A couple of notes. I received a comment that some of the text in the illustrations was hard to read. You can now click on them to see a larger version which will hopefully alleviate this. I've also added some pages (links above) to aid in site navigation.
As we near the end of this series of posts on tribal economics I am going to look at the darker side of tribal life. I have largely focused on how an economic system based on the many-to-many communications power of the internet will reflect tribal economic systems without asking if this is good.
Death comes to all, but sooner to tribespeople than us.
The lives of tribespeople are usually shorter and more brutal than our own; do we really want to return to an economic system that reflects these times?
The lives of people living in egalitarian gift economies are very different from those in reciprocal gift economies, so it is important to separate the two.
In an egalitarian system - usually a tribe of hunter gatherers, murder is unusual within the tribe. As we saw earlier in the series, upsetting other members of the tribe can lead to being ostracised. However this effect is not universal and abuse of those who are vulnerable such as rape and child abuse are certainly more common than in our society.
It only goes downhill from here. Even in egalitarian tribes, murder of members of other tribes is common and violence is a regular occurrence as tribes compete for territory. There are exceptions, such as when the tribe is isolated from others or lives on land that is undesirable.
Reciprocal gift economies are considerably more brutal. As power starts to concentrate in leaders and horticulture allows for food to be stored - and stolen - a strong incentive for violence emerges.
Simple egalitarian tribes maintain many of the characteristics of hunter gatherers and violence within the tribe is fairly uncommon but this situation changes relatively quickly.
As simple horticultural tribes develop into more complex ones the situation worsens and tribes exist in a state of almost perpetual war with their neighbours. By the time tribes develop into chiefdoms, which we will explore in the next post, war, slavery, cannibalism, infanticide and the abuse of women and children are all normal.
The Ya̧nomamö provide an example of just how bad it can get. While living in a state of constant war with neighbouring tribes, the brutality of the situation extends into personal relationships; the way women measure how well cared for they are is by how many scars their husbands have given them.
And yet, the future is bright
Why, with all this violence, am I suggesting that the future holds a reflection of tribal life and that this is a good thing. There are several reasons:
Firstly, The core defining feature of the new economy, is that it engages our innate egalitarian values, only unlike in an egalitarian tribe, there are no outsiders. Essentially everyone becomes a member of a single tribe with national boundaries becoming a lot less important. Being violent in the system will always marginalise us to some (and probably most) people, diminishing our economic clout in comparison to those who are peaceful and thus disincentivising it. This is almost a reverse of the process that happened as tribes developed from egalitarian to reciprocal and happens precisely because the communications topology has returned to a many-to-many network rather than a centralising network of few-to-many.
Secondly, we don't have a choice; whilst I am actively developing a protocol that will enable this kind of economic system to develop, it is not critical. The process is already happening and to stop it, the internet would essentially have to be turned off. It is happening because we are naturally predisposed to relating in ways that evolved in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness, and technology is allowing that to happen on an unprecedented scale.
Finally, tribal times are only one of many influences. There are other influences that lead me to think that the implementation of the new economy will naturally lead to peaceful coexistence. One of the main reasons for this is that peoples basic needs will not be in doubt, and even many advanced needs, such as a free education, to any level desired, will not be in question. The reasons for this will be explored in detail at a later date.
In the last post in this series on tribal economics we will be looking at how a reciprocal gift economy developed into a command economy as simple horticultural tribes developed into agrarian societies via chiefdom tribes.
Keeley, Lawrence H. (1997) War before Civilization : The Myth of the Peaceful Savage
Nolan, Patrick and Lenski, Gerhard. (2009) Human Societies : An Introduction to Macrosociology, Eleventh Edition
Wright, Robert. 2001 Nonzero