The beauty of collaboration at human scale

Timeless patterns of human limitations

As the title suggests, this book is about collaboration, about scale, and about humans, about beauty, and about limits. It has been written from my perspective as an autistic anthropologist by birth and a knowledge archaeologist by autodidactic training. I attempt to address the challenges of ethics and collective intelligence in an era that 21st century geologists refer to as the Anthropocene.

Like bees and ants, humans are eusocial animals. Through the lenses of evolutionary biology and cultural evolution, small groups of 20 to 100 people are the primary organisms within human society – in contrast to individuals, corporations, and nation states. The implications for our civilisation are profound. Humanity is experiencing a phase transition that is catalysed by a combination of new communication technologies, toxic levels of social inequalities, and existential crises. It is time to put ubiquitous global digital connectivity to good use, to curate and share the lessons from marginalised perspectives, and to reflect critically on the human evolutionary journey and on the possibilities and limitations of human agency.

The journey of exponentially accelerating cultural evolution presented in this book covers several hundred thousand years, from the origins of humans right up to the latest significant developments in the early 21st century. I would like to equip communities and individuals with conceptual tools to create good companies that are capable of pumping value from a dying ideological system into an emerging world. Regardless of what route we choose, on this planet no one is in control. The force of life is distributed and decentralised, and it might be a good idea to organise and collaborate accordingly.

The observations offered in this book are the synthesis of my field research from living amongst humans, which has been shaped by hundreds of deep and enjoyable conversations with friends and family within the autistic community, and with my peers at S23M, the human scale NeurodiVenture that started my journey of discovery and creative collaboration back in 2002. Many thanks to all the many who have contributed to growing my understanding of the human species.

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The book The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale is now in the peer review stage. Much of the content in the book has been published in earlier articles, but the book offers a unique chronological perspective on human cultural evolution, and it adds the glue needed to establish important semantic connections across discipline boundaries.

In many ways the book is an Autistic Collaboration project. The book offers tools for finding viable paths into a more neurodiversity friendly future. The book concludes with a wonderful quote from an article written by Pip Carroll, in the lead up to the prolonged but ultimately very successful lock-down in Melbourne:

A caring society does not value the individual for their ability to return economic value, but simply for existing as their own imperfect self. We can’t choose to be cared for any more than we can choose to win the lottery. We can only hope to develop the quality in others by offering care ourselves. Trusting that care, once given is ordained to return to another in need.

Table of Content

Part I – Homo symbolicus

  1. Human origins
  2. Human scale patterns
  3. The human lens
  4. Learning
  5. Super-human scale patterns
  6. Loose end : Loss of complexity

Part II – Homo economicus

  1. Automated labour
  2. Industrial society
  3. Loose end : Exponential growth
  4. Computing
  5. Digital information society
  6. Loose end : Loss of tacit knowledge
  7. Busyness
  8. Liquidation society
  9. Loose end : Loss of semantics

Part III – Homo ecologus

  1. Thought experiment : Knowledge society
  2. Addressing the loose ends
  3. Human scale patterns, second edition
  4. Transitioning to human scale
  5. Conclusion

The author

Jorn Bettin is an autistic anthropologist by birth and a knowledge archaeologist by autodidactic training. He has a background in mathematics, and has put his understanding of formal symbolic reasoning to good use in the co-design of ecosystems of visual domain specific languages, working closely with domain experts from a broad range of industries that include healthcare delivery, logistics, insurance, accounting, telecommunications, horticulture, manufacturing, electricity grid operations, power plant engineering, as well as domain experts from vendors of software products for these industries.

Jorn has over thirty years of experience in the W.E.I.R.D. world of busyness, and has been involved in operating S23M since 2002, with the goal of creating a good company at human scale that will still be appreciated by society and all the people involved 200 years from now. In 2012 the S23M team developed the NeurodiVenture operating model to underscore the joint commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for divergent thinking, creativity, exploration, and collaborative niche construction.

Jorn’s current work focuses on the co-design of new community-oriented and patient centric models of care and the adoption of supporting software tools. He has co-authored several books on model oriented knowledge engineering and is part of the Autistic Collaboration Trust – a global mutual support hub for neurodivergent individuals and ventures.