Category Archives: Organic governance

Order comes from process in digital space

The traditional models of producing order (governance)

In geo-states order tends to come from a chain of command which information flows from the bottom to the top. Orders flow from the top to the bottom. The person at the top deemed the leader, the President, is in the position to be the commander of the troops.

In traditional corporations order also tends to come from a chain of command in which knowledge flows from the bottom to the top and commands flow from the top to the bottom.

The problem with the traditional models is that in a world of increasing complexity the attention of those at the top is very scarce. Good ideas which are generated at the bottom might never flow to the top because of filters. Knowledge generated at the bottom might not reach the top because of attention scarcity. As a result those at the top increasing have to rely on expert advisers or on technologies which provide decision support.

Order from process in digital space

In cyber-states order comes from process.  The process comes from the algorithms encoded into the fabric of the cyber-state. When Larry Lessig said “Code is Law” he was revealing that process produces order in digital space and code is what represents the algorithms of digital space that govern process.

In Distributed Collaborative Organizations order also comes from process. If the DCO is built up around a blockchain then the DCO is governed by those algorithms, which encourage all participants to follow a certain set of processes which inherently produce the order we see.

This is similar to how ant colonies, bee hives, and other organic structures have order if you look closely at the distributed rule set but to the casual observer who does not study insects it might look completely chaotic. These algorithms provide the mechanisms which allow for stigmergy to shape the behavior of the swarm. All of this can be encoded into a series of smart contracts which can allow the swarm to be self governing, and to be potentially more scalable and effective at governing because of swarm intelligence which can help solve the problem of attention scarcity.

Governance by software protocol

Digital space is holonic. Every computer in digital space is a node. Every node in digital space could be called a peer for example. In human terms we could call it F2F (friend to friend) or N2N (neighbor to neighbor). If we look at Bittorrent as an example then we can see that a node can be in more than one role at a time so the node can be both a seeder and a leecher. It is the share ratio which governs the network because everyone in the network can be rewarded or punished depending on whether they meet a minimum threshold of the share ratio.

The Bittorrent example reveals that you can create order through mathematics, algorithms, ultimately making the process more important than the nodes. For this reason you do not need a leadership to create whitelists and blacklists of who can get what but instead you can have a decentralized rule set, a process which everyone knows and follows just by downloading the software itself. As a result by using the software you’re subscribing to the process and the software is only able to interact with others following the same process which produces order from adherence to software protocol.

Holonic systems

What is a holon?

A holon is both a whole and a part. An example would be that an individual human is composed of cells which are composed of atoms. The individual human is considered to be a whole human but that individual human is also a part of the human society making the individual part of a bigger whole. So the human being would be a good example of a holon but so would a node in a complex adaptive system.

What are holonic systems?

If we remember take bees as an example this time instead of humans then the holonic system would be the bee hive. The bee hive would be a representation of the societal governance structure of the bees that belong to the hive. The bees would be holons because they would be part of the hive due to the fact that they follow the rules of the hive. They cooperate between each other but are all subordinates to the rules of the hive which represents the whole. The bee hive represents a holonic system, as do ant colonies, swarms of birds, schools of fish.

The difference between pathological hierarchies and holonic hierarchies

In a pathological hierarchy perhaps one individual or one node in the network assumes the role of the “whole”. This individual might consider him or herself to be the ruler, the number 1, the head authority, who must coerce and control everyone below them. This structure typically takes the shape of a rigid pyramid where the decision making and thinking typically comes from the head authority, with limited room for individuality below.

Holacracy embeds a generative mix of autonomy and cooperation in a flexible fabric of holonic design constitutional rules. It constitutes a new operating system for organizations that regulate the individual/
group dynamics to eliminate on one side the possibility of capture via power games, and on the other side, the inherent chaos characteristic of “leaderless,” decentralized organizations.


In a holonic system of governance there is a system for generating rules to provide order. So for instance in the case of virtual governance the nodes on the network can all run the same software, the same configurations, and each changing of the configurations of each node in the network the rules for the network can change in collaborative fashion. Roles and rules are set collectively and collaboratively.

Every participant in a holacracy is a sensor for what is going on, and each plays a role in identifying the tensions in a timely way while taking active steps to resolve them. Effectiveness and resistance to
capture are achieved by enhancing the power of collective decision locally via procedures such as: “After taking Individual Action, a Part-ner should tell any affected Role about it, and, on their request, initi-
ate actions to resolve any Tension created by the Individual Action or refrain from taking this Individual Action again in the future.”


Ulieru, M. Organic Governance Through the Logic of Holonic Systems.