What is a Geographic Imaginal Cell (GIC)?
A Geographic Imaginal Cell is a group of people of a certain size that form a community. This GIC, or Cell, is linked to other Cells similar to the manner in which cells of the body work together. These Cells are part of a new fabric of human organization, Cells within the greater global human organism, as we transition towards and then through the end of the nation-state model of governance.
Why are GICs needed?
I have talked earlier about how nation-states make it harder to manage global problems. Additionally, the world is already transitioning into a global system. Per Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens, we have already transitioned to a global format globally in many areas such as banking and trade, but the related political systems are lagging behind as the nation-states aggressively strive to hold on to their power. This incongruence of some global systems and some national systems creates the consternation that we see now across the globe.
Does the nation-state model inhibit our evolution as a human species? Will a global network of Geographic Imaginal Cells enhance our evolution? Will we become extinct if we do not migrate to a global system completely? These are the questions that I ponder.
Our nation-state model can be though of metaphorically as a car driving way too fast on the interstate. The natural regulatory enforcements are right behind us, lights flashing, wanting us to slow down…..curve ahead, danger, danger. We have a foot on the break and a foot on the gas. We have to slow down. We…have…too…slow…down.
One of the major concerns of globalism is the loss of community. Why can’t we have both globalism AND community. People think of globalism like this picture of Toronto.
But perhaps what they want is this, in their own vision:
Geographic Imaginal Cells are based on a vision of common sized organizations of communities, Imaginal in that each Cell charts its own destination and develops its own capabilities and specialties that supports itself and perhaps the Network of its immediate Cellular neighbors. The Cell imagines its future, thus it is Imaginal.
How big is the average size of a Cell?
The size of the Cell is important. It has to small enough to contribute to the feeling of community, yet not so small that the number of Cells are overwhelming. When I first wrote about the concept in the book “Towards a Global Tapestry: A Vision of Common Threads (2006)”, I fixed the total number of Cells at 1,000. The population in each Cell in this scenario would be approximately 7,500,000, or roughly the size of the populations in the Commonwealth of Virginia or the State of Washington. I have resided in both places and I can attest that a population that large does not lend itself to a feeling of community; the local cities where I lived became the focus of attention. I debated with myself then and now, and in the book, as to whether this was the correct approach. The number of units was relatively easy to manage on a total level, but with significant changes in population, the lines of the Cell would need to be redrawn every 25 years or so, or any time there was significant interCellular migration. If one person is living on the edge of a Cell, they may end up in an adjacent cell that has a different community focus than that which resonates with them. So I have changed my viewpoint on this thought. The primary goal is to avoid disruption to the community, and redrawing (redistricting) the lines could have been very problematic.
The normal human can work with about 80-120 individuals (monkey-mind). Humans in the beginning were tribal, and we are normally comfortable in this size of group. However, this size would create an infinite number of Cells, with new Cells being created every time the population increased by a net 120 people.
So my intermediate size is between these two items and rests at approximately 25,000. Statista (above) represents on their website that the number of cities in the Unites States approximates 19,500 cities and towns, and with a nationwide population of 323,000,000, the average population size per city is 16,500. To balance the feeling of community against the practicalities of managing the sheer number Cells, I suggest increasing the average population by city’ by 150% which then approximates a census of 25,000.
Expand the 25,000 size into a global configuration, what does that look like?
To accommodate the size of the ‘ideal’ Cell size, the number of Cells will be large. They will be managed by breaking them down into geographies that are suitable for management. As an example, a Cell size of 25,000 in the United States would approximate a quantity of 12,900 Cells for a population that approximates 323,000,000. A geographic grouping of 1,000 Cells will constitute 13 groups within the United States, and a grouping of 2,000 Cells will constitute 8 groups. Remember to erase the current national boundaries when you visualize these concepts as they will not exist. These Cells should be managed by locations that are contiguous.
On a global basis, based on a population of 7,500,000,000, the total number of Cells would approximate 300,000. The number of geographical groupings based on 1,000 cells is 300. A 300-member Global Assembly is not unmanageable.
The interesting event occurs when considering the mega-cities. New York City has a population of approximately 8,580,000 people with approximately 20,200,000 in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Applying the average cell size, this would create 340 Cells within the City of New York and a little over 800 Cells in the MSA. Given the high density of people within the City, some Cells may contain just a few New York City blocks.
How is the Cell structured?
Each GIC could be headed by a central administrative are called a CORE or CORE Agency. CORE stands for the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Execution. As an agency, it works on behalf of its citizens to manage jurisdictional affairs, which could include legislative oversight, community safety (ambulance, fire, police), environmental, housing, judicial, etc.
How does the CORE Agency operate?
One idea is that the CORE could be headed by a seven-member paid group or council that serve one term of up to seven years. The terms would be staggered so that one term would expire every year for a seven-year cycle. At the end of the term the council-person returns to private life as a citizen of the GIC. Once a full term of seven years is served, the person is not eligible for reappointment, and this includes partial terms. This is utilizing the concept of the citizen-statesman. This process of single appointments is designed to maintain the continuity of governance as well as to inhibit corruption.
The seven council members of White Plains
It is strongly suggested that in order to serve on the CORE council, a person must have been a resident of the Cell for five years prior to ascending to the council.
The seven council members of Yonkers
The CORE Agency hires those citizens of the Cell to act as workers, either by employment or contract, that are necessary to carry out the duties of the CORE Agency. Wherever possible, Agency positions should not be outsourced unless there is not a citizen that is qualified to perform the work.
Another thought is that the President of the Core Agency serves as a representative to the Local Assembly.
How is the CORE Agency nested into the greater Structure?
Based on the number of Cells that are grouped into Geographic groupings, the cells could follow the hierarchy of Cell –> Local Assembly –> Global Assembly.
The Local Assemblies are financed by small fees from the Cellular CORE Agencies and user fees for services that they provide. Due to the larger size of some projects, the Local Assemblies could manage the transportation roads and trains, electrical distribution, ports, hospitals and disease prevention, systemic environmental stewardship, interCellular trade, and other larger service functions. A potential additional area could include food production. These could be accomplished through a system of Regional Authorities. The membership is made up of the Presidents of the Core Agencies, with leading officers and representatives to the Global Assembly elected from the Presidents.
What form of political theory could work the best in the GIC?
Assuming that the smaller size of approximately 25,000 people is used, then a platform of social democracy may best fit the needs of the Cell. Social democracy provides a methodology for each citizen to have an input into their governance, and it supports a regulated free-market economy with interventions for social justice. Dana Ott discusses how the theory and application of democracy works well in her book entitled “Small is Democratic: An examination of State Size and Democratic Development (2000)”.
How does the CORE finance its agency responsibilities?
This of course depends on the economic nature of the Cell. However, one of the key reasons to have Cells is to go both Global while maintaining strong community structures. A suggested provision of organizing the GIC is that the land reverts from private ownership to the communal ownership of the GIC. This is a big change. However, it can be argued that private ownership is an anathema to communal interests; the equality of each person’s interests becomes tied to the real estate. An unfortunate potentiality is, should land be retained in private ownership, the Cell could become like a fiefdom where most of the land is owned by one person or family, and the citizens end up supporting the interests of this person. This is not a manifestation that supports community. The land belongs to the entire Cell community and must be maintained to the benefit of future citizens over several generations.
The land is leased at a fair rate and payments are made to the CORE Agency. The other manners in which the CORE Agency can be financed include a gross receipts levy and service fees. Since the CORE is part of a larger structure, a small portion of its revenues are sent to the larger governing organizations.
What prevents Cells from abusing their citizens?
There would need to be a discussion and global Charter on the rights and responsibilities that a Cell has towards their citizen, and that a citizen has towards their Cell. A place to start is a review of the Sustainable Development Goals as hosted by the United Nations. But before that occurs a discussion has to occur as to what a right is? Do citizens have the right to participate in their government, a right to an education, or to health care, a job, transparency in business, freedom from crime, universal basic income, clean land, air, and water, equality of race or gender, freedom from slavery, and equal access to energy? Similar to the “Prime Directive” which stipulates that there should not be interference in the internal workings of a Cell, there should be a balance between the self-determination of the Cell’s community identity, and the rights of the citizens, and mechanisms that prevent the abuse of their rights, however they may be defined collectively. Different cells can have different rights for its citizens, but there should be a threshold or minimum that all global citizens receive. Do you agree? What rights are important to you?
How much money could be saved by not funding the military-industrial complexes in the nation-states today and instead to promote balanced budgets and universal basic income? How can those industries be transitioned to uses that enhance our progress? Just a thought.
How do the Cells interact with their neighboring Cells?
Cells could form a network with their closest five neighbors. Thus a Cell could be in five networks. Many Cells may wish to share resources to accomplish goals that the individual Cells could not accomplish alone.
Is all the land available for Cells?
I suggest that not all the land is available for Cells. There are important areas of land where the controllership of that area by a Cell could lead to its use in inappropriate ways. Special Areas could be managed by the Local Assembly. I suggest the following formula:
+ Total Land
– Natural Resource Areas
– Biologic Resource Areas
– Mineral and Energy Production Areas
– Cultural Heritage Sites
= Residual amount of land for Cellular utilization
Will all of the land areas be of an equivalent size for a Cell?
No, some Cells, like in New York city, may be in the size of several large blocks. Other Cells may be very large as they are predominantly agricultural and require large areas of land. I suggest that this question will have to be resolved through negotiations between the Cells and the Local Assemblies.
What are some potential quirks of the concept of using Cells?
The size of some corporate headquarters could fill a Cell. For example, Amazon has approximately 25,000 employees in its Seattle headquarters, and a new Microsoft HQ center could have 30,000-40,000. Once concept is that the corporation becomes the primary employer of the Cell, and it’s corporate employees could live in and create their own Cell. This could have an interesting effect on the ‘community’ democracies. For example, if you no longer were employed with the corporation, would you have to move out of the Cell?
Another probability of occurrence is that Cells may form professional affinities. One Cell may be full of software engineers, one may be full of app builders, while other are full of architects, accountants, or attorneys. Although the trades, such as plumbing or electrical, are usually distributed in the communities where the need for their skills arise, it is conceivable that some of the artisans may form guilds at the Cellular level.
The members of some Cells will want to maintain a certain religious character. There could be Muslim, Mormon, Jewish, Buddhist, Humanist, or other groups that dominate their Cell. That provides strength to their sense of community, and shouldn’t be a problem as long as they do not interfere with the rights of the citizens in their groups, or citizens who are not in their group but who live in the Cell.
This essay does not claim to have all the answers; it is intended to put forth some ideas to start the discussion. There is just so much capacity for an amazing future on this planet, and so much potential for destruction if we keep going the same way that we are. It is time to ‘level-up’.
Ott, Dana (2000). Small is Democratic: An Examination of State Size and Democratic Development (Comparative Studies of Democratization). Routledge.
http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/12/sustainable-development-goals-kick-off-with-start-of-new-year/#prettyPhoto; downloaded October 15, 2017
https://www.statista.com/statistics/241695/number-of-us-cities-towns-villages-by-population-size/: Downloaded October 13, 2017
Hall, Richard Loren (2006). Towards a Global Tapestry: A Vision of Common Threads. Rosedog Books