Village Scale

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Dunbar's number is the number of people that one person can know on a face-to-face basis. It is about 150-200 people. This is also the size of village. We are choosing this as the design size of a module of human settlement which can allow for the prosperity associated with city life, while avoiding environmental and urban decay.

The village scale is a useful organizational scale from the perspective of startup city experiments. Such a village can be embodied readily in the form of a campus - which is our preferred route. Since a university campus combines education, research, and living - we can use this model as a basis for the OSE Campus. By adding agriculture and manufacturing - we can innovate on the campus model to combine familiar university functions with a real economy - to produce a village to reinvent the world. Such a life can then be based on lifelong learning, scientific experimentation, cultural progress, and meaning sustained by ecologically sound supply chains - in harmony with its land base which provides the natural raw materials as a foundation. Think of every town being a farm, a college town, and industrial eco-park. This is nothing new in principle - we are just putting all these into one to create a regenerative settlement of tomorrow. Many efforts have tried to reinvent the world - as we shall discuss in The State of the World - but to date - proliferation of consumerism remains the norm instead. Will we succeed? It's up to us. We made the case that open source economic development is a prerequisite for a transition.

Defining human settlements as modules of 200 people is useful from the practicality perspective. This is because creating a settlement of 200 people is not a far cry from the standpoint of effective execution. New cookie cutter housing developments demonstrate this every day. Moreover, finance capital is not necessarily required if the village grows organically. For us, that would mean on the time frame of 3 years - the time it takes to secure land, build basic infrastructure (year 1), create an immersion education program (year 2) and then start operations in year 3. From then on, the place improves for ever as a site of permanent human heritage where people have an honest environment for evolving to freedom. We will discuss the enterprise model for building and replication in the Enterprise chapter.

Village scale appears to be too small to achieve cultural and scientific progress as we know it today. Spaceships and semiconductors in the global village? While the village idiot or the village poor may be the stereotypes - if we involve the internet - we have an advanced Global Village. If we believe in information theory - then we know that knowledge is power. And the wired Global Village can have all that power. Provided that knowledge is open source - as the theme of this book.

The promise of the global village is the transformation of centralized industrial production to distributed production. Seminal thinkers such as Schumacher and Ghandi have discussed the ills of over-sized societal infrastructures (see Swaraj) - and made a case that small is beautiful. They were some of the first to proclaim that small scale production is more effective at meeting social needs as well as economic needs. Contemporary thought - Natural Capitalism - went further - proposing that we also include nature in our economic accounting. We take this to the extreme - in that the open source microfactory can be fueled regeneratively by solar income and the resources of any hospitable 40 acre parcel. In our equation, people and nature are not left behind.

Dunbar's scale is the smallest 'module' of civilization - sufficient in number such that if a village uses modern technology - it can provide all the technological and organizational functions up to semiconductor manufacturing. What? That's right. In this book we will indicate how that could be achieved. We will make a case that this is feasible with local resources - namely the rocks, sunlight, plants, soil, and water found in many habitable places.

A number of times I have heard people say that a village cannot produce the richness of modern civilization - what do you do in a village for social life? My response is that this is true for a single village. But there would be many global villages - all of which combine to make civilization that is actually more fulfilled and less alienated - not much different in appearance to the most desirable places to live that we know today. So getting into one's car or drone would provide one with all the cultural diversity a short ride away - no different than in today's world. The idea behind global villages is that each could have its own special character and focus - so people could find the most favorable and inviting

Murray Bookchin on the Village Scale

Murray Bookchin, an American social theorist, also covers the topic of the "village scale":

The implications of small-scale agriculture and industry for a community are obvious: if humanity is to use the principles needed to manage an ecosystem, the basic communal unit of social life must itself become an ecosystem—an ecocommunity. It too must become diversified, balanced and well-rounded. By no means is this concept of community motivated exclusively by the need for a lasting balance between man and the natural world; it also accords with the Utopian ideal of the rounded man, the individual whose sensibilities, range of experience and lifestyle are nourished by a wide range of stimuli, by a diversity of activities, and by a social scale that always remains within the comprehension of a single human being.

-- Murray Bookchin, Post Scarcity Anarchism p. 65

See Post Scarcity Anarchism, and the PDF available here.