Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

Hierarchy, Networks and Tyranny

A friend and former business associate, Harry Stevens, or more formally Dr. Chandler Harrison Stevens, was an early pioneer in the use of online communications and processes for having greater participation. He conceptualized, and with the technical expertise of a partner, George Reinhard, created a software product for group communication called Participate. This all happened in the early 1980s and started on a public computer service called The Source.

Somewhere in that time Harry wrote a short poem that captured his thoughts about the power of online networks and the possibilities they provided for society. As you read it below, note the shift from industrial age mechanical metaphors to information agent computer metaphors.


I’d rather be a node in a network,

Than a cog in the gear of a machine.

A node is involved with things to resolve,

While a cog must mesh with cogs in between.

A cog in a niche can never question

An instruction from a superior.

It does what it’s told and seldom acts bold,

Except when bossing an inferior.

A node’s a crossing of lines of action,

And in the center there is inner peace,

Where choices are born and memories form

Mutual respect makes tyranny cease.

As I read this again after not having looked at it for a number of years, and as I think about it in terms of current social movements in many countries assisted and enabled by the Internet, I’m fascinated that even back then Harry was thinking about the power of these tools to impact tyranny.

Do you note the shift in values that Harry expresses as we move from hierarchy and mechanical metaphor to network and computer metaphor?  Much of what Harry expresses is about greater freedom. What lines speak to you about greater freedom?

One response to “Hierarchy, Networks and Tyranny

  1. Pingback: Bursting the Beltway Bubble « Chairman Ed

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