A Look at Bottom up Hierarchies

While these are things I’ve heard in passing and haven’t participated in (much), they do a good job of presenting a lot of data in a short amount of time (one page). The data needed to understand what exactly is bottom up hierarchies and how they differ from top down hierarchies.

Kickstarter, I would say, is more of a hybrid. There is a middleman, kickstarter itself as an organization that cuts their cut, but it isn’t a mob or mass working on wikipedia forming their own rules on how to create a story nor is it a company that has a top down order list.


This post is directly inspired by a previous project that already ended,

So, we have Love in Space’s Sunrider that has finished a space romance action funding goal. FTL, an almost brutally hard permadeath based ship combat run (same difficulty as arcade shoot ups, without the continue function).

Then there is Exogenesis : https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2921787/exogenesis-post-apocalyptic-tokyo-adventure-visual

Which still has 16 days to go and because they set a rather high goal, they are lacking about 40% of the funding. I’ve heard of Ace Attorney but for those who haven’t played the console or emulation setups, the idea of a lawyer game isn’t particularly popular in America. At least, not right now. It has some bad connotations. I can’t say definitely that this is why there’s a funding difference, but Sunrider runs on a more familiar bishoujo theme.

Now for my interpretation or executive summary.

Bottom up hierarchies are ad hoc organizations formed between two or more people, based upon the needs of the moment: a sort of convenient alliance for survival. There is no adjudicator or mediator usually, so all the negotations must form between the leader of party A and the leader of party B, it is very direct.

Top down hierarchies form based upon a unified social authority, where the group recognizes a sole leader and that leader has a legitimate chain of command under them. The closest example is a civilian political system or a military ranking system.

Since life is rich and complicated, people often alternate between top down and bottom up hierarchies. A married couple, for instance, generally decides things together, using negotiation. The moment they use the court system to adjudicate and force things, then they are living under a top down hierarchy, where things happen only because the Boss says they happen. As a result, negotiation breaks down. Society, the judge, and the lawyers don’t necessarily have the best interests of the divorced party’s in mind. Everybody must appeal and rely upon the judgment of the Top, to get things done. This has a concurrent corrosive effect on personal initiative and a greater reliance on force and power. The use of a mediator, though, someone who lacks legal or physical power to force one party to do something, generally still allows a couple to conduct their relationship as an ad hoc, bottom up hierarchy.

Because bottom up hierarchies are flexible, they can be used in a lot of ways. The leader of Soviet Russia and the leader of Nazi Germany could use a mediator to agree on an alliance to divide up Poland, even though they would later invade and try to kill each other’s people. Even though in those two systems their hierarchy of choice was top down leadership (dictatorship or totalitarian thought control), they could still form an ad hoc, private one to one, relationship with another. And thus also tie their nation’s people together as well, momentarily.

Kickstarter type funded projects are a form of hybrid, taking elements of the best from bottom ups and combining them with the adjudication powers and enforcement powers of a top down command structure. The mediator, or middleman in this case it would be Kickstarter’s organization itself, determines or enforces the correct usage or refunding of money. The various consumers form one side of the party and the developers form the other side of the party, and both utilize negotiation, propaganda, and verbal influence in order to get the other side to do things. In the end, this creates a synergy, a product that pleases both sides.

Now we backtrack and take a side road. Ft. Hood and Ft. Hood 2 are great examples of top down hierarchies making a policy, forcing people to Obey that policy, and only afterwards do people realize that this doesn’t really benefit most people. It’s as if Kickstarter took all the money and fled. Or the developers took all the money and fled, without delivering on promises. Or the consumers got the game, and then stole all the money they said they would invest, back. Since there’s a Ft. Hood 2 deaths, the idea that a top down hierarchy would fix problems they see is… not really looking realistic. The way this can happen is if the top down leader orders and ensures that such events happen. Cause generally a society or organization that obeys its leader, will fix problems the leader tells them to fix, unless stopped by the leadership’s own orders or the organization’s own barriers. The military, or in this case the US military, often looks down on purely civilian militias as disorganized mobs or civilians trained to a high tactical level as out of control loose cannons that don’t obey police or military ROEs. That is indeed a deficiency of bottom up hierarchies; it is unstable, it lacks coordination, the left hand can often bungle straight into the right hand in operations. What the modern 21st century has given the West is not a bottom up hierarchy as historically people called the “mob” or the “crowd”. What the modern 21st century has created are hybrid organizations that combine the best of both, with the deficiencies of neither, using a combination of internet free source information flow, individual initiative, and top down legal enforcement.

In order to be combat effective, the US military has often had to promote individual initiative as well as obedience to orders in their rank and file, NCOs and officers. What we are seeing is a decided lack of personal initiative, more obedience to orders, and the fallout that results from getting rid of bottom up hierarchies and replacing everything with a top down command system. It’s not very efficient and it’s not very effective either.

This is how we can tread the path of a civilian entertainment industry and end up in a war scenario. We’re still dealing with humans here and humans have experienced social hierarchies for so long, for a reason. As for the authority behind this piece, you can either take the reasoning I’ve provided or you can look for another source. Being able to think for yourself, BY yourself, however, is not an option but rather a requirement.

Vignette Ten: Knowledge is power.

Camp Swampy, 1986.
When Hamilton was a young puppy of a lieutenant, his company commander made him promise that, when he took command of a company, he wouldn’t change a blessed thing for at least six weeks. Instead, he solemnly promised, he’d do a lot of LBWO, asking questions, and then analyze.
He did that for the first six weeks of his first command. In the process, he saw all kinds of interesting and eye-opening things: People sleeping in the barracks on duty time, squad leaders who really didn’t have the first idea that they were responsible for their troops, in toto, squad leader time consisting of people playing ping pong in the dayroom. And this was in one of the better companies of that battalion, Hamilton’s predecessor having been a first class officer, in general (though he never made general).
Hamilton didn’t really blame the squad leaders or platoon sergeants. And his platoon leaders were all brand new. The officer corps had castrated the NCO corps decades prior. They were so used to being told what to do, all the time, to having their time managed by higher, that the idea that they were responsible was just alien to many, maybe even most, of them.
So Hamilton called everybody from squad leader on up into his office and gave a little speech, more or less to this effect:
“Boys, I’ve been in the Army about nine and a half years by now. I think probably every year, sometimes twice, some company commander or other would announce, ‘People, I’m sick of this fucking off in the barracks. We’re gonna account for every man, every minute. We’re gonna tighten up the training schedule…We’re not gonna let a minute go to waste…”
“Yeah…no. That usually worked for about ten days until the next crisis came upon us and some new priority popped up; then we went right back to what we’d been doing.
“We’re going to try something different. Rather, we’re going to try a few things different.
“Item one: Look at your new training schedule. Note where it says ‘sergeants’ time’? Right; it doesn’t; it’s gone. All time that I don’t specifically take is sergeants’ time. Now flip it over.
“Item two: Remember where it used to say ‘opportunity training’? Note that now it says ‘mandatory opportunity training.’ That means you are going to do it; trust me on this. I’m testing Friday afternoons. If your guys fail, we’ll retest Friday night until Saturday morning, if that’s what it takes. Yeah, it’s micro-managing. For the moment.
“Item three: Where’s the time coming from for this? Go back to what I said in item one; I’m not putting anything on the schedule that isn’t _my_ major event. So you now have a lot of time.”
The first week they didn’t believe him. He had the first sergeant select two men from each squad, randomly, and used his platoon leaders and platoon sergeants to test. The men failed. So the dirty bastard kept the whole company there retesting until about 23:30. Next week, two of the squad leaders believed. Their people passed. The rest stayed until about 22:30. The next week it was four, until maybe 21:00.
It took six weeks but, by that time, they all believed.
Hamilton kept it up for another six weeks after that. Allegedly, one – at least one; might have been more – of his squad leaders had troops coming up to him and saying, in one case literally, “Forsooth, Sergeant, I am in desperate need of getting laid. Sadly, if we don’t pass the muthafuckin’ CO’s test Friday, it won’t happen again this week, either. So please, PLEASE teach me this shit.”
After that twelve weeks was over there was another little prayer meeting in Hamilton’s office. The gist of that was, “Okay, now you know you can do this; you can train your own troops without being told where and when to do it. The next step is that now you’re going to decide what your squad needs. Right. Now give me five Soldiers Manual tasks, three if they’re exceptionally hard. Yeah, that’s each of you. Yeah, I’m still going to test Friday night.”
That program, in conjunction with some other things, worked pretty damned well. By well I mean that when the annual hands on Skill Qualification Test1 rolled around, the rest of the battalion shut down for two or three weeks to prep. Hamilton’s crew didn’t. Instead, they went to the field, did a best squad competition, some deliberate attacks, couple-three live fires, some patrolling, some anti-armor ambushing…and basically had a good time. They came in from the field rather late the night before it was their turn to take the SQT (which in that battalion was done much like an EIB test, _very_ anal). Hamilton told the boys, “Oil your rifles, knock the mud off your boots, get a good night’s sleep. See you out here in the morning.”
Seven people in that company didn’t max the test. That was something over two thirds of all the maxes in the battalion, which is pretty good considering he had less than ten percent of the battalion. The top nine squads were Hamilton’s, ten counting company HQ. The top three platoons were his, and nobody else was even close. All his squad leaders acquired a pretty vast level of prestige with their own troops and within the battalion, overall.
After that, he still collected their tasks, but just spot checked occasionally. The sergeants were doing it, all individual training, entirely on their own hook. And from there he could put in a date and time for a given inspection or any other event related to his squads and be quite confident it would get done, efficiently and well.
(Oh, the next year, where he paid zero attention to the upcoming SQT, only four of the men didn’t max it.)

Sometimes personal initiative requires a kick in the pants

Explore posts in the same categories: Visual Novels, War

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: