Tuesday, 5 May 2015

In the Absence of Justice

I wasn't going to return to this subject for a while but then Tarek Raimo over at Crossing Zebra's had to go a write a great article on the Leadership Problem. You probably better read it first. 

It is a good analysis. It asks the question "how did political and economic organisations of the real world develop to achieve higher stability by avoiding an over-reliance on leaders?" and goes on to consider the possible implications for the future organisations and leaders in Eve. I possibly agree with the conclusion but see situation rather differently.

Eve is... how can I put it... very Anglo Saxon. That is probably a really bad way to describe it so humour me and let me try and explain. 

Eve is often described as a sandbox and in many ways it is. But there are some key socio-economic characteristics that are constrained to a very western view of how a society and its economy should function. In fact you could go further and say that at the micro level the player is coerced into a particular variant of the western experience. As I have outlined in a earlier post, the Eve corp is a limited hierarchical mechanism designed to combine and consume resources (including players) with materials to generate income that may or facilitate warfare. You cannot set up a cooperative, trade association, trade union or charity for example and they aren't well suited to running services. Indeed where these are successfully established, they often require an out of game infrastructure. 

So far then, all we have is a limited emulation rather than a sandbox. But then this view is twisted in Eve by doing just one simple thing. The Judiciary System you would normally expect in such a world has been completely removed (with the limited exception of Concord) and this is where the fun and games start.

The Anglo Saxon bit? Here goes... in the western world,  trust is not a given where formal interactions are concerned. Would you buy a house on a handshake? Probably not. There will likely be a lawyer involved somewhere. So when you remove the rule of law out of the equation,  we end up with getting to ISK doubling, Carbon dressed up as a Charon and so on. Trusting anyone in Eve is inherently risky. In fact, mitigating against any form of trust dependency is the cornerstone of any interaction in Eve because "bad" behaviour can be well rewarded. This is what makes Eve such a fascinating experience.

However, this also all a bit weird. Weird because there are significant functional societies outside of the west that have very limited Judicial Systems or one's that can be corrupted to the extent they should be avoided at all costs.Yet houses are bought on the basis of a verbal agreement in such places. So somehow trust blossoms despite being in an environment where seemingly it can be readily abused. What gives?

My only personal experience with something like this comes from China where it is perfectly common (and significantly cheaper) to buy a house with just a verbal agreement. Or anything else for that matter. Why isn't China like Eve? I put it down to Guanxi

Explaining Guanxi is like trying to explain how to ride a bike to someone who has never seen one before. In essence, guanxi is a person to person relationship where each are obliged to help each other. In other words "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" In an environment where there are few inalienable rights it is a strong form of protection and it gets things done. A small example. Last time I was in China we lost our daughter. It was getting late so we called on the friend who works for the mobile phone company. They immediately gave us the location of our daughters phone (a department store) with no questions asked. We will at some point be obliged to repay that social debt if the need arises. To fail to do so would incur an extreme loss of status and lose your guanxi. And that could get expensive.

Is this relevant? Well I think it is. The latest BRAVE coup failed simply because the incumbent had a better Eve style guanxi than the usurper  - admittedly it didn't come into play until a very late stage but social debts were definitely called upon. So this dynamic already exists.

To conclude, the future social development of political and economic organisations of Eve will need to develop an equivalent of guanxi to achieve higher stability. By developing their Eve guanxi, leaders will contribute to their own stability. This will have to be conducted outside of the Eve environment because the organisation structures within Eve are currently not flexible enough to support the emergent play.



  1. A nice concept to introduce. I have heard of it and many similar forms of informal social agreements exist in societies and cultures all over the world. I was going to eventually write something about that. Nice that someone already did a bit of that. I may refer to your work once I get to that subject.

  2. Thank you. You are more than welcome to develop the theme