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vol 8: Many in one
page 7: Tribe

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1: About
2: Synopsis
3: Development

Next: 8: Place
Previous: 6: Money

4: Glossary
5: Questions

6: Essays
7: Notes
8: History

9: Persons

10: Supplementary
11: Policy



a personal journey to natural theology

This site is part of the natural religion project The natural religion project     A new theology    A commentary on the Summa    The theology company


Lecture 7: Tribe

Music 1: Talk Talk:

Administrative algorithm

1 Let me tell you, for the second last time this year, what I am trying to do in these lectures. I am searching for an administrative algorithm

2 The odds are that you know what an algorithm is, even if you haven't heard the name. An algorithm is a definite mechanical method for achieving something. The way we add up two numbers is an algorithm.

3 You might remember it. Write down the two numbers one above the other so that the digits line up and the last digits on the right are level. Add the last two digits on the right. Etc etc.

4 That's the algorithm for addition. What is administration? In the business world the administration works like the brain of the organisation. It senses the status of the organisation and then decides how it should act.

5 The senses of a business measure things like the amount of money it has flowing in and out, and how much money is in the bank. The amount of raw materials. The amount of labour. The amount of finished products. And so on.

6 These days you can buy computer programs that handle most of these things. In the final analysis, every business is concerned with just one thing, the so called bottom lie: are we making a profit.

7 The fact that these calculations can be performed by a computer program shows that they are algorithms. Every accountant knows the definite steps necessary to calculate whether a business is profitable or not.

8 Of course there is more to running a business than accountancy. There is entrepreneurial flair, product design, imaginative marketing and many other variables that cannot be expressed as algorithms. Business people can try to understand what product will sell well and do their best to push their wares, but there is a lot of luck involved in these areas. Where there is luck, there is uncertainty.

9 This structure reflects Shannon's theorem, one of the oft repeated foundations of these lectures: everything is a mixture of certainty and uncertainty. The administration of an enterprise uses the certainty of its accounting algorithms as a way of guiding itself through the uncertain world of the marketplace.

10 Is the new advertising campaign getting to the customers we want? Look at the sales figures.

Music 2: Shriekback: Pretty Little Things

11 Everybody wants their business to grow. They want the money value of their business to increase. Generally an increase in money value will be accompanied by an increase in the number of employees, buildings, factories, products and other physical assets of the business.

12 Unfortunately, businesses do not always grow. They also contract and die or get swallowed up by other businesses. Without a degree in business administration, we can see that there are two ways that a business might fail

13 The first is that it just doesn't fit the marketplace. Nobody wants to buy its products. I have asked a few publishers if they would consider last years peace lectures. Another rejection slip came a few days ago. It said that there is not much demand for materials on peace.

14 I am persistent, however. Next time I send them out, the lectures will be accompanied by a little blurb advising that if they are true, they will completely change the world as we know it and revise all our traditional religions in the process. That might make them look.

15 I also have a new title in mind: something like Prolegomena to a Mathematical Theory of Orgasm. There might be no demand for materials on peace, but people might go for something as kinky as the mathematics of sex. Who knows. We are in the realm of uncertainty here, and only time will tell.

16 Meanwhile, of course, I'm not making any money out of writing and my accountant, if I had one, would be advising me to change my product. As a business I'm on a dead end course. I am more of a fool than a businessman, however, and will probably stick to writing until I die because I enjoy it so much. An Australian writer who cannot lay bricks or do something else is likely to be on the dole anyway.

17 The other way that a business can fail is through corruption in the accounting system. There could be a bug in the accountant's computer system that causes the company bank balance to be multiplied by the day of the month. The management, deluded by the error, spends up big, only to find at the end of the month that the bank wants to sell the whole enterprise to get its money back.

18 If somebody deliberately makes an error in the accounting, then we have an example of what we call white collar crime. From the point of view of the business, it does not matter whether this error is deliberate or accidental.

19 The result is the same. Administrative decisions are no longer made on the basis of reliable information, and we can be pretty certain that in the end this error will lead to trouble, possibly even the death of the business, if it is not corrected in time.

20 A business is a life form that lives on money. It is well understood because it is something we have designed and built ourselves. All that I have said about business can be applied to life in general. All we have to do is read energy for money and make a few other adjustments that will not worry us here.

21 I am a very complex organism navigating my way through life. One of my enemies is starvation. Starvation is the equivalent of going so far into debt that I can no longer function. My survival is a matter of both luck and judgment. My chances of survival are reduced if my judgment is faulty.

22 Hunger is a feeling I get when I need to eat. Something may go wrong in my system so that even when I need nutrition I do not feel hungry. In the language of the business example, there is corruption in my administrative algorithms. I think I have got a lot more nutrient in my system than I really have, and if the error is not corrected I will starve. This is the disease we call anorexia.

Music 3:


23 I am looking for a general administrative algorithm for human groups. If you have been listening to this series of lectures, you will be familiar with my general lines of argument.

24 I am working on the assumption that it is religion that binds us together, and that theology is the definite, certain and scientific part of religion. Theology, in other words, provides the administrative algorithm for human society. In the language of the business example, theology provides the accounting methods that we use to steer ourselves through life.

25 Accounting is concerned with flow of money value through an organisation. Theology is concerned with the flow of value too, but it is measured by something other than money. For the moment we will call it human value.

26 Last week we began the task of reconciling the monetary economy with human tribes. We can take the job a little further now by continuing to compare the accountancy of money values with the theology of human values.


27 An accountant works with a mathematical model of the business. Down in the factory trucks bring in leather, rubber, glue, thread and other raw materials. The workers in the factory us their machines to make the raw materials into shoes. Then the shoes go off to market and bring back the money to pay for the raw materials, the workers, the overheads. If all goes well there will be some profit.

28 Up in the office, the accountant does not handle physical materials but numbers that represent the materials. A truckload of leather comes with an invoice that describes the hides and their money value. Each worker has a time card and a certain rate of pay.

29 The time card tells how long the worker works and from this and the rate of pay, the accountant can work out his or her wages. The machines are represented by various book entries and expenses for maintenance, replacement and so on. And the finished shoes go out with invoices telling how many shoes there are and their money value.

30 All these numbers are fitted together into a model which should faithfully represent the business enterprise. The hourly wage rates must be multiplied by the hours worked for the right employee.

31 It is no good if the hours and rates get mixed up among the employees or the value of the finished shoes is mixed up with the superannuation fund. The accountant's picture of the business will only work properly if it fits the business accurately.

32 We have been talking about a theory of peace. A theory is a model of some part of the world. Like the accountant's model of a business, a theory allows us to work out on paper or in our minds what will happen in the real world.

33 The accountant can tell us that if the cost of leather is so and so and the wages are such and such and the price of finished shoes is something else, then the business will make a profit if we sell so many shoes. The theory of concrete beams can tell us whether a certain size of beam will be able to carry a road over a river of a certain width.

Music 4:

34 The value of theory is its ability to predict what will happen. You might be a business person who works by the seat of your pants, and has no time for accountants and computers. You are working with a theory nevertheless. Our feelings about any situation are simply the outcome of the unconscious modelling that goes on in our minds.


35 When I fall in love with somebody, that in effect is me making a prediction to myself that I could have a good time with that person. That prediction is based on my model of myself and human relationships which has grown from my own experience and millions of years of human evolution. The model that guides my love is a deep and unconscious structure, but we can be pretty certain that it is there,.

36 Obviously one's model of love can change because it flows from experience. When you think about it, this model has an important input to the direction of our evolution. Our children are like us. By choosing who to fall in love with, we choose our children and the future direction of the human race. It is not all just survival of the fittest. Evolution is guided by choice in the parent generation as well as fitness in the offspring.


37 Models and theories predict what will happen by reproducing some structure in a different form. The accountant reproduces a business as a linked set of numbers. Each number represents some part of the business, like the stock of leather or the value of the machines.

38 The numbers in the accountant's model can be multiplied and divided and added and subtracted to represent what is actually happening in the factory. The model is like a map of the business. In mathematics the process of going from business to model and back is called mapping.

39 This lecture is a mapping operation. I am trying to produce a verbal picture of my theology of peace. I am doing it using words and symbols that you already know. Every now and then we have some music to add a broader dimension to the picture.

40 The sorry I am telling you about businesses and accountants is meant to lead you from the way we handle money values in commerce to the way the theory of peace handles human values.

Music 5:


41 Once we have a god map we can use it to predict what will happen if we take a certain course of action. So far we have spoken as though life was static. But things change and the map must be continually updated if it is to be useful. This change can be very fast. When I look out the window, I see a map of what is actually there,

42 The river flows, birds fly in and out of the scene and I move my head and eyes. Each of these movements is reflected in changes in what I see. As the scene changes, so my response to it changes.

43 A business, trying to navigates its way through the jungle of commerce is in exactly the same position as ma human being trying to navigate through a physical jungle of trees and wild animals. Both must look to find out what is going on. Both must use what they see to predict what to do next.

44 This process is a continuous cycle. If it works well both person and business will travel without harm and get what they want. The business will accurately follow the trends in the market and profit from being there with the right product at the right time. The person will avoid the trees and get enough to eat without becoming food for something else.

Response time

45 What decides whether a business or a person or anything else can travel through a complex environment without harm? It is none other than our old friend bandwidth. Remember the bandwidth of a communication channel is the rate at which it can carry entropy or information. Bandwidth can be measures in bits per second.

46 A bit is the unit used in the theory of communication to measure information or entropy. You gain just one bit of information when you learn which of two equiprobable events has actually happened. When you toss a coin, heads and tails are equally probable. The entropy of a tossed coin is just one bit. When you see which actually happened, you gain one bit of information.

47 You can learn a lot about bandwidth by playing ball with young children. When children are very small, they can follow a slow moving ball with their eyes, but by the time they get round to putting their hands in front of it the ball has long since passed by. Later they can catch a slow ball, and then a fast ball.

48 To catch a ball you have to be able to map its course through the air and use that map to predict where to put your hands in time to catch it. This process requires a certain rate of information flow or bandwidth. A small child cannot work fast enough, and the hands arrive late. As the child grows, its ball catching bandwidth grows to a certain maximum.

Music 6:

Strategic defence initiative

49 You may have heard that many learned groups such as the American Physical Society have decided that the US Strategic Defence Initiative known as Star Wars will not work. Star wars is designed to make the United States invulnerable by catching and destroying all they input Soviet missiles before they can get to the ground.

50 This involves tracking and destroying hundreds of thousands of objects travelling at velocities of thousands of kilometres per hour in the huge space above the US and the USSR. Some of these objects will be missiles and warheads. Most of them will be decoys, designed to confuse the defences.

51 The bandwidth necessary for the missile detection, course prediction and destruction systems for this task can be calculated. It turns out to be simply too great for any computer systems available in the foreseeable future. The Star Wars system, faced with a full scale nuclear attack, will be like a two year old trying to keep wicket in a first class cricket match.

52 Star Wars is not all bad though. By bringing home the immense cost and ultimate impossibility of defence against nuclear attack is has forced the superpowers closer to the conference table.

53 Most human competitions test for bandwidth since this determines both the speed and the precision of our responses to our environment. This fits in well with the idea that bandwidth is the fundamental resource in the universe.,

54 The basic prediction of the theory of peace, as I see it, is that peace varies with bandwidth. In other words a peaceful system is one that has a greater rate of communication. Violence results when the observation and prediction and response system cannot keep up with events.


55 Speed kills. You are driving too fast then you own response times and the responses of your vehicle are not fast enough to avoid the hazards on the road.

56 This is well expressed by the phrase 'over driving your lights'. If you are travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, have a reaction time of one second, and your car has average brakes, it will take about 90 metres to stop from the time a hazard on the road first becomes visible.

57 If you are driving at night and your headlights only shine 50 metres down the road, you are in a dangerous situation. By the time you see a log lying across the road, you will have insufficient distance to stop. This is a clear case of inadequate bandwidth and a recipe for violence.

58 This leads me to the first statement of my administrative algorithm: make sure that you have got enough bandwidth to do your job. This statement is very abstract. What does it mean in practice? I think that when we work out all the details, that a peaceful society will be organised tribally.

59 Remember, this is a prediction. The theory is not saying that we should or should not be organised tribally. It simply says that tribal organisation and peaceful society fit together. Is has the same force as an accountant's prediction that if a business goes on spending more money than it ears, then it will go broke.

Music 7:

Turing's theorem

60 On the whole, the limiting factor in any communication link is the process of encoding and decoding the message. The conversion from structure to message and back to structure often requires complex computation. We talked about this last week in relation to the problem of developing and communicating this theory of peace.

61 We found that the answer to the problem of encoding and decoding a message lies in dialogue. If you and I are to understand one another perfectly, we have to sit down and work through all our difficulties in understanding one another one by one. In simple language, we have to get to know one another.

62 Quantum mechanics tells us that a system cannot transmit or receive a message without changing itself. If you think about it, that statement is obvious. The only way I can know that I have said something at all is to feel the change in myself. Communication and self awareness are inseparable.

63 It is therefore necessary for me or any other human being to get to know at least one other person through an extended dialogue to develop their own humanity. The totality of communication is what makes us human. We become human by interacting with one another.

64 The minimum number of people to generate a new human being is therefore three. There must be two parents, and of course, there is the child.


65 Alan Turing found that there are limits to the computing power of any system, and hence limits to its power to navigate itself through space.

66 In particular, I think that is is beyond the capacity of a single adult human to navigate through life alone. We need help. One can continue this argument, using the theory of error correction to decide how many people should group together to form a stable unit. A group that always has enough functioning human energy to overcome the obstacles that it finds in its path.

67 These ideas lead us to the tribe as the functioning human unit. As I said last week, the child is the environment of high fidelity reproduction of human nature. I do not believe I would have had the ability to make the transitions I am trying to describe in these lectures without living in a community with strong tribal traits.

Music 8:

68 Our traditional religions have tried to suppress the animal side of our nature in the belief that this would enhance our spiritual side. The theory of peace says the opposite. The richer our animality, the richer our spirituality will be. This seems to be the natural explanation of the rich spiritual[ lives of tribal people, who do not try to hide the fact that they eat and bleed and fuck and shit.

69 Complexity building upon complexity. This is the structure of the transfinite numbers that are the backbone of this theory. Present day physics suggests that a simple atom like carbon is composed of about fifty different subatomic particles.

70 Carbon atoms unite to form molecules. Molecules to form cells, Cell unite to form organisms. Organisms, like ourselves, unite to form families, tribes, groups of tribes, and ultimately the planet.

71 This structuring of the universe is not accidental or arbitrary because the universe is not arbitrary. All particles experience in their own way the same overall constraint on their existence. At the level of generality of the theory of peace, the domestic problems of a quark and the domestic life of a human being are identical.

72 This constraint is, as I have said before, so loose that it cannot be expressed directly. It can only be expressed as Hilbert's three questions: is the universe consistent? is it complete? is it computable? and the two theorems of Goedel and Turing that define the relationship between these questions.

73 The questions only arise because we exist in the rich symbolic system forced on reality by Cantor's theorem. If there is anything consistent, there will be the transfinite numbers.


74 So now we look at the last step in this process. The actual creation of structure. The act of magic upon ourselves. The universe begins as an immensely hot and structureless entity, pure energy, called in physics the vacuum, in economics money.

75 It cools and structures itself into the universe we experience. How do we mimic that process in our own lives? How does the money system cool down to accommodate a human tribal structure reform? I think there is a simple mathematical answer.

76 The creation of a particle is the same as the creation of a space for that particle. This is the principle of duality when we discovered in the lecture about symbols last year. When you make a black mark on white paper you are also creating a white mark on black paper.

77 We can create a space for tribes by mapping them onto a well known fixed surface. By creating the space for tribes, something which can be done by administrative acts, we sow the seeds of tribes, something which can only create themselves.

78 An administrator would call this land reform. We will talk about that next week.


Originally broadcast on 2BOB Radio, Taree, NSW on 26 July 1988


Ashby, W Ross, An Introduction to Cybernetics, Methuen 1964 'This book is intended to provide [an introduction to cybernetics]. It starts from common-place and well understood concepts, and proceeds step by step to show how these concepts can be made exact, and how they can be developed until they lead into such subjects as feedback, stability, regulation, ultrastability, information, coding, noise and other cybernetic topics'  Amazon  back
Berndt, Ronald M, The World of the First Australians : Aboriginal Traditional Life Past and Present., 1988 Foreword: '[This book] gives a comprehensive picture of traditional Aboriginal culture, with special attention to certain areas which the authors know personally. This is how life was lived before the coming of Europeans, or before European influence dramatically modifed it. ... Here the major focus is on traditionally oriented Aborigines whose way of life is rapidly disappearing. Over most of the Continent it is already a thing of the past. The material is fully dicumented, with references.  Amazon  back
Ewing, A C, Value and Reality: The Philosophical Case for Theism, George Allen and Unwin The Humanities Press 1973 'This is a major work by one of the best known philosophical writers of today, representing the culmination of some twenty-five years' work on the possibility of giving a rational defence of the claims of the religious man, and sepcifically the theist, in the face of modern criticisms'  Amazon  back
Flannery, Timothy Fritjof, The Future Eaters: An ecological history of the Australasian land and people, George Brazilier 1994-1995 Introduction: '... biologists are finally discovering that evolution in Australia is not driven solely by nature 'red in tooth and claw'. Here a more gentle force - that of coadaptation - is important. This is because harsh conditions force individuals to cooperate to minimise the loss of nutrients ... Thus entire ecosystems have evolved in Australia that, when untampered with, recycle energy and nutrients in the most extraordinarily efficient ways. Aboriginal people have long understood this and have shaped their culture accordingly. Even the Europeans, with their code of mateship, are perhaps being shaped by these same forces.'  Amazon  back
Midgeley, Mary, Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature, Routledge 1978-1995 'Philosophers have traditionally fastened on the qualities that make human beings different from other species. MM, drawing on the findings of ethology, stresses similarities. What makes people tick? To a greater extent than we yet understand, she says, the same things that make wolves and bears and elephants tick'  Amazon  back


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