Jordan Hall Clusters at the Stoa ;-)
Jordan Hall spoke at The Stoa last week to kick off a series on “Deep Code”, and to engage in collective sense-making leading toward the topic of “governance”.
The following is my distillation of what he presented, refracted through the lens of my understanding and my priors. I’m posting this as a jumping off point for further discussion, and to invite clarification or amplification of anything I may have missed or misunderstood.
Jordan presented two “clusters” of topics for consideration, and proposed that it is useful to understand these clusters together, as a framework for finding a solution to some thorny problems.
The clusters are:
- Factors that provide guidance to human behavioral choices — “Code”, “Norms” and “Laws”
- Spaces in which humans act and interact, which affect our choices, and are also impacted by them — “The Commons”, “The Market” and “The State”
Cluster One: “Code”, “Norms” and “Laws”
The elements of the first cluster are modes of affect humans choices about their actions, their behaviors.
“Code” refers to events that happen automatically, without human intervention. Computer software is implicit in the term — but more importantly, it fundamentally encompasses all of the cause and effect that plays out in the physical world.
“Norms” are the ways people behave with each other that feel consonant, congruent. People tend to give each other feedback of varying intensity to help each other navigate and know what the norms are in any given situation.
“Laws” are simply the rules created by governing authorities.
Relationship between the elements
It’s useful to consider the location of these elements in a space of the Integral Quadrants. (I don’t see these elements aligned to a single precise point, but more as occupying a zone, kind of like a scatter-plot.)
“Code” is a cloud that is very heavily, perhaps exclusively present on the right side. It’s external, objective, basically 100% material. It’s the laws of physics, and all their elaborations — and perhaps at a later stage of discussion, the concept of “Code” extends to include things built by humans intentional manipulation of essentially material entities.
“Norms” are cloud that is pretty heavily present in the middle and lower left — intersubjective, but pretty close to the individual — Norms can be internalized by individuals, and externalized depending on timing and circumstance.
“Laws” are similarly situated, but lower down — less individual, and somewhat to the right — a little closer to being reified in the physical world.
It’s also worthwhile to collapse the two dimensional space of the quadrants into a single dimension: the degree to which these “modes” depend on conscious collaboration among humans
- Code: Not at all dependent on human collaboration (at least, not until we get to the point of using Internet of Things and other gadgets to affect behavioral choices — I expect there will be a lot more to come on that topic in upcoming sessions.)
- Norms: collaboration required, but the bulk of it is mediated via our “fast thinking” capabilities, e.g. “intuitive”, “habitual”, less metabolically expensive sense-making functions. We use our senses, but not so much of our abstract rationality, to establish, communicate, conform, and suggest or coerce others to conform to Norms (and thus they are accessible and meaningful even to young children e.g. Jordan’s mention of his daughter).
- Laws: explicitly, consciously highly collaborative: we use great quantities of expensive “slow thinking” rationality to establish, communicate, and bring people into compliance. The “slow thinking” rationality here is enormously metabolically expensive at the individual level AND at the collective level.
Part of the value of looking at that cluster arrayed along the single dimension is that the other cluster — Commons, Market and State — also maps meaningfully on the same dimension. Looking at them together makes certain relationships and interactions more comprehensible.
Cluster Two — “The Commons”, “The Market” and “The State”
(I will leave aside for the moment the verb form “Commoning” which Jordan mentioned. I’m not sure of a precise definition, but my intuition is that it will be a valuable and interesting topic to explore. I also suspect the term conjoins a few key concepts, and it will be important to distinguish them first and then bring them back together with clarity of intent.)
- The Commons — this is largely the domain of the physical world we are “given” (in the sense of an axiom in a high school geometry problem). The Commons are the resources available to us, the things we can reach out and access as individual agents (provided we have the requisite level of power, which comes from attaining a least a minimal level of physical maturity, health, etc — all the things we have due to the grace of our forebears, and the luck of our birth and upbringing.) It’s useful, if not completely accurate, to think of the Commons as the resources available to a paleolithic tribe, or an outcast, or pioneer homesteader, someone pretty much entirely left to their own devices.
Individuals can avail themselves of the commons, and they can largely do so without expending much conscious effort at communication and collaboration with other humans.
- The Market — this is the domain of people coming together in a context of reasonably homogeneous distribution of power. Given the absence of glaring disparities in the ability to exercise coercive force, people have to find ways to get along, and to advance their interests (ranging from the satisfaction of their animal needs, to access to Good/True/Beautiful via their personally preferred modalities.) via interactions that we could call transactions — largely governed/mediated according to Norms. Many/most of the interactions are between/among individuals or small groups. As long as the scale of the marketplace is within a physical and temporal proximity that is readily comprehended by an individual, norms are all that is needed for smooth functioning.
Individuals can avail themselves of the benefits of market-level interaction with others by using the same kind of interaction guidelines they use to navigate interactions within their “tribe” — their family, friends, acquaintances.
- The State — a “State” (monarchical, democratic, communist, fascist, whatever) emerges when the domain of interaction encompasses sufficient people, space and time, power differentials — in short — all of the elaborations that come with significant increases in scale of human population and human society.
States require significant conscious effort to establish and maintain the forms, the bureaucracies, that enable their functioning and abiding. Individuals have to conform to the formalities imposed by a State, in order to avail themselves of the amenities offered by a State — (principally — the ability to live relatively free from random molestation by the local agents of the State).
Looking at the “Clusters” in this way, we see that in a typical current human context, all the 3 elements of each cluster are operational. “State” and “Law” have not superseded “Market” and “Norms”, nor “Commons” and “Code” in the sense of REPLACING them, but there are different areas of experience where each “mode” or element is more salient.
The problem we are facing now, as a species, and as denizens of the biosphere — is that the scope/scale of human activity is testing the capacity of ANY of these modes to provide effective meaningful regulation on human behavior, such that we can avoid catastrophic outcomes for the species/biosphere.
This may be where “Commoning” and “Design” as a governance mechanism comes in.
“Design” may be the next level entity in the Code/Norms/Laws cluster — and that MAY imply that it is even more “costly” in terms of both quantity and quality of conscious effort required. It’s reasonable to ask whether we need to bring trans-rational conscious capabilities to bear in order to make it work. I feel very tentative in my readiness to speculate on what those might be and how they might operate — but collective intelligence and “Commoning” seem like good directions to explore.
Is “Commoning’’ the next step in the Commons/Market/State cluster? The next level of social cooperation/organization that layers holonically on top of the other three? What are its characteristics, features and functions?