Autopoiesis: Self-organization and self-creation in grassroots settings

With @jokibitzer I had a DM exchange triggered by mention of:


The term autopoiesis (from Greek αὐτo- (auto-) ‘self’, and ποίησις (poiesis) ‘creation, production’) refers to a system capable of producing and maintaining itself by creating its own parts.

Self-creation and self-organization is what many people & groups aim to achieve in their organization.

Here’s the text exchange of the DM for context of this topic:

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As indicted above this thread is a fork from Intro and forums versus chats - #11 - SocialHub

I do:

  1. Participate / Try to inititiate long-term small cooperations / groups, each seeing itself as
    a. autopoietic / autonomous / self-creating / self-governing
    b. participating in / being an atom of network which close to them might look like similar cooperations / groups, each local cooperation / group cooperating with / tuning itself with small number of others
  2. Some theory about 1 both
    a. inside groups a la 1
    b. on my own

The theory of self-creation/organization is what I find very interesting. And the subsequent application of the theory in a practical manner and in a way that does not need to scale, yet is infinitely scaleable in the case of organic growth. Quoting Schumacher again:

“The fundamental task is to achieve smallness within large organisation” — E.F. Schumacher

Things work while they are small, and get very complex when too big. So large, broad-scoped communities are a no-go area if you want to facilitate self-creation. People’s independence and personal motivations must be taken into account.

@strypey passed along a site a couple times, that presented a methodological approach, but rn I forgot the name with my info-overloaded brain.

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I am trying to connect the people here:

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The quote is from his book

@aschrijver, did you read the book? Shall I read it?

I own it, but I didn’t read it yet. I have a whole pile of books to someday read :sweat_smile: :man_shrugging:

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I have a copy too. You and me may start a small autopoietic cooperation of reading (and discussing) it together :slightly_smiling_face:

(I am thinking here:

  1. small - 1 person, cooperation of 2 people, 3, 4, 5, also of 40, probably also of 200…; not sure where it ends up
  2. big / large - certainly the cooperation of 8,000,000,000 people, also of 1,000,000, probably also 100,000, maybe also 1,000…; not sure where it ends down)

I believe systems / things can be labeled in two dimensions. Here are the two dimensions and some examples of the systems / the things:

autopoietic/autonomous allopoietic/heteronomous
big/large human society as a whole Ukrainian army defends its country
small two strangers meet on the train and talk two tennis players play a match at Wimbledon tournament

Additional complication is, that in any particular situation elements of all 4 boxes of the table are involved.

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I absolutely reject this. I also reject it’s inverse. People are not naturally altruistic or cooperative either. People are not naturally anything, but mammals with brains optimised for social game-playing. The dominant social games at any given time determine whether we adopt ideologies and behaviours that are individualistic and competitive (“zero-sum”) or generous and collaborative (“win-win”).

Capitalists engineer scarcity and use money to ration out access to essential goods and services (food, housing, healthcare etc). Allowing them to use offers of money to tip people into zero-sum game-play, even if we’re aware of the downsides and would rather be playing win-win games.

100% agree.

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In Swarmwise, Rick Falkvinge proposes 7 as the maximum size for this kind of informal organising to be effective. This book is an easy read, and full of experience-based advice. I recommend it to anyone interested in organising that’s horizontal, rather than hierarchical.

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Maybe you were thinking of

Small is Beautiful? Yes, I read it in the late 90s and I highly recommend it. In fact, I’ve been thinking I need to reread it.

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There’s much nuance not expressed in my short sentence, some of which we discussed in DM’s. The stuff where people dedicate their life to write books on psychology and philosophy about. Suffice it to say that people are autonomous creatures with agency and their own needs and interests they pursue. And in doing so seek advantageous alignments. You have a good follow-up re: zero-sum vs. win-win. It is like each person plays their own first-person game of life based on complex decision-making.

I use “hypercapitalism” to avoid heated discussions on theory of “capitalism” while the system we have in practice is clearly broken. “Tip people into zero-sum game-play” is a nice way to phrase, I agree and I like that description. Where I focus is how hypercapitalism entices people to wield their vices to ‘bend’ the rules in their favor as it were and create “winning conditions”. This is intrinsic to the system and deeply affect the dynamics of the game.

Any elaboration is necessarily simplistic, unless we too write books full of deliberation. But e.g. results of this ‘vice-flavored’ model is that we have a “distrust-first” approach to dealing with others that permeates society as a whole. It may make our decision-making favor zero-sum choices and not grab obvious win-wins even they are the more logical choice. This is an assumption but with lotsa anecdotal evidence.

Where my interests lie is in thinking about systems that emphasize our virtues instead, in our interactions with others. On the assumption that they hold tremendous value and power, that we are becoming increasingly unaware of, by the continuous eroding effects of hypercapitalism as it steers us more and more in the direction of this “survival of the fittest” all-or-nothing gameplay. We forget the power of our virtues.

Now that line of thinking brings me motivational drivers to pursue virtue-driven interactions as a hobbyist philosopher and builder and prove the thesis of the value and power they hold. I explicitly mention “Hobbyist” here, as I don’t intend to be a fierce activist on this front, nor a wise lecturer having all his facts clear to teach others.

Philosophically I believe that - eventually - a virtue-based system should be able to introduce itself, without being taught, and that that aspect itself - of a system that emerges organically, rather than one the is enforced on us - is very important, (I say “eventually” because it is required that a growing group of people are dedicated to exploring how to set “the flywheel” in motion to introduce this system).

I also mention “Hobbyist” because I recognize that I, as a regular guy, can only give my 2cts and will necessarily be “dumb” in the face of all of the wisdom and knowledge that is already out there. I’m not seeking new ideas or wisdom, just applications of them and I will continously make “stupid” simplifications, as I am just one tiny soul. It is only collective wisdom that might lead us into new territories here.

I am thinking the book is highly worthwhile too, from excerpts I’ve read and the many quotes of Schumacher that are out there.

Somehow (and not sure why) I completely overlooked the brainstorming of @IgnisIncendio (sorry :pray:) in Open brainstorming: Money, small communities and inter-community trading and communication, so cross-referencing it here. Similar topic and the notion that Small is Huge, when it comes to community and collab.

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Yes, thanks. You passed this a couple of times, and now I found I did keep notes of that. Just forgot the name in order to find the notes :slight_smile:

Just published by Richard D. Bartlett:

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Very good article. What I am looking for, here with you, @aschrijver, with you, @strypey, and here and elsewhere with others, is:

Dealing with / reading / studying / gobbling / grokking / holding

this Bartlett’s text and similar sources / concepts / ideas / projects / activities

as a disting / self-aware group / superorganism.

‘We’ - cluster, imagining a physical envelope around us, watching and disussing the invisible springs holding ‘us’, feeling the surface tension of ‘our’ bubble, maintaining the integrity of ‘us’, avoiding crossing into teritory of every other cluster, being like amoeba.

I believe it is an important methodology principle:

Not to think about / study multi-scale competency architecture as (lonely?) (isolated?) (self-contained?) individualists; but to do / to be / to realize what ‘we’ are studying. (At least one layer of it.)

EDIT: Referenced at Arnold Schrijver 🇪🇺 - Stránky 2 - Trojka třetího.

Did a first dip in of the brainstorming and just a quick note:

It seems to me that in this enviroment, which I am not sure how to describe / define / demark, but it includes the brainstorming, this thread (Autopoiesis: Self-organization…) and the thread

… In this enviroment people somewho suppose that human ability and propensity(?) to engage in small autopoietic cooperation is a constant(?) / a given(?). A natural resource of infinite supply.

My view is different, I see this ability as diminishing / decreasing, perhaps heading to extintion. I see more and more people going through their whole (adult) life engaging mostly / primarily / only(?) with the big impersonal(?) systems.

So my focus is on doing / training(?) / promoting(?) small autopoietic cooperations in a way similar we do jogging or joga or othe excercise instead of the formerly natural hard labor or hunting.

And, I believe it is inherently difficult, perhaps impossible, to construct big systems / tools / concepts (think the whole industry around fitness, wellness…) to foster(?) small autopoietic cooperations. I am quite sure the only(?) / the best(?) way of learning / training small autopoietic cooperations is by doing them. Keep the flame?

I guess it is difficult to learn how to do small autopoietic cooperation (and to lear to want to do it!) from a How to Do Book, in the same way it is difficult to learn mother tongue from a series of videos by a clever Youtuber.

And one more point: We may do theoretizing about small autopoietic cooperations, but I believe, it is better to do it in or from small autopoietic cooperations than to do it in big impersonal systems.

Well, it is not so quick note, after all.

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Yes, I also perceive the detrimental effects of big impersonal systems. Think the big Social Media platforms. I feel they play a big role in the erosion of the fabric of our society we witness all around us.

But even on the Fediverse, where small instances are building blocks, once connecting them we get a fleety kind of communication. It may be self-organizing, but not suited for self-creation. The microblogging fedi right now is a “casual chatternet” that may be inspiring, but where most knowledge gets lost and where real action happens in other places.

In other words it does not support small autopoietic cooperations in any way.

(Generalizing a bit… if your objective is to have a small discussion group, then e.g. a Hometown instance with local-only communication may do the trick)

(PS. @onepict made me aware of who made Poietic Generator - Wikipedia@helge made not long ago, that allows collective pixel editing on the fedi. A fantase extrem advanced version would be Floor796 collectively expanded)

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Hmm. Not received email notification of yours, @aschrijver, posts. Changing Tracking to Watching. I hope it does it.

So, I came here with something in mind. I will post that first and return to you, @aschrijver, and other former matters later.

What I have seems to be optical character recognition of this:
Publication data are missing so I inestigated a little:

Promoting Municipal Library of Prague

Promoting Wikipedia

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher

Publisher: Blond & Briggs (1973–2010), HarperCollins (2010–present).

EDIT: Deleted

deteleD :TIDE


  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0061997765
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0061997761

Promoting Robert S. Hartman Institute


Epilogue / epigraph

Few can contemplate without a sense of exhilaration the splendid achievements of practical energy and technical skill, which, from the latter part of the seventeenth century, were transforming the face of material civilisation, and of which England was the daring, if not too scrupulous, pioneer. If however, economic ambitions are good servants, they are bad masters.

The most obvious facts are most easily forgotten. Both the existing economic order and too many of the projects advanced for reconstructing it break down through their neglect of the truism that, since even quite common men have souls, no increase in material wealth will compensate them for arrangements which insult their self-respect and impair their freedom. A reasonable estimate of economic organisation must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralysed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria which are not purely economic.

R. H. Tawney
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism

By and large, our present problem is one of attitudes and implements. We are remodelling the Alhambra with a steam-shovel, and are proud of our yardage. We shall hardly relinquish the shovel, which after all has many good points, but we are in need of gentler and more objective criteria for its successful use.

Aldo Leopold
A Sand County Almanac

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Splendid. Thanks for the summary. PS. Out of principle, let’s leave out links to Amazon.

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