Question: Noisebridge has successfully lived for 11+ years, but are we even as mature as a 5-year-old when it comes to executive functioning?
What I mean when I say “executive function” is right at the top of the Wikipedia definition:
Executive functions (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control ) are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.
HEREIN I wish to ask the question, is it possible for an Anarchist organization to wield such control over its own selectivity (i.e. ongoing choices of what to do and what not to do) as to ascend to better levels of overall health and well-being?
A frequently used business analogy about what takes to take a team of individuals and transform them into a coherent unit revolves around crew racing – you know, the 5AM training that yuppy kids do in order to get a scholarship to business school.
Well, it’s a great analogy.
Let’s start with the notion that it’s easy for one person to row a boat by themselves. Varying amounts of skill in that one person will make the boat travel quickly or slowly, but suffice it to say all of the decision-making rests in one body. One body to do the seeing and hearing, the same body to process that information and turn it into action.
One person won’t drive a boat very quickly across a lake nearly as quickly as 8 people, however. Even if 1 of those people happens not to be rowing at all.
To achieve maximum power and speed, it takes envisioning the team as one organism whose executive functioning lies mostly with the leader (coxswain) as informed by the leader’s eyes and ears as well as the split-second reaction-time adjustments made by the rowers themselves. The rowers, meanwhile, have more of their cycles to devote to being the perfect machines for turning calories into the movement of a boat across water.
(I do recommend reading this Wharton article, it’s well written.)
That’s all fine and good, you say, but aren’t you implying something distasteful about formalizing some kind of hierarchy at Noisebridge?
While I would agree that this is the usual first solution, it’s only the most common one. Perhaps we can do better.
The thought experiment I have been playing with is the concept of “FORMATIONS”.
The idea is that each individual practices to be part of the formation so that when the time comes (and we’ll get to that in a second), one only has to name the formation in order to mount the proper team response.
Unlike animals, whose individual behaviors have been shaped by evolution – being a bad teammate is bad for you and also bad for your whole family and thus all your related DNA – in the case of military tactics and other human grouping behaviors, these skills emerge not out of “instinct”, but rather out repeated studying of situations and effects. The development of tactics requires a willingness to try new things, which in turn requires the existence of a team willing to try out the formation to see if it works.
After all that, assuming that some tactic has been developed in which a group of people at The Anarchist Hackerspace know their place in the formation and are ready to execute it, there still remains the issue of how to determine when to deploy the formation.
In order to evince Excellent Executive Functioning, an organism must:
- be a dutiful collector of information by attuning the senses to the proper inputs.
- be a calm organizer of information by moderating emotional reactions.
- be a judicious sharer of information – uncareful sharing can get you in trouble (e.g. nobody needs to know about the rooftop fireworks), while some information should always be shared (e.g. other bees should know where to find more flowers).
- be a pattern-recognition machine BUT avoid overfitting.
- know when existing patterns aren’t sufficient and new models are needed.
- know which responses are appropriate for which patterns.
- know when is the right time to get into formation for efficiency.
- recognize when the job is done and end the formation.
When all of these tasks are contained within one brain, shit’s easy. You can paddle your own canoe. Just not all that fast.
Now imagine Noisebridge is one organism, a multicellular colony with a spread-out nervous system. Are we fit to survive?
Can we take each “step” in the Excellent Executive Functioning list and have it make sense as an assigned role to a cell in the colony?
Can we teach ourselves “formations” to get into at the right times – without the usual modern baggage of who’s ruling whom?