work participation
From: don i arkin (
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 11:09:02 -0600 (MDT)
Hi,  I am going to try to look at the idea of accountability from the
point of view that perhaps the people who are opposed to accountability
are actually acting against their own ultimate goals.  Of course to
begin, I will have to take the exceedingly risky step of interpreting
what those ultimate goals are, but we will see if I can approximate them
by assuming that they are the same as my own.  First let me give a
definition of "cooperative" specific to this discussion.  A person is
acting cooperatively if they do something in the anticipation that other
people will do certain other things or because some things have already
been done. 

        Ultimate goals:  We want to be part of a community with a minimum
of coercion and a maximum of free choice where all tasks judged important
by the community are accomplished when needed.   .  
        If this is what we want, how best to accomplish it.  One way is
to hire all this important stuff out and pay for it out of HOA dues. 
Interestingly enough I haven't seen any suggestions that HOA dues
payments be voluntary.  Sliding scale payments to compensate for economic
difficulties are an entirely different subject.  
        However most cohousing communities choose to do a large part of
the work through some sort of quasi-voluntary basis.  From reading the
list-serve we learn that this has led to less than satisfactory results. 
Why is this?  Cohousing communities surely have a higher percentage of
motivated and idealistic people than the general population, particularly
high for characteristics relating to cooperative endeavors, so what is
going wrong?   I fear the answer is that the ideals are not taking into
account some essential parts of human nature.  I don't believe that this
means that these ideals are impossible to achieve, just that the means to
achieve them  need to be adjusted as I explain below.
        First a caveat on the "essential parts of human nature" I alluded
to above.  I will be attempting an extremely brief distillation of
decades and libraries worth of research on evolution and social
psychology.  If anyone is interested I can offer suggestions for reading.
 This research is of course ongoing and quite controversial so that
anyone who doesn't like my conclusions can feel confident that they are
not alone.
        To begin, almost everybody will agree that some part of human
behavior is
inherited, after all newborn babies are all different.   It should also
not be controversial that an interest in behaving cooperatively is
inheritable.  We do see cooperative behavior elsewhere in the animal
kingdom, ants, bees, and wolves being the most famous examples of
inherited cooperative behavior.
        If we assume that behaving cooperatively is at least partially
heritable in humans, then it is likely that people will vary in how 
prone they are to acting cooperatively; from not at all, to, without
question, with many shades in between.
Looking at this (extremely briefly) from an evolutionary point of view we
can speculate that cooperation has a survival benefit for humans, and
therefore humans would likely also develop and inherit an ability to
detect people who are not cooperating.  Researchers claim that this
ability does exist and is quite refined.
        Game theory scientists have created artificial computerized
societies where multitudes of independent cyber-agents play a simple game
with each other, two at a time. The agents are pre-programmed with
different strategies and sometimes the ability to adjust the strategy by
learning from its experience.   If a particular pair cooperate in the
game they both score a moderate result, if one cooperates and the other
plays a selfish strategy then the selfish one scores high and the
cooperator low, if  both are selfish neither gets anything.  The game is
allowed to continue for quite some time.  Depending on the relative score
values and the beginning concentrations of cooperators and "defectors"
the game's results will vary some, but the overall conclusion seems to be
that if cooperators use a strategy where they remember who has defected
on them in the past and defect when paired with them again (or perhaps
give them one more chance), and otherwise always cooperate with others,
then cooperators will come to dominate the society.  However if
cooperators do not discriminate and always cooperate, then defectors will
come to dominate. 
        Clearly we do not live in "The Matrix" but I still think that
there is information here that can help focus the discussion.  I must
also say that I do realize that there are many reasons besides
selfishness that can cause someone to appear to  not act cooperatively,
particularly during any given time period.  Also I realize that there is
a difference between not acting cooperatively and not cooperating with
someone else's ideas on some particular problem.  
        Still, I feel that there are good reasons for believing that if
you want to live in a highly cooperative community then there must be a
system for identifying and penalizing  non-cooperative behavior.  
        Don Arkin, Sonora Cohousing, where the monsoon rains have finally
begun to quench the wildfires
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