Categories
Culture Politics

Day 644 and Status Equivalence and DAO Leadership

Capitalism has largely been a triumph of hierarchy as an organizing mechanism. As we evolved from mercantilism into corporatism, appointing and holding accountable a single point of failure in a chief executive officer has become an effective shortcut for managing complexity when deploying capital. Leadership is responsible for the outcome.

The aphorism “failure is an orphan but success has many fathers” abuts against the reality that while we love to lavish praise upon executives, monarchs and other singular nexuses of responsibility it’s often not reflected in reality. Our bias in the post-industrial revolution has been towards leadership via individual even as post Enlightenment values valorize democracy and community participation. It’s been a tension for since the Industrial Revolution. America exemplifies this as the country most committed to both participatory federalism and corporate capitalism.

I am particularly interested in this tension as I believe we may be on the crux of larger organizational needs and are seeing them begin to coalesce in crypto. As decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, make an attempt to become the new corporate governance structure in Web3, it seems worth studying the question of whether leadership is a singular or collective exercise for humans.

What does the historical and anthropological record have to say about how we organize? What are we evolved to prefer and are we capable of evolving further?

The bias we operate with now is great man theory. But what if that is not just wrong but not even the predominant form of human organization through history? Critics of cooperation might do well to explore this in particular.

I came across a Rob Henderson blog post which is an extended overview of a piece of sociology Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by the UCLA anthropologist Christopher Boehm. According to Rob’s post, the main question of this work is whether humans are by nature hierarchical or egalitarian. And it turns out our hunter gatherer forefathers were mostly egalitarian. The bulk of our history is egalitarian.

The anthropological record along with research on extant modern hunter-gatherers suggests that for most of human history we have been egalitarian, defined as “status equivalency among the decision-makers of a group.”

Rob Henderson reviews Hierarchy in the Forest

If you extrapolate this into a modern corporate context, the C-Suite or executive team, or perhaps even the founding team, are roughly the status equivalent decision makers. Maybe there is a first among equals in the CEO or founder but they can, in theory, be replaced by a board. But what if instead of a C-corporation you are managing a cooperative like a DAO? What then?

Apparently we humans are rather good at maintaining status equivalence. Richard Wrangham’s Goodness Paradox discusses how humans have self domesticated to avoid too much resource and power aggregation.

Over time, early humans eliminated those who were overtly aggressive. They killed or ostracized upstarts hungry for power; men with aggressive political ambitions. Other men would quietly organize to commit collective murder of troublesome male

Rob Henderson on Goodness Paradox

Moral communities evolve and punish those who deviate from acceptable standards. If you are too ambitious as an individual we swoop in as a species. It seems a bit miraculous in that light that we live in an era of kleptocracy and power consolidation given our tendency to murder upstarts. Great man theory isn’t all that sustainable. Or is it? Perhaps it’s that we asset influence obliquely. I’d wager any woman would agree.

Oftentimes, headmen display “self-effacing” behavior. Headmen and informal leaders usually obtained their roles through talent in hunting or warfare, storytelling ability, or congeniality. They rarely assert direct authority.

Rob Henderson on Boehm

If indirect authority is a sustainable organizational preference in the anthropological record, perhaps corporations are more amenable to reconstruction as DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) through the principle of status equivalence.

The autonomous part seems the trickiest, but decentralized authority inside tribal organizations are at least recognizably human. If as a group we disliked a status or resource hungry “great man” we leaned on the leadership preferences of status equivalent equals and forced you out.

I see no reason we can’t write in similar parameters into a smart contract as an experiment. At the first hint of a rug pull let the burning begin! We are already seeing political battles for resource allocation inside bigger organizations like MakerDAO. Crypto may be a worthy space for experienced leadership to show that figureheads like CEOs or founders are not the crucial lynchpin for progress and stability we believe.

Which would be quite a balm to me personally as I’m deeply skeptical of authoritarianism as a solution for our technical and social problems. I’d much rather we explore the wisdom of past tribal knowledge to guide us than look to a mythical great man to save me.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 643 and Courage

My courage is uneven at the moment. I have a specific professional project that I am struggling to push myself on. I tell myself that it is something I want, but if the truism “having is evidence of wanting” is any indication, I am struggling to convince myself I really want it. Except I am fairly sure I do want it and I’m just scared.

I used to love it when people said no to me. I was the kind of “chip on my shoulder” young person that used a no to fuel myself. “I’ll show them” was somewhere between a mantra and a battle cry.

But now I find myself anxious to publicly go out and see just how many people will say no. I don’t know if I find it as motivating as I used to. I tell myself I don’t mind but perhaps some other unexamined element of reaction makes me afraid.

This could all be an elaborate ego protection ruse on my part. Maybe I still love the motivation that comes from no. Maybe I hate it. But I have not really done enough fucking around to find out yet to know one way or other.

My gut instinct is to simply declare in public my goals and a timeline to force myself into it. But then I’ve been working through my tendency to rely on willpower and force to motivate myself. Perhaps a big forcing function will simply send me back into my old coping mechanisms of addictive overwork.

I’ve always punished myself by doing things. If I am anxious I almost always find ways to kick a hornet’s nest to force an action rather than gentle build momentum.

Whatever I do I would prefer I do it with as much gentleness and respect for my inner child as possible. I am prone to abusing my inner child’s feelings by disregarding her fear or her desire to keep distance from the rest of the world. I deserve better than forcing misery onto my inner child.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 642 and Feast

WARNING: I am discussing food and my relationship to food for anyone that has any triggers around food, eating disorders, or disordered eating.

I accidentally didn’t eat anything of substance today. I had some coffee and a banana so just enough to break my fast but not quite so much that I had a meal. The weekend was packed with meals in huge portions due to slightly more socializing and being out of the house than was wise. I really felt it yesterday as we had two very hearty meals planned and I managed to eat maybe a quarter of it.

I have always been a bit of a feast or famine type. Some of this is probably related to some childhood incidents. I’d much rather eat as much as I’d like and then fast for a day or so. I like the feeling of choice and control.

Some of worst parts of having to combat an autoimmune disorder is sometimes being put on medications that need to be taken with food. I hate when any outside force interferes with my body. Even medication.

I also happen to buy into the research that fasting is a a generally positive force for good health. The intuitive notion that we evolved for feast or famine is slowly being proven out. Every major world religion incorporating fast as a component also reassures. Nothing is more lindy than fasting.

But as I come to the end of my day it is probably time to eat a proper meal. My stomach is rumbling. I can feel my focus faltering. I don’t have much of an appetite but I will need to find the middle ground between feast and famine today.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 641 and Recovery

This might sound a little shocking but I sleep at least 9 hours a night. Sleep is one of the obsessions of the biohacker. If I’m lucky I might be able to get to ten. It’s always a sign of me doing poorly if I am not sleeping a TON.

It’s usually the first sign I am not adequately reserving time to bring down my central nervous system into rest and digest. I’ll stay up till 11pm and then it’s a hop skip and a jump to only sleeping seven hours.

The best combination of effort and exertion for me is only adding in specific necessary stressors during the day and give ample time to recovery. Much of my work requires focus and information processing and synthesis. And that isn’t improved by overwork and exhaustion.

Nevertheless I am still carting around a lot of lessons from my childhood about the value of hard work. More is better. More hours is best. And this is a fine and noble thing if you do work intelligently with your goals in mind. Simple exertion is sometimes the best option. But not always.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 640 and Weekend

Maybe it’s a function of having never owned a home before we bought the Montana homestead, but I was never much of a weekend errands person.

Now my weekends are all about errands. It started with doing a weekly grocery run. Now that groceries aren’t just being delivered to us demand by Whole Foods (the closest one is probably a thousand miles away) we’ve got a standing Sunday drive into town to the food coop. We do actual meal planning now.

And if you give a mouse a cookie he’s going to want some milk. If you give a yuppie a drive into town…We just keep tacking errands onto the drive into town. To do list and errands are the milk to the cookie of the drive into town.

We are still in the process of settling in to our house, so naturally Home Depot is heavy in our errands rotation. Today it was floor lamps and scones for the guest rooms. Last week it was a new pump for our hydroponic system. We basically always have something that requires a Home Depot Run.

We also needed a few other sundry items for our elaborate hospitality driven guest room project. We want our friends and family to feel comfortable coming to stay with us so we have dedicated quite a bit of time and resources into designing and planning for turning our upstairs into a hotel. This is going to be ongoing for sometime as furniture is a pain in the ass these days.

To check off design and toiletry items we hit up World Market and then Ulta. We came away remembering that shopping used to be a fun browsable experience and also a little poorer as we picked up an entire screen printed photo canvas we didn’t intend on buying but kind of love. We also got a very nice set up of brushes, anti-frizz hair turbans, and makeup remover towels for the guest bath.

A bathroom cabinet with hair towels, hair dryer, a round brush and a flat brush.
Categories
Community

Day 639 and Act Local

I grew up in a hippie college town that was fond of bumper sticker activism. Showing off your sense of humor and your political priorities was a fun thing to do with your Subaru Outback in the late nineties and early aughts before Facebook and the rise of social media.

A classic of the genre was “Think Global, Act Local.” I found this example on Etsy. And no I’ve got no idea what charity it ties back into.

Think Globally, Act Locally Bumpersticker

Maybe it was just less cringe to have this sort of thing on your car before we all spent half of our days yelling at strangers on the internet. I personally remember thinking Visualize Whirled Peas (a band from Austin) was a hilarious way to protest American war mongering as a teen. Of course, I still wrote Amnesty International letters at the time.

Now I’m not even sure who to donate money to at the end of the year as institutional trust continues to break down. Thinking globally is often the source of much anxiety. Currency collapses and the threat of nuclear war from Russia might be throw backs, but doomscrolling and feeling helpless is too modern. What is old is new again but in more potent anxiety inducing form.

So it was a bit of a relief to enjoy the “act locally” part of the classic bumper sticker this morning. Our local volunteer fire department had a pancake breakfast. Now as an adult my husband and I live outside of a completely different college town in the wider surrounding Gallatin Valley.

The rural (as opposed to city) county fire departments operate with a lot of local good will. They have a professionally trained but all volunteer force and cooperate with other districts through mutual aid frameworks. Practically, that meant a lot of college students taking advantage of living at the fire station to offset their costs while deepening ties to the community. A pretty ideal set up for a tight knit rural community. We get talent and they get skills and housing during their college years.

But calling them volunteers makes it sound less professionally run than the reality. I was impressed with not only the depth of knowledge of the entire department but also just how well maintained all of the equipment clearly was. Sure they probably cleaned stuff before letting their neighbors come in for a visit but everything was so shiny and new. I came away feeling a lot more secure about making a 911 call.

Now maybe that’s just function of meeting the fire chief and chatting with EMTS. And that’s probably exactly why they host these pancake breakfasts. But after two hours of touring equipment, and talking to everyone from the Medivac helicopter pilot to the youngest college kid on the squad, I felt like this was a team that has its shit together.

Now I’m actually excited to vote for a bond issue to get another fire truck or two! But in the meantime we dropped a few twenties into the boot on the table.

Pancakes and a fire boot for donations to the county fire department.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 638 and Environment

We’ve had an unseasonably warm week in the Gallatin Valley. We pulled out our two air conditioners from the window installations and went to Costco to install our snow tires. Both activities felt a little bit ridiculous as the temperatures touched 80 degrees.

But finally this morning the last bits of summer felt like they might be behind us. We had a beautiful warm sunny evening last night and yet we woke up to clouds and a damp chill. I was relieved if I’m honest.

Almost overnight our cottonwood trees began to turn to pleasant yellows. The aspen groves showed some signs of change as well. When I went for a walk yesterday beyond the property line I spotted apple trees with maturing fruit. I had only been gone a week from my usual walking route and was surprised to see so much progress into fall happening what felt like overnight.

An apple tree alongside one of our country roads beginning to show fruit.

With temperatures safely back into the 40s and 50s, it felt like it was time to unpack some of our winter clothing. I spent some of this morning sorting through sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves.

It was dusty enough inside the the moving boxes I started to break out with a few itchy patches of red inflamed skin. I took a Benadryl and hoped a cup of coffee would overcome the anti-histamine’s fatigue.

The environment around me is tugging on my body and it’s control systems. But I’m grateful for the change even, if some of the required activities have brought up the stress of change. I love fall. I love the cold. I’m a big fan of winter too. And I’m excited to see where this weather takes us. Call me crazy but I can’t wait for my first winter in Montana.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 637 and Loyalty

I was discussing with a friend their planned to trip to London to capitalize on sterling parity. The pound and the dollar being worth the same amount is an opportunity for American travelers. The conversation turned to optimizing for travel points structures, maintaining status, and other loyalty programs. I suppose anyone who finds traveling opportunities during a currency crisis almost certainly enjoys a good deal and being rewarded for consumption during hard times.

The pandemic upset so many consumer patterns that it’s a little bit hard to remember why we bought some of the things we did in the past. We’ve got vague positive memories and we are attempting to recreate them. Travel is inarguably one of the most confused spaces in the wake of those upheavals. Status got rolled over so when travel opened back up stuff got weird. Lounges got more crowded just as business travelers were being removed from the financial base of the space. It led to a lot of chaos this summer as the economics got reliance’s.

The most loyal travelers got back on the proverbial road in the aftermath and were met with materially worse products despite paying just as much as the remembered in the past. For all of the rich yuppies who showed up to say Italy or other Mediterranean vacations, they were reminded that travel wasn’t so glamorous without the perks. And it certainly made more than a few of us consider the economics of being on the road.

There are other industries where loyalty is being rewarded with worse producers and shittier user experiences. I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of disappointment with the offerings in cosmetics recently. I’ve complained endlessly about shittier packaging and lower grade formulations even though I haven’t really cut down my spending any. Like the loyal travelers, I am putting up with less quality as I don’t really want to simply stop a hobby I enjoy.

But how long will residual loyalty and affection remain? If travel to London must be combined with currency debasement and travel rewards perhaps our loyalty is not endless. Consumers often underestimate our power with industry because it takes them some time to adapt. But if we don’t change our behaviors in response to dwindling quality or service the incentive structures don’t force improvements. The balance is cost of loyalty.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 636 and Waves

Yesterday I was on top of a wave of positivity, so naturally this means today I was prepared for that wave to crash. The rhythms of both life, and my body, must accommodate the full range of highs and lows. After several intense days of work and activity I spent my day reading and absorbing news and financial reports in bed.

I am becoming modestly less indignant about having to monitor and meter my energy carefully. This is a new development in some ways as I’ve struggled quite publicly with mixed feelings about accounting for fatigue and pain in my workflows. I have in the past easily fallen into envy and jealousy when I see how much able bodied friends give little thought to their physical realities.

I have slowly let go of negativity around around around my body and come to embrace the rhythms of requiring rest. I’ve even come to see it as a strength as being forced into mitigating stress loads and cortisol spikes means I have more control over my sympathetic nervous system. Rather than give in to fight or flight, I am able now to able to choose how I respond.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 635 and Wide Horizons

I am absolutely wiped at the moment as I rode a wave of enthusiasm all day. I felt focused, energetic and free of self doubt. I felt like my life was open to possibility.

Perhaps it’s the regular reminders of personal responsibility I get in therapy. Perhaps it’s it’s the sense of accomplishment I got from completing my wilderness medical incident certification last week. The case of the Yips that I felt a few days ago is swiftly resolving.

The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.

This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.

We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.