TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Is it part of human nature to have a hierarchy?

This question was mainly inspired by my history class. We were going over some Russian Marxists, and I thought it was interesting that even a communist regime will have a leader. This brought up the question, "Is it natural for humans to have a leader?" I thought about any organization and realized they all have a decently-defined hierarchy. I also thought about our cavemen ancestors and the sort of familial hierarchy with the father as the provider of food and safety (I haven't really studied anthropology, so tell me if I'm incorrect).

Feel free to ask clarifying questions, and I am looking forward to your responses!


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 11 2013: Hierarchies were a necessity in the last economic development stage. We needed them to scale up in all communities to organise people to achieve outcomes for economy/society . We needed them to mobilise capital to invest in channels and infrastructure. The hierarchy was necessary. It was not our natural state to seek dominance. We are under the false assumption that hierarchies are the only way to organise. We tolerate the failures of hierarchies. With the advent of the internet, we can now organise a different way. A shift from telecommunications (information distributed by proprietary channels between hierarchies) to telewisdom (exchange of wisdom between individuals). This is a return to hunters and gatherers ... small groups pursuing very specific outcomes and probably a leader. Mega hierarchies (in any community) are at the end of their useful life. Every aspect of society and the dominant hierarchy within each of them now demonstrates that it is more concerned by hierarchies survival or process, rather than satsifying broader community objectives. This is true of financial markets, government, education and all the major communities. The influence of a few have had a detrimental effect on community stability and achieving community outcomes. Management theorists highlight the need for distributed leadership and contribution in heirarchies. The next stage of development will crowd create network society, distributed contribution and distributed structures. Leadership will be dynamic, rather than entrenched. Transparency will ensure the "leader" always focuses on community outcomes (or is simply replaced in real-time). Even our largest hierarchies will be reduced to distributed leadership and structures. People will assume leadership in whatever community they need to in real-time in person to person groups. A 15 minute crash course is available at www.wisdomnetworks.im . We will move to distributed leadership and distributed structures within community.
    • Nov 11 2013: What about all the other mammalian species that have hierarchies and dominance-seeking behavior? Of course, if you're a young earth creationist, you can say that "God made us different" and have a logical answer. Is that your answer? How do you explain away the ubiquitousness of hierarchy among social mammals. Furthermore, can you prove that "hierarchy" equals and must equal the abuses of hierarchy that you mention?
      • thumb
        Nov 12 2013: Humans are different from other mammalian species. We are the only mammalian species to have structures spanning thousands and millions (even billions). The group size of other mammalian species are too small to draw a comparison with. Other mammals don't have multi-layered structures. Mammalian groups do not have middle management or the elaborate complexity and processes of today's hierarchies. Most mammallian species have groups less than 30 (although herds of some mammals may have many thousands).

        It is part of human nature to have a leader in small groups. It is not part of human nature to have a hierarchy.The only comments I have heard humans make about hierarchies are stories of disempowerment.

        Hierarchy does not automatically equal abuse. Hierarchies are, and always will be, a way to organise. The growth and size of hierarchies has been the foundation of the last stage of economic development. There are four issues. Firstly, hierarchies are not transparent or accountable to the community. Secondly, they are also not productive or innovative enough to sustain a global population more than 6bn. Thirdly, they (in the words of Gary Hamel) "ask to much of a few, and not enough of everyone else". Fourth, there is an alternative which does offer transparency, accountability, productivity. The community has been crowd creating this alternative for decades.

        The alternative also offers the opportunity to remove the system risk in multiple aspects of society. We simply have an alternative and a better way to organise.

        The issue is system risk in the structures we use to organise. If a drug kills more than X% of people, it is removed from the market. The hierarchy has gone beyond an acceptable threshold of risk and can no longer deliver prosperity. The system risk inherent in today's hierarchy necessitates a shift to distributed structures as the primary means to organise.
        • Nov 12 2013: If you are going to use "hierarchy", use it consistently. Otherwise, you just come off as incoherent, dogmatic propaganda. An organizational hierarchy is any organizational structure in which some level is "beneath" another in authority. If you have a bunch of small "communities" that have local "meetings" in which decisions are made, you have a two-level hierarchy. The meeting is a level above the individual person, NO MATTER HOW DEMOCRATIC THAT MEETING MIGHT BE. Unless each individual can legitimately and unilaterally ignore or countermand EVERY SINGLE DECISION of that meeting, you have a hierarchy. If those "communities" further meet in a "bigger meeting", you then have a three-level hierarchy, unless any community can simply ignore what the "bigger meeting" decides.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.