Dunbar’s Fraction: staying upstream of social technology

Edit 2: Some cleanup in progress since Nick B Steves linked here. Much appreciated! And my screenname is just “laofmoonster”, please

Dunbar’s number, somewhere between 100 and 300, demarcates the upper bound of meaningful social relationships one can have. It is an artifact of our tribal monkey past. Modern social life is far more decentralized, requiring cognitive workarounds. One’s “tribe” is shifting and non-transitive. To extend our social sphere beyond Dunbar’s number requires social technology, which abstracts relationships as to not require our full attention. I define social technology very broadly, to include anything from religion, to law, to Facebook, to Nydwracu’s exosemantic gang signs.

Like any abstraction layer, social technology has tradeoffs. The broader the abstraction, the more contorts our cognitive toolkit that was originally used for face-to-face communication. Unlike socially agnostic technology (such as general purpose computer hardware) that it builds on, social technology (social software?) is specifically optimized in relation human behavior. (“Optimized”, not in a moral sense, but in a functional sense. The Spenglerian Machine may ultimately consume us, but that is a topic to be expanded at another time…)

Social technology is necessary, but not to be taken for granted. To use another computing analogy, it’s great that a jQuery code monkey doesn’t need to dereference pointers or to call malloc(). But once in a while, he should still look underneath the hood. Muck around with C once in a while, try to make and catch a memory leak with Valgrind.

Right now, the progressives control social technology. Upworthy is a great example of an unholy alliance of memetics and progressivism. Obama used Big Data. Taken in sum, we know progressive social technology as the Cathedral. But in Europe, the democratically elected far Right is building its own psychomachine. If they gain power, to what extent do we join them? While my sympathies lie with them, I believe that that if neoreaction is to be an analytic rather than action-based movement (and the recent internal conflict seems to be pushing it in that direction), it must be upstream of social technology.

There are lapsed progressives who can take reaction piecemeal while still maintaining leftism, like Scott Alexander or Jayman. Somehow, Moldbug had the opposite effect on me: I accept the big picture of Neoreaction, despite still holding my own unorthodoxies/unorthopraxies (find my Tumblrs, or better yet, don’t. it’s too late to change my screename). Moldbug’s Red Pill lobotomizes progressivism at the source. Instead of starting with an object-level attack of progressivism a-la of anti-racism, feminism, communism, etc., he goes upstream, straight to the root of Americanism itself.

When you work downstream of social technology, the battle is half lost. When creating the game is part of the game, merely playing the game is a severe handicap. Escaping this requires you to recognize the rules of the game first. Conservatives are very bad at this, which is why they keep losing. Entryism  (by the game controller) is a feature of popularity contests, not a bug.

How do we get upstream? One technique I hinted at regards Dunbar’s number:

In a small blogosphere, readers can ascribe specific beliefs with specific bloggers. In terms of written communication, this is about as close to direct interaction as is possible. You can interact with them in good faith, and keep track of both the idea and the person. This belief-believer correspondence breaks down with larger numbers. The good news is, you can unilaterally (un)subscribe to someone’s blog/twitter to maintain your optimal follow count.

Social technology is intrinsically adversarial to an individual, in some form or another. For example, representative democracy performs lossy compression on the electorate’s beliefs to select a delegate. Some loss is random, but much of it is not, and that’s where the tragedy of the commons comes into play.

Because modern people have no single tribe, but many tribes, Dunbar’s number must be appropriately cut. Let’s say that 10% of your life is spent in NRx, and Dunbar’s number is 200. Your Dunbar Fraction for NRx is 20. This doesn’t mean you can’t interact with more than 20 NRxys, just that your most productive interactions will be limited to 20 people. It also does not mean that NRx can only be 20 people. Relations are not transitive, and different people can unilaterally decide their own preferences. It does mean that anything created downstream of “core” NRx, the handful of essential thinkers, will need to be supported by its own social technology, shielded from Cathedralite social technology. (hopefully something more substantial than Twitter or Reddit). Group projects like Theden, Social Matter, The Hestia Society, and yes, the Idaho project, are a great start.


Edit: Prior art from Bryce and Nyan Sandwich.

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3 Responses to Dunbar’s Fraction: staying upstream of social technology

  1. nickbsteves says:

    It seems steering the Neoreactionary Rebranding Discussion toward an eponym may not be too bad an idea.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

  3. Thanks for the prior art mention.

    I like the broad conception of social technology, though we should not expand it infinitely.

    Agree in conclusion that the way forward is to go deeper into specific projects that get real people together doing future-oriented stuff.

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