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Monday, 24 January 2011

Understanding holons

I've noticed that some people have trouble understanding the idea of holons and how a holonic society works. As the idea of holons forms an important part of the socioeconomic design that EOS presents I thought I would try an present an overview of the idea in the hope it clarifies some points.

The whole idea of holons comes from observations of nature so in proposing a holonic structure EOS presents a structure that emulates nature. Nature organises herself in a bit of a different way to humans and I suspect that the main problem people have with the holonic concept stems from this difference. People tend to form hierarchies around a leader  and when people come to EOS they tend to look for a centralised leadership; "show me my leader and I'll pledge obedience". However, a holonic system has no centralised leadership. This doesn't mean that it has no leaders at all but it means we have no one overall leader. Instead we have a distributed form of governance.

A holonic system has a number of groups or organisations and individuals that form a network. Each group within the network runs itself the way that it wants to. Which means it can have leaders within the group or not, depending on the group.

What keeps the whole thing together? In a word; goals. The whole system, exists to achieve a goal. In the case of EOS we aim for an overall goal of a sustainable, technological, moneyless society that offers a high standard of living for everyone. We aim to achieve this through the appliance of science to society. Each group in the network can work towards its own goals its own way so long as those goals fit in with the overall goal. We do envision that groups will work on projects so will have some kind of project leader and coordinators to help cooperation with other groups. These act to achieve the goals of the group.  We also envision people having technical expertise in each group and the technical experts will make the decisions within their domain.

All the groups within the network cooperate; each putting something into the network and each getting something out of it in a symbiotic relationship (again, like in nature). When two or more groups find that they have something in common they can elect to work together on that common project. In doing so they form a new group higher up the holarchy. This enables multiple groups to combine resources to efficiently achieve a common goal.  Those higher up holons can form, themselves, other higher up holons.  Much like cells in a  body form organs which in turn form a body.

Where groups differ with other groups they can go their own way and do their own thing, within the limits of the overall goal. A holonic system allows diversity and differences and sees them as strengths.  We do not see the need to control everyone nor have everyone do the same thing; people have a great deal of freedom to get on and do things with out having to have someone to stand over them and constantly tell them what to do. Thus, we accept groups that have their differences and welcome that difference.  This allows us to test out new ideas and explore other alternatives. So EOS doesn't need to dominate other groups nor absorb them into EOS. Pick a project you would like to work on. Does it fit in with the goal (check with a director if unsure). Yes? Then get on with it!
The system does have a hierarchy of functional sequences on the side. This structure has appointed directors that match onto the holarchy. The directors have the job of ensuring communications between groups and ensuring that each group has compatible goals but the directors do not interfere with the internal running of the group.

The Terran Technate as of early 2011

For more on holons see:

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Zeitgeist III - Moving Forward

Last night EOS had a showing of "Zeitgeist III - Moving Forward", the latest film from Peter Joseph, at Umeå University. The event went really well and we had 42 people along, some stayed for a chat afterwards. I think I would class this as the best ZM film so far. It does a good overview of our socio-economic system and human nature.  Most of the film I would agree with with. Nice to see that in the human nature part the film pointed out that human behaviour results from a combination of environment and genes but it did place more emphasis on the environment. On the violence part; yes, children of violent parents tend to behave violently themselves but does such behaviour only result from the environment? Also, we have a body of evidence that shows that past societies had more violence than today's (see Steven Pinker's TED talk).

The film gave a good overview of The Venus Project design for a city, although I had hoped for more details. The animations in the film ranks among the best! Given the title, I though it a bit odd it didn't cover more about moving forward such as a transition plan but then we do have a number of groups, including EOS, working on moving away from our current socio-economic system to a moneyless one. Another odd thing in the film; given the emphasis on science applied to society and the central roll of testing in science and the fact that Jaqcue Fresco mentioned the need for testing in the film yet the film didn't say anything about testing out any alternative to our current system.

Overall, very well worth seeing!

The ZM III Showing, Umeå University, 15 January 2011.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

It's all a conspiracy!

Recently I had a link to the “light bulb conspiracy” presented to me. Basically it has for a subject “programmed obsolescence”. The term “programmed obsolescence” refers to the industrial practice of designing for failure. Manufactures produce items at the minimum level of quality they feel they can get away with, but not too high a quality, so that items fail; thus people have to go back to buy replacement products. The film then calls this a “conspiracy”. I disagree. Yes, manufactures do indeed produce items to fail but that does not equate to a conspiracy. The word “conspiracy” means:

  • Conspiracy (civil), an agreement between persons to deceive, mislead, or defraud others of their legal rights, or to gain an unfair advantage
  • Conspiracy (crime), an agreement between persons to break the law in the future, in some cases having committed an act to further that agreement
  • Conspiracy (political), the overthrow of a government


Thus, we can define the essential elements of a conspiracy as a plot, normally in secret, to carry out something illegal or to gain an unfair advantage. “Programmed obsolescence” does not fall into the category of something illegal (no government makes it so) nor into the category of “gaining an unfair advantage” as all manufactures either practice it or have the opportunity to practice it.

It seams to me that calling things a conspiracy has come into vogue; from 9/11 to NWO to the 2012 Olympics. Whether its alien, lizards or the a secret society. Sometime it appears to me as if the expressions “think for yourself” and “get educated” means “believe in the latest conspiracy theory without question”!!!

Where others see plots carried out in secret to do something illegal I see multi-agents interacting. I see self organising networks of individuals at work but most of all I see emergent phenomena.

Have a look at a dot and see what properties it has. Then arrange a number of dots in an arc and see what properties we then have. Dots arranged in an arc have properties such as length and angle that the single dot does not. These new properties emerge from the way we have ordered the dots.

Emergence: dots in a line have properties that no individual dot has.

Dots in a line forms a very simple example of emergence. Society forms a more complex example of the same phenomena. Here, instead of dots, we have people and instead of arranging them in a line we have dynamic social interactions forming networks; people know other people. We have on average six links between us and almost everyone else on the planet! Some people have more power to effect the world we live in than others. Some groups also have such power but the world doesn't run according to the plans of any one person or group but instead as a result of the interactions of many people and many groups.

Everybody interacts with other people through following a set of rules. Rules that define acceptable social behaviour, laws or arrangements and even rules that tell you how you can break other rules; like a kind of game. All these rules form what we call the socioeconomic system that we live in. This, like programmed obsolescence, emerge out of this interaction. To play the game in our current socioeconomic system companies must make profit. One way to do that would involve getting people to come back and buy a new product again and again. Making the product to fail after a certain time gets people to come back and buy them again. Our socioeconomic system has other means to get people to buy and buy again with fashion coming to mind first; throw away perfectly good clothes so you can buy this years fashion.

Our socioeconomic system produces a number of other undesirable emergent phenomena from concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority to enforced poverty to environmental damage. We can even see “dumbing down” of TV and the education system as emergent phenomena of our (free) market economy; you want to maximise profits you need to appeal to the majority and intelligent people form a minority (don' forget, half the population fall below average intelligence to start with) so you have to appeal to the “dumb” majority of society through “dumbing” down; TV reflects the type of society we live in!

We also have another interesting emergent property of our current socioeconomic system; conspiracy theories. In a (free) market economy where we can't trust manufactures to tell the truth ( “buy brand X, its much better than brand y, honest”! ) we find people having to exercise the paranoid aspect of their nature. In a society that breeds distrust does anyone wonder why we have so many conspiracy theories?

We get the society we deserve!

Instead of looking for conspiracies and the imaginary evil groups behind them we instead should realise what we see around us results from the socioeconomic system we live in. If we don't like the destruction of the environment, the level of distrust, the dumbing down of our education and TV, the enforced poverty and the hindrance to our own advancement we need to redesign and build a new system. A system that has a new set of rules; one without money, without profit seek behaviour and without the need for paranoia.

EOS works on the design for an alternative socioeconomic system. A moneyless system that gives everyone equal access to what they need. One that maintains a balance with the ecosystem. What to know more, see: