Everyone in the Forest has relationships with all the other “trees”. These relationships can be sorted into a hierarchy according to quality and quantity. Thanks to the finite capabilities of our
meatbags brains gooey prickles/prickly goo, quality and quantity of friendships are inversely correlated. The closer our friends are, the less of them there tend to be, but the more trust we tend to place in them. No hard science here, just a bunch of goo.
Each Ring represents a level of trust, smaller Rings denoting higher trust. The scaling of the Rings loosely follows Dunbar’s “Rule of Three” and the Forest’s budding algorithmic entity, Pando, calibrates the forest density and distribution as it grows and evolves. There aren’t any hard limits on the sizes of our Rings, but the Forest offers firm recommendations so we can make intuitive decisions about our life in the friendly forest.[^1]
Our smallest group, Ring 1, are those we hold closest and trust most. Dunbar’s research indicates that most of us count 3 to 5 in this group. These are our partners, our siblings, our parents, our best friends, our bullet takers, our shoulders to cry on, our hive mind: there isn’t much we don’t want them to know about us. Trust, contact, and transparency are high for Ring 1. Of course, it’s up to us whether we want to keep secrets in the Forest. That’s what a trunk is for.
Ring 2 friends tend to number 9 to 15 for those in Dunbar’s studies. These people are our inner circle, our well of laughter, our sympathy phone tree. They’ll pick us up at the airport. They don’t know everything about us, but we’d probably tell them if they asked.
Just because Tiffany is in my 2nd Ring doesn’t mean I’m in hers. We might feel like we can decide how much our friends mean to us, but we can’t decide how much we mean to them. Can’t pick your friends' noses, amirite? These asymmetries in relationships, whether they are co-dependent or co-committed, are a common source of confusion and distress, especially when the asymmetries lay dormant or hidden, then are suddenly exposed.
Respect for the autonomy of other trees is one of the fundamental values in the Forest. Back in default human world (so-called civilization), autonomy is nowhere to be found on the list of staunchly defended human rights. The Right to Obey Ads with drool in our eyes. The Right to Vote for one of two heinous liars. The Right to Eat Moar Sugar whenever we crave it. We may think of autonomous cars as somehow mindless though they exhibit many signs of life and intelligence. But allowing that sense of autonomous to diffuse into our language is likely to leave us with an inverse definition of autonomy, in the way that “literally” came to primarily connote its original opposite in the last decade or so. I literally digress…
One of the parameters that varies with trust is transparency. Our closer friends have more insight as to how closely we hold them, without the need for explicit labels like Ring 1 and Ring 2. We know who is in our Rings. Their experience interacting with us changes based on how closely we hold them. But no one else needs to be able to rifle through our Rings. That’s just for us.
Rather than wasting our time protecting privacy, in the forest, we build and defend trust. Oh, and we’ll avoid waldeinsamkeit altogether. Some might go to the woods to be alone, but we don’t go to social networks for solitude. I’ll expound on a solution for empty room syndrome in a later post.
Say we want to help people get around. We could try to design a mode of transportation. There are many ways to go about this, but two stand out to me as strikingly opposite and relevant to our Ring discussion today.
We could dream big, imagining an ideal network of throughways and vehicles that could carry people where they wanted to be as quickly, safely, cheaply, and easily as possible. If we build it, they will travel. A brilliant design with enough passion and capital to develop it cannot fail. Today we have high-speed commuter trains and global airlines thanks to visions like these centuries and decades ago. We blasted through mountains and enslaved many thousands to connect the coasts with a continental railroad. Two world wars provided the theater and set the merciless stage to test and refine our aeronautical ambitions without sacrificing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. But in the wake of all that carnage, tens of millions of us take trains every day. Nearly five million of us experienced the miracle of flight last year. We can call this approach to design top-down, **the Hard Way.
The iPhone was a top-down design. The book. Bluetooth. Nuclear fission. The satellite. The skyscraper. Teflon, Gore-Tex, Ziploc. Radial tires. The wristwatch.
If there’s a Hard Way, there must be an Easy Way. Take hoverboards. Sure they started with a (Back to the) futuristic vision, but that vision wasn’t a grand one. The original hover-board was an intuitive iteration on a pedestrian, punk phenomenon: the skateboard. Itself likely an accidental invention (“Eureka! Oh shi…"), the first skateboards came about when some kids or dads nailed some roller skates to a plank. Perhaps they had aspired to building a scooter, but were unable to source handlebars. Either way, this bottom-up design didn’t take long to storm neighborhood sidewalks throughout the U.S. and beyond. But the skateboard wasn’t for everyone. We bipeds are accustomed to facing forwards when we move, eyes in the front of our heads and all. But with a little wizardry and some gyroscopes and accelerometers, the Segway was born. It didn’t take long after that to snap the handlebars off, refining the design into the self-balancing smart scooter, which we now call the hoverboard. The hoverboard provides familiar mobility, like jogging without all the steps or the wheezing. It can take us anywhere ADA compliant. And it doesn’t require any additional infrastructure or urban planning, just a charge every 10ish miles.
I wonder which are designs are more common and prevalent? Bottoms-up or top-down?
[^1]: Google Plus’s ill-fated “Circles” were an unfortunate misnomer as they more accurately resembled “separate spheres” or cliques. We’ll use “Rings” to avoid confusion. Also trees have rings.