Hello, and welcome to 'A Biggish Idea'. In this edition we'll be turning campuses into cities and turning one of the most destructive aspects of our psychology into a force for good.
This is part 4 in a series. The previous articles (conveniently in order!) are:
- Building a better life within a Co-OperNation (contains a rundown on the whole plan and a quick FAQ)
- Let's make MondraGoogleValve, but better. (Here we start the creation of a framework using existing corporations and motivational science)
- Supply Chain Manglement. (Next, we separate ourselves from the pack by using supply chain takeover to make rapid expansion the path of least resistance)
When we last left our does-not-need-to-be-fictional corporation we had set them up to expand a bit. . . and not just in one way.
We won't use up a lot of space going into summarizing, so we'll just say 'what we had before' except now they're primed to reduce costs AND increase quality by devouring their own supply chain.
So, they're primed to grow by expanding to gather people. . . let's pretend they've got 150,000 people now.
And let's talk about expanding to gather time.
If you're an American what happens when you finish work? We were just talking about a work environment where you had a lot of control over your lives and you could generally expect that internal decisions are made by people who are held to (at least . . we'll add to that later!) the same standards as you yourself are . . . and then you go home to an environment where you have something else entirely.
Look. . . I know a lot of people are patriots here. . . but you don't have use a whole lot of neurons to realize that we'd have better actual outcomes if we just used random grade schoolers instead.
I'm not proposing random grade schoolers as a system of government (not that we shouldn't include a few . . . they can be wise little Yodas sometimes).
I'm saying I'm not content having the rest of my life ruled by these folks and I believe. . . thanks in part to the Citizen's United ruling . . . we have a nice workaround.
What if we expanded our lives INTO the corporation that we own?
Paul Romer gave an excellent presentation a while back on Charter Cities, which are territories that are designed to attract corporations by being zones where better rules can be set up (ones designed for actual people!). We're going to take that lovely idea a step or two further.
(if you haven't noticed a trend of repurposing other people's ideas here then you're not paying very much attention. I barely do any original work here, and I'm totally cool with standing on the shoulders of giants) :)
So, let's start with the idea of using our corporation in a similar manner, except we don't have to negotiate quite so much to get a big zone set up for us inside their land. . . we just use the existing and abusive power of corporations to set up campuses anywhere they want and shop for the best specific legal system/employee base/infrastructure/environment for whatever sort of city we want to set up. We'll want to be really cool about it and spill out lots of benefits to the locals, but hey. . .we're hiring EXACTLY the sort of people who do that without any real prodding. (Coincidence? Or science?)
After all, we're all very different people and one person's dream is another person's nightmare. We're going to set the bar at a certain level and after that set people loose.
That's how we separate ourselves from another pack . . . the Utopias, the governments, and the intentional communities. We're a whole-life solution like those guys, but better. This isn't their dream, or my dream. This is everybody else's. No more 'let's make everything for the average that nobody is'. We're just raising the bar a notch on civilization and watching what happens. This isn't about control.
But . . . how many different dreams can we fit? How many different sorts of customized offers can we throw up there for people that really excites them and gets the best out of them?
A lot. Let's talk monkey science!
(From 'What is the Monkeysphere', by David Wong)
They cut up so many monkey brains, in fact, that they found they could actually take a brain they had never seen before and from it they could accurately predict what size tribes that species of creature formed.
Most monkeys operate in troupes of 50 or so. But somebody slipped them a slightly larger brain and they estimated the ideal group or society for this particular animal was about 150.
You see, monkey experts performed a a while back, and discovered that the size of the monkey's monkey brain determined the size of the monkey groups the monkeys formed. The bigger the brain, the bigger the little societies they built.
Mr Wong goes on (the article is an EXCELLENT read . .also funny!) to point out that this is actually part of our problem. . . the same biology that causes us to function great in small groups works really poorly when we try to interact with dozens of strangers and completely short-circuits when we try to deal with several BILLION people.
And the end result is . . . the powerful force that is 'somebody else's problem'. . .which leads to great things like war and starvation and such.
How about we try to exploit what we really do instead of just pretending that we're something that we're not?
So . . . how many heavily-customized highly motivated groups of 150 can we make if we had 150,000 people?
I know! A bunch, right? That's like . . . . umm. . . ten hundreds!
That DOES seem to offer up a lot of potential, especially if they're really heavily customized so that the people in them love the people they're sharing them with. (Hey! People do that too!).
And by a great non-coincidence, we're taking a cue from Valve and specifically hiring for people who won't screw this sort of thing up. And we're saying so. . we're saying 'don't screw this up, we'll be groovy in general but we didn't forget that 'firing' is an option if you start trolling people or stomping kittens or something'
Now, I'm not proposing we try to set up groups of exactly 150. That's silly, in fact I'm going to propose we set up a smaller number that can agree on a basic set of additional goals and lifestyles and such that we can mesh together in a variety of ways to connect with other groups.
I propose 42. (PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE???!!!)
Let's look at each group as it's own little mini-skunkworks. The people have a common purpose and are agreeing on a general method of resource distribution and conflict management, housing, extra standards, and so on. What could we have?
- A group of nurses, doctors, inventors, and analysts who live in a set of small networked treehouse communities that engineer their lives around them to focus on a shared passion: creating remotely administerable health care for rural and low tech communities
- A group of gamers, artists, writers, machnima geeks, and media experts that share a love of the unique sort of interactions and dialogue that comes from collaborative storytelling that so often are richer than what a single author can produce who have turned their joy into their passion: They're creating a multimedia empire, starting with a 'living graphic novel' where every click changes the perspective to that of the main 'characters' and displays an rich and varied in-character journal. Their source of income and constant infusion of creativity? A kickstarter type project that feeds off of our desire to be part of something bigger. Letting contributors add not their names but richly detailed items, twists, or characters from their own imaginations or richly cherished RPG past.
- A collection of several groups that are held to an even higher sense of standards that contributes a group called 'scribes' to the community as a whole who move from group to group sharing ideas, stirring the pot, helping people who aren't fitting in, and generally letting the groups stay small while never forgetting the bigger cause they're contributing to and making sure we're all not forgetting to treat everyone with respect (they're encouraged to be really quirky)
- A collection of several groups of data visualization experts experimenting with an internal gift economy that lives in a one of six different quirky eco-friendly communities connected to their shared office/gaming center where time is alternately spent between gaming, learning to develop using 3-D gaming engines, learning statistical analysis techniques, and applying those three to create great data visualizations and easy to use data exploration interfaces designed by gamers to be used by humans who don't like having to deal with interfaces designed to copy commercial systems.
- Several dozen groups with a wide range of lifestyles and preferences banding together for a single cause: Education. These people apply the same philosophies we've been discussing to the whole educational process from birth to death . . . helping us raise our children to be better adults (focusing on logic, reason, kindness, critical thinking, and problem solving instead of training everyone to be average, to ignore technology in favor of education, and school politics) and to give us adults a way to learn something new if we end up working ourselves out of a job (we want to encourage that).
That sort of variety is what we're talking about. That's five little collections of groups. There is room for DOZENS of these. If somebody can make Cosplay Island and use it to motivate people to be happy and do amazing things then more power to them!
We're doing what we can to gain economies of scale and to distribute work when we do so well (yay open source!), but let's not forget that small groups can really produce. Look what the guys over at Roosterteeth did just with a few people and a fraction of the resources and benefits and ten times the distractions!
And that all started because they were having fun and had a cool idea. . . they just were never convinced they couldn't do it and never had any insurmountable barriers placed in their way.
Now, not everything will work. That's fine, we hit on some of the benefits of accepting failure earlier. The goal is to ride the moments of greatness and not get in anybody's way when they're on a roll. That just leaves the rest of us with more resources and less to worry about . .it's not a bad problem to have.
And that should set us up nicely for our next bit: You say you want an Evolution?