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
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
Preparedness Startups

Day 632 and The Yips

I think I might have a case of the yips. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s most commonly referred to as type of performance anxiety associated with experienced athletes. They suddenly find themselves unable follow through on techniques they otherwise know well.

Though as it turns out it’s not actually a form of anxiety at all, but rather a failure to consistently execute on muscle memory in experienced professionals which manifests as a loss of fine motor skills or a struggle to follow through on common chains of decision making, especially ones that are subconscious.

You might also associate it with analysis paralysis, a phenomenon in which someone has access to all relevant information but gets lost in decision making rather than simply acting on their reasonable informed instinct. One’s ability to simply execute what is in front of them is diminished not through lack of knowledge of experience but rather inaction.

I am an experienced startup operator. I am also a competent angel and early stage investor in private markets with a speciality in technology driven businesses. At this point, I’m not only well into my career with a number of concrete successes (I’ve built and sold companies) but I’ve also got generational memory from being the daughter of a startup operator. And yet I’m still nervous about swimming into the deep end of my investing career. I’ve got the the yips.

I hadn’t noticed that I had the yips till I came back from a wilderness medical incident technician certification course. I was doing a hands on course meant for front line first responders in rural and back country scenarios. It was heavy on scene and scenario execution so you could build muscle memory and quick response times.

In medical emergencies, especially in a wilderness context, you have limited resources and personnel. Acting swiftly with the knowledge and materials at hand is crucial. If you don’t take action, someone will die. Startups are famously resource constrained environments. Paul Graham of Y Combinator has an entire framework that assume you are default dead unless you take action to assure survival. This is as as applicable mindset for wilderness survival as it is for startups.

I had some sort of instinctual foresight that this wilderness medicine course would be useful not only practically in day to day life as someone who lives in Montana, but also as a mindset for my investing work on the chaotic thesis that the world is getting more complex. And that complexity has consequences for all of us.

The more chaotic the world, the harder it is to act with confidence as complexity builds.

Only by getting outside of my own skill set and professional world did I finally see how much I’m holding myself back from acting. Whether it is out of fear or analysis paralysis I do not know. But I do know that if one does not act the consequences can be dire. We are all default dead unless we make decisions to remain alive. There is no safety or progress to be found by staring at your problems and becoming overwhelmed by the challenge. If there is a cure for the yips it is to simply keep playing no matter how hard the game becomes.

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
Emotional Work Uncategorized

Day 623 and Pausing

I am feeling a bit anxious about back to work season. I’ve traditionally had a terrible relationship with work. I’m a workaholic and struggle to pace myself effectively. I particularly love riding on the zeitgeist of a season like the fall as “everyone” is back at the grind and I like to ride the energy of the moment.

But I also need more frequent and shorter pauses than the American work week or season has ever allowed. I’ve always been afraid to take them because I fear being seen as lazy. “Only the morally weak rest” is a truism of English and Germanic lineage well prior to the Reformation. Though that’s kind of an aristocracy needs the serfs working thing.

But Protestant Work Ethic aside, I’m not really cut out for hustle culture. Being disabled, even modestly with something my spondylitis, is like the double whammy of being weak and lazy. I need to maintain a different schedule because I cannot overcome the foibles of my own body? That’s an affront! I’ve got a lot of self talk that basically goes like this

You soft feminine pathetic weak bitch get your ass back to work.

Me to myself. Sadly.

Does someone have internalized issues with feminine cycles? Oh yes she does! I guess it’s not just being lazy but it’s being female and a waste of productive worker all in one body. Super fun! And yet here I am a libertarian and I work in finance. Square that circle my friends.

Capitalism has enjoyed patriarchal structuring because it allows us to categorize the inconveniences of bodies that are harder to regulate. Women in the workforce was a pain in the ass until we figured out chemical birth control I’ve got to assume.

But all these legacies of who is worthy and who is strong and who is valued are kind of bullshit constructs. I can take what serves me. I don’t need to get all up in my head about having a less productive body because who even set the damn standard right?

So I am reminded I can pause without crashing. I choose to pause at my own leisure. I can choose to self nurture so I operate from my own point of maximum strength. I have to chose to pause. A pause is not is weakness.

A pause is like the ocean cresting before the wave breaks. And I can choose to ride that momentum. This is all a part of my own work on not just surviving the current moment but thriving with optimism. It’s peace from strength. While I recognize and even ride the chaos outside, I do not feel chaotic inside.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 616 and Choring

If I haven’t yet recommended it to you, my favorite sit-com is called Letterkenney. It’s about a group of young Canadians living in a small town in farm country. It follows the hicks, skids, and hockey players as they go about their lives of mostly manual labor and occasional drug dealing. This premise dramatically undersells the show which has the smartest writing and quippiest dialog this side of an Aaron Sorkin drama. Except it’s about ten times as vulgar and much less pretentious.

One of my favorite ongoing bits in the show is how everyone is always “choring” as a background. Or if you aren’t choring you need to get back at it. Want to go out? Pitter patter, let’s get at her by getting back to choring.

Between various work obligations today I have been getting back to choring myself. I had a whole host of both farm and house chores that got put away today in my frenzy of focus. First up was doing seed starts for my winter hydroponic lettuce and herb garden. I used this guide from my favorite resilient living website Unprepared.

We’ve had a lot of success with hydroponics in small indoor spaces with the LettuceGrow. We hadn’t yet done our own starts for it as we’ve had access to great nurseries. But our goal is to have a continuous seed to starter to full grown head of lettuce rotation system in place. If you’d like to try it out yourself, you can get $50 off with this link.

Feeling invigorated by the success of the mornings planting and by the nutrients in the head of butter leaf I harvested, I turned to other overdue bits of choring.

A grey bookshelf with an esoteric mix of books.

I unpacked and organized some of the books I keep on hand for reference materials. You might spot preparedness & resilience topics. Also my library on consumption, class & money. My capitalism meets Marxism meets political theory books. And then of course a lot of Greeks.

A pantry well stocked with dry goods

I then tackled the organization of the pantry. That’s got a long way to go but at least I took it from a bunch of stuff Willy Nilly into a basic organization. We’ve got shelves dedicated to dried fruit, an entire shelf for nuts, and other sundry spots for grains and sugars and the like. Shockingly there are drawers under this where I’ve put beans and lentils to keep the onions and potatoes companies.

I’ve got so many chores that listing out all the choring for one day both motivates me to keep at it but also reminds me that we get a lot day each day around the homestead.

Categories
Culture Politics

Day 610 and Labor Day Weekend

America isn’t much for holidays compared to say Europe. The Chinese outwork us with 996 but by and large Americans are a people that work. Paid time off isn’t really our thing. Well, it’s not something that capital is keen on allowing labor to have as a thing.

But you can rely on Memorial Day and Labor Day to act as the basic bookends of summer and as days you should have off from work. I find it a bit comical that we have a holiday celebrating the labor movement. You’d think we would have rolled it back with the Reagan Revolution. But Labor Day is the summer ending day off we all know and love even if we killed most of the unions.

Ive got labor on my mind as I’ve taken all of August to move my family to Montana this summer. Most of my energy went into getting us here and settled. The month flew by. It still feels like I have so much left to do. And not just because we still don’t have a dining room table or a mirror in the bathroom suitable for doing makeup. Getting unpacked is a process.

I’m slowly readjusting my mindset back to a workflow that includes labor outside the home. Well, I still work from home. But labor with other people beyond my family. Calling it labor is a bit funny in the context of Labor Day as my labor is working with capital I suppose I’m allowed to celebrate Labor Day as the spiritual placeholder for back to work season even if I am technically “the man.”

Categories
Preparedness

Day 604 and One Click

I’ve been procrastinating on two core projects for the fall. Both of which involve making a modest investment between $100 and $250 depending on how fancy I want to get. So it’s not a throwaway amount of money but it’s also not money I should be hesitating on.

I’ve been in my head about it for two or three weeks even though I regularly need to make decisions about much larger sums of money for projects with much longer time horizons. I finally got myself over the hump on clicking order after going over my plans with my husband Alex for an hour. Which we’d definitely bill at more than we spent.

PROJECT ONE: TEST APPLE ORCHARD

The first project is getting in a few apple saplings in a fall planting to test out where we want an orchard. It’s not a full orchard with a big wiz-bang multi-year permaculture plan. We literally just want to get in four to six dwarf trees in the soil as soon as possible as we’ve been told it’s feasible to do fall plantings of heartier Zone 4 varietals.

We did a soil sample and the results came back with very encouraging results. Our back pasture has excellent quality soil despite being compacted by horses.

A soil health assessment from Ward Laboratories.

And yet I struggled to make a purchase. I made a trip to the nursery. I fucked around on a bunch of websites. I ordered catalogs for next year’s spring plantings. Finally this afternoon we threw caution to the wind and bought six dwarfs from Stark Brothers. The total came to about $250 and if it all fails well I’m glad I spent the money on fruit trees instead of a disposable consumer good.

PROJECT 2: SEED STARTS

The second purchase was seed starter supplies for our winter hydroponic crops which we plan to cultivate in the barn. We got a LettuceGrow system early in the pandemic and absolutely loved the quality of greens we got out of it. We’d been able to buy starts (aka seeds that have sprouted and begun to grow) for it in Colorado but this winter I wanted to do my own growing from seeds up into starts.

The goal was to have constant rotation of red and green leaf lettuce along with romaine and kale by staggering seed tray starts. It would be easier and have fewer failure points if we did a new batch of seed starts once every couple of weeks for consistency and move them from one grow light seed tray to the LettuceGrow once it fully sprouted.

I had even less of an excuse here as one of my girlfriends did a massive seed start project this year from scratch and wrote up her entire shopping list and project guide complete with pictures. She did the hard work of translating various guides including one that I had even been involved with making from Josh Centers at Unprepared. He’s got a very thorough guide to starting a garden from seeds straight through to harvest which is worth paying for Substack for just that post.

Here were all of my friends and colleagues just out there doing the work. And I was too scared to experiment myself. Finally today we bought everything we needed from Amazon and purchased six or seven seed types from Johnny’s hydroponic collection. All told for everything it was $86 for a set up that should work for many seasons.

THE LESSON

While I’d never tell anyone to just go nuts putting shit in the ground without some research, I do think it’s possible to be too in your head about growing. I’ve been reading so much about fancy techniques like permaculture that I had neglected the most basic lesson of both startups and gardening. Execution is exponential. Just start doing something. Make it small. But you have to just start. Just plant. Just make things.

A bell curve with a smooth brain, a midwit and a Jedi. The midwit explains Sepp Holzer’s permaculture. The Jedi & the brain just plant.
Categories
Aesthetics

Day 603 and Summer Vacation

It feels like I’ve always disliked summer. I suspect people like it because of it’s association with vacations. But I find neither summer nor vacations to be that appealing individually or in conjunction. What is there to like about heat, ozone pollution, and fire season? And then you want me to add travel and disruptions to my routine? I’m skeptical.

This is probably more a reflection of how much I’ve come to hate the intense heat associated with climate change in the west. Heat domes that keep the temperature over 40 C for weeks and their associated forest fires are the stuff of nightmares. But I don’t recall looking really forward to summer breaks as a kid except for the ones that were spent at an ashram. I enjoyed all of the meditation and yoga. But otherwise summer was just a weird time when I was mostly alone.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to feel like I’m having a summer vacation and I like it. I promised myself I’d take off all of August so we could really settle into our new homestead in Montana. I didn’t expect it to feel particularly relaxing as we have a chore list a mile long. It was meant as a different kind of working summer.

But I feel like I’m having the best summer vacation of my life. The weather is lovely and cool at the moment. The food is spectacular. All cherries and steaks. I’m spending a lot of time outdoors just by walking around the neighborhood. I’ve got time to workout. We installed a full lifting cage in the barn. I’m getting plenty of sleep. My Whoop is entirely green except when I push because I want too. My time is entirely spent on personal projects. Maybe this is what people have been raving about?