Note — Apr 10, 2022

Dunbar’s Number and How Speaking Is 2.8x Better than Picking Fleas

Webb’s post mentioned above, where he shares some of the highlights of the actual paper and explains how Dunbar got to some of those conclusions. The idea of the language being the modifier that allows humans to be 2.8x more effective at social grooming is genius. And of course, don’t miss Matt’s pondering at the end, I’m always impressed by his what-ifs.

“Comfortable” conversation means background noise levels typical of both offices and city streets – our normal voice levels, our normal hearing, our normal comfortable personal social distance, our normal width of shoulders all combine to produce conversional groups of… 5 people. […]

Looking at some six billion calls made by 35 million people they did some number crunching and… the average cumulative layer turns out to hold 4.1, 11.0, 29.8, and 128.9 users. […]

[W]hen we’re building software-enabled co-ops or, in new language, creating governance and consensus systems for DAOs, could we optimise around Dunbar’s layers in order to avoid the inevitable bureaucratic requirements when we don’t – bureaucracy which is now perhaps revealed to be a social technology, a kind of relationships prosthetic for when self-organisation caps out.