A Piece of Perfection

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A Piece of Perfection

Postby xkcd follower » Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:51 pm UTC

I came up with this question so long ago, but I cannot figure out an appropriate answer for it.

Imagine a population shipwrecked on an unknown island. The people must create a civilization or a settlement of everyone. As a result, a communist state forms, where all work is equal and everyone's efforts go into a pot and everyone collectively gets out of it. Everyone is considered equal. There is plenty of food, land, and supplies for these people to live, so no ability to hoarding would occur (so no one becomes powerful by controlling all the building material, there's plenty of it). Everyone works most of the time, but every so often they are lazy for a day. This pattern of who is lazy when and how is random, so some days is a little more in the pile, some less.

In addition, the people can and do reproduce just enough to keep the population stable or to grow slowly over time(No Baby Boom). This ensures of a constant survival of the people so no lack of labor exists. As population grows, everyone still creates enough to keep everyone alive.

It cannot exist on an extremely large size, but a small one works. As it goes up in size, the difficulty to operate and work the population becomes more difficult.

My question is simple: What size population would it take for this problem to break down in reality?

And as a bonus, what if the island has cannibals. Could a state like this exist on a smaller scale due to constant attacks?

Any other variables you could think of may effect your results. Please tell them.
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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby jestingrabbit » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:01 am UTC

This isn't a logic puzzle. Moved to general.
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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby Kewangji » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:07 am UTC

If the island has cannibals, the shipwreckers probably need to establish communication with them instead of just taking over the island. And, also, if there are cannibals they are probably endo- rather than exo-cannibals and would not commit random acts of predatory violence toward strangers.

In addition to that, I think this has far too many variables for any realistic numbers to pop up.
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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby lemmings » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:55 am UTC

A breakdown is always inevitable, it's just a matter of in which order of magnitude of time will it take. If you have the wrong batch of survivors, the civilization will implode in a week as new alliances are formed. If the leadership isn't strong, perhaps one month the harvest wasn't so great and the implosion occurs a few years down the line. Perhaps the implosion will occur a few decades, maybe even a few hundred years down the line because a few charismatic decedents where greedy. Point is, history has never seen a actual consistent form of government last more than a few centuries, regardless of the population size.

Another thing, quality of life is closely tied with population size. Your tiny boat built for a 3 hour tour may have been filed with PhDs, MDs, and engineers but if there's only dozen of you guys, you can forget indoor plumbing, an outhouse is on the back burner after more pressing needs like eating and not freezing. On the other hand, as your population becomes larger, you can have specialists who focus only on quality of life for the residents and their food can be provided by others who specialized in farming or hunting. Eventually though, that guy laying your plumbing is going to want something extra though and that even distribution will break down again.

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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby Cloud Walker » Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

Check out Island by Aldous Huxley, if you haven't already.
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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:16 pm UTC

What size population before not everyone is equal and/or works differently?

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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby Jorpho » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:57 am UTC


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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby Kang » Sat Sep 10, 2011 9:44 am UTC

History doesn't only have the tendency to turn every sort of utopian planned society into rubble after a while, it also has a strong tendency not to follow well-understood and measurable scientific principles at all times. The half life of your theoretical society is most likely chaotic.

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Re: A Piece of Perfection

Postby cemper93 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:25 pm UTC

Considering that the size of most communes is about 30 people, I would suggest that for the number of people who can live in such a society in normal circumstances. I would however suggest that the number could grow much bigger if the commune had some type of political system. This could be a Council which can be attended by everyone and in which decision are made in consensus, and that could decide to split the Commune once it reached a certain size. This way, there would be only a very basic form of a state (if you want to call it like that) and neither hierarchies nor classes.
The cannibal attacks are a somewhat different matter, as armies are organized in a hierarchical manner for a reason. I do however think that if the "war" is small enough to not have need for great strategies, the people of the commune could organize themselves.


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