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potato village, peanut village, ant village  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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(this is a collection of rough thoughts - I am throwing around ideas thinking that this will, eventually, evolve into something more)

I was reading the 540 meals thread because I felt I might have a new thing to add to that and saw this post a second time:

Ran Prieur wrote:There are primitive cultures that don't even have the concept of "freeloader" -- if someone does no productive activity, nobody cares. This is possible when a society is built on activities that are so enjoyable or meaningful that ordinary people would rather do them than not do them.

The concept of "freeloading" can only exist in the context of a society built on activities that are so unpleasant that nobody will do them without coercion. This coercion can be anything from whippings, to withholding of money without which you're not permitted to live, to social shaming.

In a permaculture system, every plant and animal does its role voluntarily. If the chickens don't scratch in the dirt, you put something in the dirt to make them want to scratch. Calling them "freeloaders" would be ridiculous... so why do we do this with humans?


While I don't think this is true, I do think there is some truth to it.

It also got me thinking about the purpose of the 540 meals experiment: to show that if you design your systems for noble people, then it is doomed to failure. You must design your systems for humans and all their failings.

I thought about how we can ask people that use the house to clean the house. A few do their fair share, but most don't. If you asked them to do their fair share before they enter the house, they will insist that they will - and mean it! And they will fall short for .... reasons. This evolves into a system where the people that do their part are, effectively, punished, while the people that don't, are, effectively, rewarded. You could have another building for "them" - but then tidy folks are subjected to the tidy standard of the least-tidy or they must assume the role of being the maid to others.

When you use wood heat, the wood needs to be chopped, stored correctly, brought in, a fire started and properly managed. But some people seem to not mind the cold so much. Or, more precisely, wearing your coat indoors becomes preferable to getting wood and starting a fire. So then good people keep the fire burning and others enjoy the warmth, but tend to not contibute to the heat.

So: design systems that embrace people being human.

- - -

Back to Ran's comment: is it not possible that somebody would like to do their own thing? Maybe with a quarter of an acre they would build a tiny shelter and a small garden. They would do things at their own pace, their own way. They would not be part of the gapper thing. There would be no tool burn issues - because they would use their own tools. There would be no food issues, because they would take care of their own food. There would be no worries about cleanliness because their shelter would be kept clean to their own standards. There would be no worries about building a fire because they would have total control over that.

I'm reminded of the ant and the grasshopper. Nearly everbody is certain that they are an ant. But when tested, I suspect that most people would be surprised to discover their inner grasshopper. I think that when a person arrives, they will be certain of many things they will accomplish the first week. And then they will be shocked at the number of things that go wonky.

So, maybe this idea would be "ant village". People could pay something like, say, $800 for one year. They would then be able to pick out a quarter acre from some possibilities. They would have access to a pooper and the ability to pack water. 10,890 square feet. Circle with a diameter of 118 feet. 104 feet square. The size of two city lots in seattle.

Maybe an ant village spot could later be upgraded to a shallow roots spot - or a depp roots spot. Maybe the spot has improvements that somebody would be willing to pay something for the next year - so an ant village person ends up actually coming out dollars ahead.

- - -

Gappers work 35 hours per week. They get food, cooking gear, tools, access to a shower with hot water. And when winter rolls around, we have a certain number of bunks.

During the warm season there would be potato village: a spot where the group is relatively autonomous. They cook for themselves and food is provided. All hand tools and expectations are lower.

- - -

And then here is a new idea that I haven't fully figured out. Peanut village. Kinda like potato village, but with families.

The problem with the whole gapper thing is that with a family of three, three units of resources are consumed and, say, 1.6 units of work are completed. As opposed to potato village where it is a one to one thing. But with a village, then maybe more of the adults can chip in while a few watch the kids. Maybe the parents subsidize the food a bit. Eventually, I like to think that we will be growing enough food that this point would become relatively moot.

Another thought is that it is possible that the folks in peanut village are more industrious than in potato village despite having the same overall head count.

I like the idea that each village could end the year leaving a collection of artifacts for the next year.

- - -

(I have now spent the better part of the day writing this. One of those things where I just cannot stop myself from writing)

- - -

Okay, so what do you all think? Ant village? Potato village? Peanut village?


 
Mike Cantrell
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Paul,
It's crossed my mind many times that what you're trying to do in Missoula is build a monastery. I say that for a lot of reasons, the top of which is the "benevolent dictator" model. Monks have been doing that since around 300ad.

Your remarks above about an ant village, that sounds a whole lot like the way many monasteries have hermits who are attached to them. You don't see the hermits often, but if you're going to see them, it's going to be at this particular monastery and not anywhere else. And they're still subject to the abbott's orders (in fact, you don't get to go out alone without the abbott's permission).

I haven't mentioned this before because I don't know how helpful it is. Would you get much value out if reading the writings of ancient abbots? I kind of think not. Which is a damn shame, because people have been doing this for a whole bunch of centuries, and they've probably worked out a lot of the bugs.

But today, it seemed like just noticing that your ants are actually your hermits, that could be helpful by itself.

Good luck!
 
paul wheaton
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benevolent dictator


I need to clarify that what we are doing here is "evil dictator" (which goes well with the hollowed out volcano with good submarine access). If I embrace "benevolent" then my authority is subjected to thousands of interpretations of what "benevolent" means. And each of those actually boils down to "since you did not do as I commanded, then clearly you are not 'benevolent'."


monastery / monks: I cannot use these words for my project because it implies that I am rules by some church. Although I did do a great podcast with Tall Paul who lived in a monastery for a long time.


your ants are actually your hermits


I think the ant package comes with the possibility of being a hermit. But it could also be a couple, or a family. And there could be a half dozen ants packed in really close to each other.

 
Curtis Budka
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So these thoughts have nothing to do with the mushroom gapper "level". Also to what extent do you mean one's own tools? A basic Carpenter's set or everything needed to do everything?
I'm not asking for a list, just a general idea.
 
paul wheaton
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Also to what extent do you mean one's own tools?


gappers: i supply the tools

potato village / mushroom village / peanut village: I supply the tools

ant village: each person supplies their own tools to do the thing they want to do

deep roots / shallow roots: I will help with some tools
 
Jesse Grimes
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Paul, I am curious to know what you think of Joel Salatin's idea of fiefdoms? A person on his farm, usually a former intern, can come to him and say "I would like to create and run business X on your land." Lets use running a chicken tractor egg business as an example. The egg business is a separate entity from polyface farms, but under a contract detailing the ways in which it will operate, ensuring that it acts as a benefit to the land and in a way that Mr. Salatin approves of. Some resources are provided to the egg business by Polyface, access to land, access to a tractor to move the hen house, access to polyface's marketing and distribution network. In return, polyface gets a small portion of the profits, along with the benefits of added fertility to the land from the chickens, and a new product to offer to their existing customer base. But the egg business remains under the guidance and control of the new farmer, its their own fiefdom. Of course, Joel is the king and has final say over any big decisions, but for the most part he is un-involved in the egg business and doesn't have to think about it. I have probably given a poor description of the concept, but this is what I gleaned from Salatin's PV1 talk on stacking fiefdoms. Overall it seems like a win-win for all parties, Polyface gets a beneficial operation on their land that they otherwise wouldn't have time or energy for, their customers get a new source for healthy food or products, and a young farmer gets a chance to establish their own farm business with some valuable support.

It seems like this could fit in somewhere with your Ant village concept. A person could come to your land with an idea and a little bit of money to get it started, get access to some land to do it on and maybe some other resources like the tractor, and you would get the added value to your land (fertility, infrastructure, ect.) that is a byproduct of their business. Of course, it would all have to be done in a way that is in line with your principles, you are the evil dictator after all. But, you wouldn't really have to think about their project unless some big decision had to be made.

Some ideas for businesses that might work on your land: padock shifted livestock, raw milk dairy, round wood furniture, padock shifted chickens, mushroom cultivation, tree nursery, wildcrafted herbs, plus all those ideas that you might have but have zero time to pursue.
 
paul wheaton
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I've talked about Joel's idea of fiefdoms many times in my podcasts. I'm for it here. Bring it on!
 
Dan Boone
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It's really no surprise that selected techniques for living and working in community might fruitfully be borrowed from religious orders, or that techniques for organizing a local agricultural economy could be borrowed from feudalism as Salatin proposes to do. Religious communities and feudal economies alike grappled for many centuries with the daily challenges of organizing humans to do the work of of preindustrial agricultural societies. Is it inevitable that a community hoping to produce its own food, fiber, and shelter on a sustainable basis via permaculture would borrow a few social technologies from preindustrial times? Of course not. But it would be surprising to me if there were nothing useful in that history.
 
leila hamaya
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Back to Ran's comment: is it not possible that somebody would like to do their own thing? Maybe with a quarter of an acre they would build a tiny shelter and a small garden. They would do things at their own pace, their own way. They would not be part of the gapper thing. There would be no tool burn issues - because they would use their own tools. There would be no food issues, because they would take care of their own food. There would be no worries about cleanliness because their shelter would be kept clean to their own standards. There would be no worries about building a fire because they would have total control over that.


i've never considered joining you all (for several reasons- nothing personal) ..... so this is just theoretical...but i REALLY like what you write here.

i have come to the same ideas as being the best way to have a community, and to cut down on friction, where people have autonomy and independent space-
they arent necessarily getting as much from the community, but they arent REQUIRED to give as much to the community. what they randomly do get, or voluntarily give is different...and feels a lot better all around.

its the obligation and all those expectations, and people having too much enmeshment, and stepping on each others toes to much with control trips, and not having enough alone time.... that has bothered me in most of the communal living situations i have lived in. i think what you are outlining here will bring in some different more independent types, as this would be much more appealing to a wider group of people.
 
leila hamaya
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i also whole heartedly agree with the quote of rans.

now though...its more complicated than that, that people are so accustomed to work being drudgery, people head tripping them all the time everywhere as a norm...and just all the weird things that pass as normal nowadays...well its complicated.

some people wouldnt know what to do with true freedom even if it was handed to them on a platter. but there are different types of people, and i think many people, self starters, would thrive in a situation like that. and they would still give a lot, even not being required to, because giving feels great!

some people might give less in that kind of sit, but i also some people might be inclined to give more of themselves, regardless of it being not REQUIRED...actually because it is not obligatory.
 
paul wheaton
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