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
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
Politics Travel

Day 631 and Reunion

I normally spend a lot of time my husband. During the pandemic we got very accustomed to being around each other twenty four seven. We quite enjoy each other’s company so it’s been a life upgrade.

But occasionally we take longer chunks of time apart. It started as a deliberate effort, but now as the post pandemic world works itself out travel is starting to happen naturally again. We haven’t seen each other for two weeks. And completely organically.

And we couldn’t have had more diverse life experiences and seen more varied cross sections of America if we’d planned it. Alex was at an investment firm’s CEO summit in Santa Barbara while I was in Billings Montana taking wilderness medical incident first responder training. He was hobnobing with bankers while I was doing “stop the bleed” with wildfire fighters and EMTS.

When we reunited this evening after being apart, and for such disparate types of experiences, it was so much fun to compare notes. The types of concerns and the expectations for the good life couldn’t be more divergent for the two poles of people. And I am modestly afraid that as America polarizes and different industries code for different versions of America that it will be rare for different classes to intersect.

And that’s a real problem if bankers are so far removed from paramedics as to have entirely different interests and ideals for their shared country of America. It’s clearly possible to encounter all types of Americans across all classes but I’m not sure I’m optimistic about enough people making the effort to bring us all together.

Categories
Aesthetics Community Preparedness

Day 628 and Intensity

If my brain is a sponge I think I’ve been sopping up more than I am designed to handle. But I am holding on and facing a lot of new information and acting on it quickly.

I’m at a wilderness medical first responder class. And I’m the odd duck out on the class. Everyone else is living with much harder realities than I do. They are the ones that fight our wars. Provide our security. Fight our fires. They keep up with where our most vulnerable live. It’s an on the margin make your best call world.

My body can feel that this reality is very different from what I live with and on different class and wealth bands. People that are more buffered from harsh realities often don’t want to face the costs of our lifestyles. But we are not in a morally neutral systems. And a lot of violence still happens on the margins.

I feel somewhat invigorated by the immediacy of decision making in these chaotic environments. If you are in a natural disaster like a wildfire your capacity to react calmly under extreme conditions is a given. So naturally we arm these people with more agency and skills as it’s a set of problems with a lot of nuance and grey areas too.

I am frankly exhausted even though I didn’t do anything that intense. I did some traumatic brain injury drills. And I worked on how to properly stint and secure broken bones if you are in the back country and need to hobble back in to society. I learned a lot about agency and context and the need for high emotional intelligence as you cope with those who are in need or duress.

I suppose with that in mind, it’s no surprise that I’d like to enjoy a good long night of sleep and a big breakfast in the morning. One has got to enjoy living when you have the chance.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 600 and High Season

A lot of folks seem to be coming through Montana over the next two weeks. Maybe it’s the nature of high season that people flock to Montana at the end of the summer?

But it’s been quite fun to have all kinds of friends, mutuals and acquaintances reach out to make plans. Visibility on Twitter has played a large role in this, as anyone passing through Montana might be inclined to grab a meal or a drink if they scroll their local mutuals. I like to think I am top of mind because I am a good hang but it’s probably because I’m just quite visible.

All these tourists has got a bit of a “center of the universe” feel to it. It’s like a mountain summer town version of Manhattan during fashion week. Or Los Angeles during the Oscars. I’ve got to say it feels like I’m Monaco and it’s F1 racing season. Every city of note has an event that brings all of the jet set to their hometown.

I’m usually mixed on doing too much social activity but I’ve been feeling like socializing more. I’ve even been eating out with much more frequency. And what’s amazing about it is that in the past I didn’t want to do more than a couple events a month. But this end of summer in Montana thing has me looking forward to more deck cocktails, eating cold cherries on the marble kitchen slab, going to pubs and ale houses, and maybe even a few steak houses too.

Categories
Aesthetics Finance

Day 584 and Fraudsters

I hadn’t bothered watching any of the numerous Netflix documentaries on how Americans love a beautiful fraud until this weekend when I made an attempt to watch Inventing Anna. I can’t tell if I regret the decision. I’ve avoided any glamorizing of the various grifters that we love to hate.

I don’t love stories about hustles gone bad because I fundamentally believe the difference between success and failure is a lot thinner than than the average person knows. “Fake it to you make it” is part of the great Pentecostal American prosperity gospel. You can come from nothing and become someone in America. We worship the idea of social mobility even if we don’t always like how people gained their fortunes. It’s an entire aesthetic in America.

This is particularly true because sometimes we actually do let the fraudsters win. Especially if we admire their hustle. And let’s be frank it’s a lot harder to tell who is a fraud these days because decades of publicly being a fraud doesn’t stop you from sitting in the Oval Office anymore.

Is it any wonder we aren’t quite sure how to feel about wealth and privilege and the black magic required to obtain it? We act like fraud is a temporarily embarrassing discovery on the way to respectability. Because it often fucking is.

Being in startups has given me a front row seat to just how much talent and capability matter. Except when they absolutely don’t. It’s genuinely hard to reconcile how little effort and outcome can be correlated occasionally.

And this absolutely lends itself to people being willing to take shortcuts. Mistaking that some hard doesn’t pay will kill you if you aren’t able to stay one step ahead. If you get caught, well that is clearly bad but who is to say you couldn’t have kept it up? It’s not like Americans trust cops or prosecutors (except for the line blue line fetishists). Maybe you were just too much of a loud mouth.

I will say the Inventing Anna series has shown me Americans are genuinely confused on how the rich stay rich. In so far as I can tell it boils down to gambling on who might be the real deal and simply writing off the frauds.

Cost of doing business. It happens to everyone. And the worse your boundaries are, well, the worse off your percentages. If your bullshit radar is bad that’s how generational wealth disappears unless you can figure out a way to rig the system (which is always an option).

Categories
Community Preparedness

Day 572 and Internet Barn Raising

About twenty four hours ago the first “crisis” of the move to Montana appeared on the horizon. The very expensive, and corporate, moving company we’d hired called to cancel on our move to Montana. Three days before the move date. Which we cannot change as new tenants are moving into our soon to be former townhouse.

At first they claimed it was a lack of trucks and then it was a lack of labor. It was some series of issues you hear more and more of during these crumbling times. It was messy and chaotic. I’m not entirely sure on the full timeline or set of excuses as my husband Alex is “king” of the move as he’s the operational talent in the family. I’m just here to follow his edicts. The details are not completely crucial to the wider lesson.

We put out the bat signal that we were in trouble. We tweeted and put questions out in Discord. What do we do? What our options? Our extended community sprang into action. People called with truck rentals suggestions. People sent over recommendations for labor and talent. People called in favors to locate what we needed on both ends. And the truly incredible part is that people physically showed up. Like get on an airplane level. And more than one of them offered to physically come out.

I don’t want to put any identities on blast as not everyone is quite as social on social media as I am. But our internet community is all very much active and close in our lives. And it just showed. In ways that I don’t know I fully appreciated until we were in the lurch.

A dear fellow traveler friend who has been an “internet friend” for sometime, but because of the pandemic hasn’t been able to IRL with us, offered to get on an airplane and help us drive up the truck. We bought them a ticket. Locked it in. Let’s finally do the bonding. The perfect synchronicity of social capital and actual capital solving a problem money alone couldn’t fix. Because there are some things money can’t buy and you almost always learn what in a crisis.

Members of our preparedness community (some of whom will soon be our actual physical neighbors in Montana) stepped in as well. They also offered to fly down and help on our Colorado front end. A truly astonishing gesture of friendship and community. Alex coordinated on our end to meet them on arrival. A veritable barnstorming of new neighbors is set to welcome us. And we aren’t even their actual physical neighbors yet. The trust and humility one must have to welcome people in like this.

My heart must have grown a size in one day. It was a balm for any kind of civilization cynicism I might have harbored. Our people showed up. I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it. I will say that our special interest in resilience and connection has been key in this whole beautiful experience.

Our people are those who feel the concerns of modernity and atomization, but who rather than blame our technical tools like social medics for decay simply leverage them to bring us all back to our humanity. If America is in for harder times, I’ve never been more optimistic about the people that will survive them together with me.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 563 and Packing Puttering

I spent the day puttering on and off through all my worldly possessions. I was deciding on what needs to be packed and when. We have a tiered system of immediate, first week and first month use. And then leaving to the last minute all of the stuff you are fairly certain you use daily.

When it isn’t for an immediate trip it turns out I really enjoy putting together an edited list of daily necessities. I had fun putting together a cosmetics kit for a two week “vacation” where I might not be able to access my full vanity.

I had an enjoyable afternoon going through everything in my bathroom. Just seeing what you have held onto for no good reason and what you accidentally prioritized but didn’t desire pride of place on your shelf. I feel like few things show a woman’s own ambivalence about her priorities quite like her makeup bag.

I’ve ruthlessly culled my routine down to the bare bones. I’ve packed my entire life down to one shitty Heathrow quart baggie. And I’ve enjoyed preposterous largess with two full cabinets of cosmetics crap from a stint in the industry. I’ll never throw away some of it but I doubt I’ll use it either. It’s a strange thing to hang on to as I know shit expires.

I’m grateful my husband hasn’t said anything about me lugging several hundreds pounds of going out makeup to Montana. As if even in Bozeman I’ll find a way to integrate a smoky eye or a bright red lip. Or maybe I’m crazy and of course I’ll find a reason to get done up. Sometimes it’s hard to know now much you are puttering around with things that need to go.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 561 and Community Building

The big move to Montana is only a few weeks away. I was expecting to be in a frenzy of preparation but I’ve been stuck in bed with a symptom flare so I’ve basically done nothing but ask for Twitter advice. Thankfully my community online is generous and available with their insights.

I’ve been lucky to participate in (and build, communities in spaces as varied as fashion, local politics, and disaster preparedness. My husband is also a community builder professionally. We both have a knack for finding our people and becoming a part of of all types of communities both in real life and online.

We are both excited and a bit nervous to move to a new town. Bozeman is a small town but not so small that it’s clear where we should start when we arrive. We’ve been told it’s a bit skeptical of outsiders. We’ve definitely received the advice to change our license plates immediately. It’s a bit intimidating to be honest.

There is a lot of amazing advice from my Twitter friends on becoming a member of a new community in real life. I would definitely check out the thread if you are feeling isolated or like you could be better connected to people around you. It’s helped me feel like I actually might be equipped to integrate into Bozeman smoothly.

I’m already putting the advice into the big Notion project management document that Alex has put together for our move. We don’t have too many close neighbors (just two on our road) but I am looking forward to introducing myself to them. I’m still debating what activities and organizations I will prioritize when we get there.

I am most interested in gardening, local agriculture and community preparedness efforts but I have enjoyed town politics in my past life. I served as an appointee on Manhattan Community Board 1 and loved it. There isn’t a lot of glamour in permits or licenses but it’s crucial work. So perhaps I can find a way to serve local businesses in a similar way.

Whatever happens, I cannot wait to invite people over to our home. It’s always the one on one connecting that weaves you into the fabric of a community and there is no better way to do that than being welcoming. So I will probably start by showing up, smiling and listening to my new neighbors.

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 559 and Stuck

I got stuck on the couch today. I’m not entirely sure why but I’m in the middle of a massive symptom flare. The pain is so acute and unrelenting that if I so much as sit up from bed I’ll get stuck in that position. I made the mistake of trying to eat lunch on the couch around noon and didn’t work up the capacity to get back into bed for over an hour.

This is becoming a theme on bad days. I’ll find myself upright for forty minutes completely unintentionally because moving, even to a more comfortable position laying down, is so painful I will put it off until I simply cannot remain upright anymore. It’s just that bad. Even the higher grade pain management isn’t doing shit. I’m just stuck in the pain until an even worse pain develops.

That’s probably a good metaphor for life. We will stay in an uncomfortable position until it’s so intolerable we simply must change. And I’d love to wax philosophic about that but I mostly mean it literally. If you’ve ever wondered how I got popular on Twitter, it’s simply because it’s the only thing I can do when I’m physically stuck in place by pain. I thank the internet Gods that this has been monetizable through investing or I don’t know what I would do.

You could almost surely correlate the number of tweets I send with the pain scale of my day. If I’ve tweeted more than 50 times on any given day it’s probably because I am over a 7 on the pain scale. It’s 2pm and I’ve tweeted 32 times today not including my DMs. I keep hopping the pain will abate enough that I can shower but it doesn’t show any signs of letting up today.

Frankly I’m just relieved it’s only my spinal pain and not anything else more exotic. Earlier this week I was dealing with being itchy and then I had a migraine that took 48 hours and several Imitrax to break. Regular old spinal pain is at least a recognizable and normal return to form. But until this nerve storm abates I’m stuck. At least until something worse comes along.