.

So we have identified two ways in which groups of humans can deviate from what we may call equality of voice or one person, one vote. First there are often leaders and followers. (Notice we can’t separate the two. There can be no leaders without followers. There can be no followers without leaders.) Second, the group may have agreed on some rules, some structures which allow more influence to some members than other members. For example a teacher in a classroom is a leader, the students are followers most of the time; A coach of a sports team is a leader, the players are followers, but also sometimes a player may be also a leader that other players follow; In a company organized in a hierarchy of units (for example some number of sections organized into a department, some number of departments organized into a division, etc.) the managers of the units are each leaders (or should be) with the other members of the units being followers, but like the sports team there can be leaders within the group of followers.

In many societies, in free societies, being a follower or a leader is almost always a voluntary action, since in the absence of promises otherwise (contracts), anyone can quit the group at any time. (Being a leader or a follower is not always a voluntary action because a person may not be aware that he or she is a leader or a follower, but they can still quit if they don’t like how the group is operating or they don’t have its goals.) A teacher can quit, the parents of a young student can send the student to another school, students can quit paying attention while remaining in class. A coach can quit, players can quit. Employees can quit their company, or quit in place just like students. A person can even quit a horribly authoritarian oppressive system, at least mentally, as some concentration camp members did in WWII. To quit the group is the ultimate no vote.

We still have the freedom to form new groups: Freedom of Assembly. We can form new clubs, associations, new partnerships, new corporations, for profit or not for profit. We can form new religions. The number of people in each and their physical locations are no longer limited as they were in the past.

If our present political/economic systems are not working for us, we can form alternate or parallel systems which do work for us. This indeed is what is already happening as more and more people are excluded from participation in our present systems through unemployment of all kinds, through lack of education, through poverty. People form co-ops of every kind and legal and illegal (black) markets. People form subcultures which exclude outsiders. People “turn on, tune in, and drop out” as Professor Leary said. One way or another people make other arrangements when the “official” systems don’t work for them. There are many, many possibilities. The occupy movement with its general assemblies and its internet dispersed non-physical form is a baby to be nurtured. And if this one doesn’t work out, there will be others.



A Plan for the Revolution

I say “A Plan” instead of “The Plan” because there are many paths to our goals. What are our goals? One of the first steps for a revolution is to state goals almost everybody can agree on. Almost everyone has a strong sense of justice, fairness. Rather we have a strong sense of unfairness. We easily sense when someone isn’t doing their fair share in any group activity — work, games, life in general. We don’t like cheaters, freeloaders. So if our goals are based on justice and fairness, most people will easily agree with and accept our revolutionary goals. Stated simply we want a political and economic system that fairly distributes the goods and services produced by people working within the system fairly to all people in the system. The first half of fairness is that everyone who can work should work. The other half of fairness is that the system should provide, one way or another, the things people need in order to be productive. In order to be physically and mentally productive, people need water, food, clothing, housing, health care, education, minimal coercion and violence, and maximal freedom to interact with others consistent with the integrity and well-being of others. Any system we build must be consistent with the earth’s limited resources and must be consistent with preserving the natural world. Our goal is to have such a system, to build such a system, to step by step modify our present system so that after each step, the new system is closer to the goal.

Our goal system will not be perfect. No human system is perfect. It is not a utopia. There will always be problems. There will always be things that could be improved. In the real world there are always limits. In the real world nothing is infinite. We cannot know for sure that we will be able to build such a system. We can only change our present systems, move them, one step at a time, in the direction of our goal.

Next we must spread the idea of our goal to a large number of people, to a larger and larger number of people. We must convince enough people that it is possible to take the first steps toward our goal. We can show them that the first steps, and later steps, will already in and of themselves, lead to benefits for almost everyone.

In order to take the first steps we must convince people to give up some of their limiting beliefs such as: 1) There is only one best economic system and it’s the one we have now. 2) It is hopeless. 3) Positive change is impossible. 4) Our present situation is a reflection of human nature and human nature is fixed so we can’t change anything. 5) Nothing’s wrong with our present system. 6) This is the way it was meant to be. 7) We are not smart enough to do it. 8) Our democracy has been high jacked so it’s hopeless. 9) It will take too long. 10) The mass media are owned and controlled by the 1% so it’s hopeless.

These and many other similar beliefs are real and are real obstacles to change. We must use all methods we have, consistent with our goals, to convince people to move beyond their limiting beliefs. To be consistent with our goals we must not use violence, coercion, lies, or any other methods detrimental to mental or physical health.

What are some methods we can use to help people change their minds? Education in the broadest sense of the word. Spread the truth. Expose error. Use the internet, social media. Infiltrate the mass media. The 1% owns the mass media and think they control it, but they don’t control it 100%. Nobody controls anything 100%. Use videos, humor, music, art in every form. Use and further develop memetics, the science of the spread and evolution of ideas. Work on the 1% or the lesser rich. I doubt they are monolithic. They are not all stupid. Some of them (and we would not need many) might see the wisdom of our revolution.

All the while we are helping people get over their self-limiting beliefs, we also work to spread ideas that speed up the process. We spread ideas that improve people’s thinking and decision-making — for example the knowledge about errors in human thinking and decision-making in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. We spread ideas that improve people’s interpersonal communication — for example the knowledge about how to deeply understand other people and work with them in Marshall Rosenberg’s book “Non-violent Communication”. We spread knowledge about how our thinking and emotions work together when we make decisions and choices — good ones and bad ones — for example in books by Antonio Damasio (“Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain”, “The Feeling of What Happens”, “Decartes’ Error”), Joseph LeDoux (“The Emotional Brain”), Paul Ekman (“Emotions Revealed”), Daniel Goleman (“Emotional Intelligence”). When people have more correct and useable knowledge about how to think better and make better decisions and choices, and when they know how to deeply communicate with other people, they first of all will be less subject to propaganda. This, if nothing else, will diminish the power of the mass media.

As more and more people learn to think better and make better choices and decisions for themselves they will more easily accept new information and knowledge to replace many of their limiting beliefs mentioned above. People need both — both new knowledge about the social world, knowledge about how the present systems work and what new systems are possible — and new knowledge about themselves, how they can think and choose better, so they can reject misleading and false propaganda, and get out of their trapping and self-limiting thinking.

So the revolution is about spreading new information and knowledge to people about our present social/political/economic systems, how and in what ways they might be changed, the revolutionary goals, the step by step method, the obstacles to change in our present systems, possible ways to overcome all these obstacles, as well as new information and knowledge about how to improve their own abilities to understand themselves and improve their own thinking and choices.

Next we will look in more detail at the obstacles to change and how to overcome them.