The Self-Organizing Society: A Grower’s Guide

Can a human society be constrained in such a way that self-organization will thereafter tend to produce outcomes that advance the goals of the society? Such a society would be self-organizing in the sense that individuals who pursue only their own interests would none-the-less act in the interests of the society as a whole, irrespective of any intention to do so. This paper identifies the conditions that must be met if such a self-organizing society is to emerge. It demonstrates that the key enabling requirement for a self-organizing society is consequence-capture. Broadly this means that all agents in the society must capture sufficient of the benefits (and harms) that are produced by their actions on the goals of the society. Consequence-capture can be organized in a society by appropriate management (systems of evolvable constraints) that suppresses free riders and supports pro-social actions. In human societies these constraints include institutions such as systems of governance and social norms. The paper identifies ways of organizing societies so that effective governance will also self-organize. This will produce a fully self-organizing society in which the interests of all agents (including individuals, associations, firms, multi-national corporations, political organizations, institutions and governments) are aligned with the interests of the society as a whole.


The Self-Organizing Society: A Grower’s Guide
John E. Stewart