Pioneers vs Feudalists

Fascinating 1982 essay by Jim Bowery.

Pioneers want to be left alone to do their work and enjoy its fruits. Feudalists say “no man is an island” and feel the pioneer is a “hick” or worse, an escapist. Feudalists view themselves as lords and pioneers as serfs. Pioneers view feudalists as either irrelevant or as some sort of inevitable creeping crud devouring everything in its path. At their best, feudalists represent the stable balance and harmony exhibited by Eastern philosophy. At their worst, feudalists represent the tyrannical predation of pioneers unable to escape domination. At their best, pioneers represent the freedom, diversity and respect for the individual represented by Western philosophy. At their worst, pioneers represent the inefficient, destructive exploitation of virgin environs. […]

In addition to the normal modes of organizational management, new modes will spring up that are impractical outside of an information utility. Perhaps the most important example involves the way individuals are given authority within organizations. Traditional organizations select authority via a top-down, authoritarian system or via a bottom-up democratic system. The authoritarian system is more efficient than the democratic system, but it is also more vulnerable to mistakes and corruption. The democratic system gets harder to maintain the larger it gets. People have a natural limit to the number of people they can effectively associate with. In large representative democracies, such as our government, a national union, etc. virtually no one voting for a candidate knows the candidate personally. This, combined with the event called “election” creates the “campaign” where the virtues of democracy are almost entirely subverted by its vices.

Bowery authored one of the first electronic mail systems (PLATO, 1974), and the basis for Postscript (and thus laser printing), among other things. Found via .