Evolutionary mathematics

How can a group of people bring about a fundamental shift in society? Can we analyse civil movements with mathematical metrics to improve the efficiency of strategies and the definition of goals?

The occupation in Melbourne is still in its Early Adaptor stage, although it seems to resonate enough with a potentially ‘critical’ mass that can bring things to a tipping point. Allow me to set out some hypothetical numbers while forgetting about ideological bullshit. Melbourne has roughly 4 million citizens, which means if 5% of the population constitute a ‘critical mass’, it would take 200.000 Melbournians to liberate this city from its oppressors (if the same thing happens globally).

200.000 sounds like a lot, it’s probably more than the ‘alternative’ parties count as members in whole Australia. But occupy isn’t a political party, it’s more like a life style choice. So metrics from other areas of life might better reflect such a number can be achieved or not. For simplicity’s sake and inspired by sometimes shaky optimism, I assume that theoretically 200,000 could be convinced to commit their alliance to the idea of leaderless, consensual direct democracy.

Between now and 200,000 Melbourne occupiers lies the growth of the movement. Growth happens cyclical, linear or exponential. Although most systems and structures based on exponential growth constitute a big part of the problem, a phase of exponential growth is required to save this planet before the greedy few have wrecked it entirely.

Time for some calculations. Let’s take 100 people, committed to contribute to the growth of the movement. The goal for each of them is to find a single ally per week. Even for people with a daytime job this sounds like an achievable target. In a linear model, it takes 2,000 weeks (roughly 38 years) to get our magical 200,000 together. A job for a lifetime, a Sisyphus task. Farewell, Mother Earth, will be late for your rescue as we got sidetracked supporting the system of destruction.

Now let’s bring some magic in, exponential growth. Our 100 people win allies, not consumers or subscribers, and show their alliance by doing the same. After a week there will 200 ‘members’, after two weeks 400, and so on. Now guess how many weeks it’ll take with this growth rate to get to 200,000. Don’t peer ahead and spoil your fun. I happily distract you for a while – isn’t distraction the real opium for the masses, be it sport, politics, porn, drugs, drama and media?

Already after two months the barrier to 10,000 allies is broken, and the numbers will jump within the next month (after 12 weeks) over the 200,000 mark. Even with only 10 people as starting point it would take a mere 19 weeks to grow to a number where even a 10% mobilisation rate would exceed the size of most rallyes that took place in recent history in Melbourne.

While this might sound like a pyramide scheme, there’s an essential difference. In a flat hierarchy, everybody is allowed to take their share from the gains of the operation. The idea of property, especially of land, contradicts the common interest, especially in highly populated world. And alliance (or membership) wouldn’t necessarily mean membership fees (do we really need money on an abundant planet?).

Before we can agree how to heal the planet and to evolve mankind the system of madness needs to be stopped. Dr. ABC, first of all, remove the danger. 200,000 people in Melbourne’s streets would certainly bring many things to a stop, and initiate a wave of civil disobedience that potentially brings back justice into society.



Posted on November 23, 2012, in 1Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. These are numbers that compare with Spain and Greece. Can you elaborate on how this can be achieved? I don’t see it happening at this stage. it’s not even happening in the USA in those kind of numbers.

  2. Spain and greece had much more incentive to ‘multiply’ – the hardship imposed on the population, together with potentially a bit better education, and less restricted media manipulation brought people on the street. However, Europe is used to many people protesting (higher population density), so it’s easier to dismiss the importance, like it happened in 2003 with europe wide protests against the Iraq invasion.

    I deliberately chose a vague question “Do you want to save this planet?” for this thought experiment. Yet I still believe in the power of the process of finding consent, although it failed most of the times during GAs in Melbourne. That doesn’t mean that the process itself doesn’t work, rather that it needs skilled facilitators, and a bit of patience.

    One main complaint about consent finding was that it takes ages to come a decision, however, that depends largely on the intention of a group to find consent. Many collectives in Melbourne and elsewhere use the same process, with a more ‘defined’ goal than occupy.

    As I’m not the next Marx or Kropotkin or Keynes, and haven’t met anyone like that, I honestly have no clue how a world or even just a region without government would look like. And the vision promoted by Zeitgeist doesn’t really appeal to me.

    One core idea of occupy was to develop a process for finding consent that works most of the times, and to bring it back into ‘normal’ communities. But the means to learn this process, living in tents in public space, have been mistaken by some as the ends.

    Anyway, the vagueness of occupy still appealed to some people, those how believe that keeping the ‘system’ alive will create much more suffering than we already have. The only certainty we have is the shit hitting the fan big time if we don’t resist and create alternatives.

    Non-violent resistance remains a powerful tool, although the general strike in Europe, with 23 nations coordinating their actions, has been largely ignored by the main stream media. However, more and more people start experimenting with alternatives, growing their own food, using more sustainable ways for producing energy and serving basic needs.

    We got educated to choose the lesser of two evils, this became extremely apparent with the last US election. Politics still promises heaven, and always fails to deliver, and instead creates of living hell, right now (among other places) in Palestine.

    Nevertheless, a small group of people like MAAS managed to provide positive examples of non-violent resistance, without the need of strict hierarchies or well-defined organisation. What I like about MAAS is the lack of ideology – we know that what the government imposes sucks badly, and needs to be opposed.

    It’s a tough call to embrace to venture into the unknown, no matter whether it’s in terms of resistance or creating alternatives. Most people still seek rather the devil that’s known than experiment with something with unknown outcome. And yes, shit happens, but unless we need a well-defined punishment system (playing the blame-game), we can simply move to more successful strategies to live as free human beings on a planet offering abundance.

    I know that many people are petrified about vagueness, but I’m convinced that we can step forward to a free society with those who value the means (non-violent cooperation) easier than finding an agreeable end (socialist paradise, TZM, fascism).

  3. Here’s another take about what ‘numbers’ and strategy can bring about a shift in society. Max Igan claims that promoting the idea that we, the people have a trust relationship to the government, and stand up against breaching the trust can reign in governments that lost their tracks. The rest of the talk is very interesting as well, but maybe a bit more off-topic than the q&a part, which starts at about 20 seconds in this clip:

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