Article — August 19, 2017 — learning, organization, language, home
To make sense, this article needs to coin a couple terms. The first is “unbusiness”.
Money may be seen quite differently, in an unbusiness. (source) An unbusiness is an economic enterprise based on fundamental assumptions that contradict those which predominate in the contemporary business world.
What I’ll describe now is a rough concept for an unbusiness. It generates an income, but it does not sell any product or service.
There’s a short story called Maneki Neko which beautifully illustrates an unbusiness in action. (source) To start: it’s a sociocratic cooperative.
From the Wikipedia entry on “Cooperative”:
The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”.
This definition works, if we replace “democratically” with “sociocratically”. The difference here is in how the cooperative makes decisions.
Consent is a deep topic. It’s as relevant in government as it is in sex. The most profound work I’ve seen on it is the Wheel of Consent. (source) From the Wikipedia entry on “Sociocracy”:
Sociocracy makes a distinction between “consent” and “consensus” in order to emphasize that circle decisions are not expected to produce “a consensus”. It doesn’t mean agreement or solidarity. In sociocracy consent is defined as “no objections,” and objections are based on one’s ability to work toward the aims of the organization. Members discussing an idea in consent based governance commonly ask themselves if it is “good enough for now, safe enough to try”. If not, then there is an objection, which leads to a search for an acceptable adaptation of the original proposal to gain consent.
In this cooperative, decisions are made by gathering consent.“Gathering consent” is my translation for a term from Japanese: “nemawashi”.
A decision starts with one person who wants change.Any person can start this process; even those outside the cooperative. That person then starts talking informally with others in the cooperative, asking for their consent,Asking for consent is quite different from asking for agreement. The question isn’t, “Do you want this change too?” The question is, “Do you already know this change will have bad results? If so, why, and how can we improve it?” and for their help to gather more consent.
The decision is made when everyone affected by the change consents to it. Depending on the scope of the change, only two or three people may be consulted, or consent might need to be gathered from thousands of people, far outside the participants of the cooperative itself. Sociocracy is blind to group membership; all that matters is who the change affects.
The cooperative makes improvements through trial and error. (source) “Change”, in this context, has a well-defined meaning in relation to the cooperative’s way of measuring its own performance.
The purpose of the cooperative is to learn and improve itself. It aims to be the most advanced living example of kaizen culture.
To do that, it needs to have a clear concept of what “good” means, and it needs a way of checking how good it is.
There are many words in English that I use to mean the same thing, like “beauty” or “value”. Christopher Alexander says “aliveness”, Robert Pirsig says “quality”. According to Ethnologue, there are 7,099 languages alive in the world today. How many words for “goodness” are there? (source) The concept of “good” that the cooperative bases its decisions on is always changing, because the cooperative is always learning more about the truth of the world. It starts with a simple definition, like “it’s good to live”, and gradually develops a rich philosophy, drawing on its own experience and the understanding of other cultures.
The way of measuring its performance is also always changing. It evaluates the world pattern that it is part of, starting with the method of subjective opinion, and improving in precision and objectivity from there.
To understand itself as a part in a whole, the cooperative needs to understand the whole. (source) “World pattern” is another original term, carrying with it a whole view of reality based on the concept of pattern languages. However, rather than thinking of a pattern as a human design, it requires thinking of a pattern as a natural phenomenon. Not the solution to a problem, but the manifestation of underlying forces that are intrinsic to the time and space in which the pattern occurs.
The world pattern is the universe, considered as one pattern. The cooperative evaluates the world pattern as a whole, as the first and most important indicator of its own performance.
The cooperative finds itself through a depth-first search. (source) From there, the cooperative then analyzes the world pattern, to find patterns within it, and evaluate those. It repeats the process of analysis and evaluation to find ever smaller and more local patterns, until it finds itself, evaluates itself as one part of the whole, and analyzes itself to understand how it can improve through improving the patterns that it is made of.
All this translates to a process of continuous improvement, concerned with the smallest details of everyday life, which embraces the whole of existence in its consideration.
But concretely, as an unbusiness, the cooperative is a group of people who carry out projects. The focus at the beginning is on economics, to lay the material foundation for more aspects of life to develop.
It’s important at the beginning for the people in the cooperative to not get into a frenzy of over-enthusiasm, starting dozens of lofty world-changing projects doomed to failure. Converting electricity to money is a really ordinary thing to do, like planting tomatoes; if one is more exciting than the other, there’s still room for improvement. (source) I said at the beginning that the cooperative does not sell any product or service. Its primary source of revenue is cryptocurrency mining, which allows it to convert electrical power to financial power, more or less directly.
With that financial power, it funds its own process of vertical integration, gradually gaining economic autonomy. It begins by targeting the largest unavoidable expenses, developing self-sufficiency in food, water, fuel and housing. As it becomes more advanced, over years, it moves on to electricity and manufacturing, growing to match and eventually exceed the industrial capabilities of petroleum-based civilization, while staying rooted from the beginning in local regenerative sources of power.
At the same time that the cooperative is fully dedicated to learning and improving itself, it is fully dedicated to offering the best gifts to the world that it can, because service is necessary to self-improvement.
The beginning is a struggle to gain stability, so that later, more ambitious projects can emerge from a calm and creative space. Once the ground is stable, we can try flying. (source) From the start, with its initial focus on economics, the cooperative offers 10% of its income to support other people and projects, viewing it as another way of contributing to the quality of the world pattern, and making decisions about who to give to from that basis. As the cooperative gains economic autonomy, and independence from its own revenue stream, it slowly increases the percentage of its income that it donates, until eventually money is no longer useful to it, and it gives away all it generates.
Rather than attempt to create a new system to live in that operates on the principles of gift economy, the cooperative recognizes that the world is already a gift economy, and all that’s necessary to call forth that reality is to participate in it with intelligence and steadfastness.
In the long-term perspective, the cooperative assumes that the ways of life which predominate on Earth today are fundamentally unsustainable and already in the process of collapsing completely.
When a resource seems scarce, the cooperative does not go in search of more of it; it instead concludes that more must be unnecessary, and more thinking and information gathering is required to see the truth of that. (source) During that collapse, people will be displaced, land will be abandoned, material and energy will be wasted, and knowledge will be scattered, all in tremendous amounts, flowing into chaos. The cooperative recognizes that chaos is the state of highest fertility, and therefore adopts an unbusiness strategy based on the assumption that all necessary resources are freely available in abundance.
The cooperative’s strategyWhich is always changing. is to gather these streams of lost power together, following these four imperatives:
- Place People
- People Places
- Know Material
- Materialize Knowledge
This article only describes one part of a larger process. If all you do is succeed in unbusiness, you’ve done nothing. (source) Rather than asking what’s needed, and start projects to meet those needs, the cooperative always asks what’s available, and starts projects to gather lost power. Project ideas emerge from what exists, and not what doesn’t exist. That way, the cooperative’s projects are never in need.
A project, in the view of the cooperative, is a way to call a pattern into being – and a pattern is a manifestation of underlying forces that already exist. The work of the cooperative is not to create something new, which is physically impossible, in a universe where mass-energy is conserved. It’s rather to invite the best possible expression of what already is.
Our work is the same as the work of any plant or animal: to take in waste, and put out treasure.