IRL (Part II): Symbiosis and Interdependence

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The root of the word “holon” comes from the greek “holos” — which means whole, entire, complete in all its parts — to which the suffix “on” is added to represent, somewhat conversely, the concept of a particle — for example, in words such as proton, neutron, and electron. Therefore, a holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.

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The term “social holons” refers to the relationship among different individual holons when they operate collaboratively, i.e. a collective of holons working towards common objectives.

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Holarchy is how holons organize themselves when they collaborate. The suffix “archy” means a rule or a form of government, as in a ‘ruler’. The term Holarchy, also introduced by Koestler in Ghost in the Machine, is necessary because holons do not organize themselves in hierarchies, since hierarchies by definition have a top and a bottom, and the relationships between holons is, as we’ve seen, somewhat particular.


As a broad definition, commons are natural or human-made resource systems that are, or that could be, enjoyed collectively. According to economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis’ book A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution, commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource, not by state or market, but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates.

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Reciprocating human is a concept that stands in contrast to the idea of homo economicus. While the latter states that human beings are exclusively motivated by self-interest, the former defends that humans — as cooperative actors — have a propensity to cooperate, and are motivated by improving their environment through reciprocity.


A few other relevant concepts you might be interested in learning more about: Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), a type of organization represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by stakeholders, and not influenced by a central power; and three particular types of DAOs which seek to provide legal compliance to the elementary DAO concept in order to offer legal protection to its participants: LAO (the merge of a DAO with a Delaware limited liability company), Distributed Cooperative Organizations (DisCO), and Decentralized Autonomous Associations (DAA).



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