Lab Report: Tithing In the Interest of Awesome

Proposed: a geek is someone who actively works to forward the interests of awesome wherever it lies. And tries to fill the awesome gap as increasing quantities of that mysterious substance escapes the universe.

Proposed: But the generation of awesome — the public or community sense that all things the social and physical environment are entirely elastic and malleable — usually isn’t merely spontaneous, it requires the active creation of some latent ether of resources, capital, and community to materialize.

So the Would Buy Again question is: how do you design this as a feature of social systems?

I’ve been kind of flirting recently with the idea of pushing a community norm of creating personal tithes. Specifically budgeted blocks of financial and time resources (10% if you want to be really traditional) for the dedicated intention of creating the necessary ether fabric for awesome, either for investing in social capital, building skills, or otherwise.

This might seem like a complete anachronism, but people personally tithe all the time to goods or ideas. You set aside money to keep up with the latest ideas, or to look stylish, or you hold out for a brand new kickass set of Heelies. This is mostly the same idea, though the traditionally self-centralized direction of these disbursements are turned towards tithing in the interest of creating new projects and promoting public activity. Creating, in some sense, your own little personally managed fund that you keep in reserve when opportunities for the not-so-rainy-day when serving the interest of awesome come along.

On the individual level, this might promote a constant low-level circulation of earmarking that’s effective in creating local clusters of social/financial resources that can work to support geek efforts. But there’s also network benefits to encouraging this build-up of microresources held in reserve as an accepted personal accounting standard for geek culture in general. The likelihood of people meeting with the combination of common interests and common purposes for resources raises the probability of real action on ideas. Much larger action too, since there suddenly exists incentives for geeks to actively group together to achieve their ends. You can imagine the conversation, “How much do you have in your fund? I really need to buy this helicopter and for this plan I’ve got.”

This personal tithing approach has worked pretty well — with two or three months under the system operating at about a 10% money/time tithing level, I’ve been able to personally support Information Superhighway One, Information Superhighway Two, and some initial stuff for Hello Silo (it’s a plan to rent a missile silo — long story, USBFB will report on it later — you can follow news about it @hellosilo) So at least on the microlevel, it’s working.

But who knows if it’d scale to the level of social community engineering though — thoughts?

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