Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rule 150

Did you know that the human neocortex ratio for homo sapiens, you get a group estimate of 147.8 or roughly 150

And so?

This happens to be the size of brain that allows us to handle the complexities of a social relationship where we can 'know' the other members of a group that size

We are the only animals with brains large enough to handle the complexities of that size or kind of social relationship

The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship

The kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us

In our history if we look at some of the old hunter gatherer tribes for which we have evidence of their village sizes it will be found to be around 148 - 149 people

Military planners have found that functional fighting units cannot be substantially more than 200 men

Not because of obduracy but by trial and error over the centuries it has been found that more than this number of men cannot be sufficiently familiar with each other so that they can work together as a functional unit

Of course it is possible to run larger groups but then you have to impose complicated hierarchies and rules and regulations and formal measures to try and command loyalty and cohesion

Below this number it is possible to achieve these same goals informally

With religious groups who lived in self sufficient agricultural colonies they also knew this rule and whenever they grew to this size they would be split into two and start a new one

And where are we going with this?

Under 150 people things can go along fine the once over this number just the smallest change in the size of the community can trigger divisiveness and alienation

Groups of humans about this number then begin to behave very differently

They lose the group ethos

They form small sub groups

Rival centres of power emerge

They lose the ability to agree and act with one voice

Shared ideals come under pressure from diverging opinions

Structurally things get more difficult

And yet and yet

This knowledge is not secret yet we still want to build bigger schools

We still want bigger social groups

A small bit of knowledge yet so often ignored

Small yes but the origin of so many tipping points

Observe these numbers in your own environment

Observe them in the world around you

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