Posted by: crudbasher | July 7, 2010

The Flattening of Established Hierarchial Social Systems

Our world is make of hierarchical social systems.  This is largely so we know who is in charge and it makes it easier to manage things.  When the founders of our country laid out the system of government, they didn’t want a democracy.  Instead they created a representative democratic republic where we elect people to speak on our behalf.  In school there is a clear hierarchy from student, to teacher, to administrator, to district etc…  In science there are such structures too.

The most powerful thing about the internet is the ability to create ad hoc social systems.  These systems tend to have a fairly flat hierarchy with very few levels of management.  This gives each member a larger voice in the group’s activities.

This all lead me to this article.  A college student is waging a campaign on Facebook to have the number “million billion trillion” known as a “hella”.  In other words he is trying to create a unit of measurement.  It has gone so far that Google has put “hella” into Google Calendar!  While far from being official, something like that tends to take on a life of its own on the net.

According to the article, the standards body that decides things like this (the top of the science hierarchy) is not likely to approve this addition to the mathematics lexicon.  That’s not the important part. The fact that they are even considering it from a lowly student is the amazing part!  Information democratization is disruptive.

  • College student is trying to get international board to use Hella as the term for a million billion trillion number.

    tags: funny mathematics

    • When Austin Sendek was growing up in Northern California, he was never allowed to use the regional slang term “hella.”
    • Now the 20-year-old physics major at UC Davis uses “hella” often — and he’s trying to get scientists from Boise to Beijing to do the same. Sendek, who was forced to use “hecka” as a child, has petitioned an international scientific body to make “hella” the name for the hitherto nameless, unimaginably huge, seldom-cited quantity of 10 to the 27th power — or 1 followed by 27 zeros.
    • It started as a joke, but Sendek’s Facebook petition: to the Consultative Committee on Units, a subdivision of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, has drawn more than 60,000 supporters. Its chances for formal adoption by the global weights-and-measures community are hella dim, but Google was so taken with Sendek’s modest proposal that it incorporated “hella” in its online calculator.
    • Hella’s chances at the committee’s next meeting, in September, are remote. In an e-mail to colleagues, Ian Mills, the British chemist who serves as the CCU’s president, wrote that “it will be received with smiles — but I doubt that it will go further!”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. Never underestimate the power of social media. The president may doubt that it will go further now, but what happens when it becomes so mainstream that not to adopt it would leave them behind? So interesting to me how quickly the hierarchical system is transforming and changing.

    • Yes I agree the speed of all of this is amazing! I wonder what we will see in 5 years?

      Thanks for commenting!!

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