"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" describes not just human lives, but also human pursuits. If you build something different and radical, odds are it will, over time, be subsumed back into status quo. The gravitational pull may be mild, but it's very patient, ceaselessly working to reabsorb change and progress (Darwin in schools, anyone?) and to denature whatever is new and different.
Have a look at this discussion on Chowhound's "Great Plains" message board. The participants have no idea who I am - which is fine, as the site's never been about me. But see how alien Chowhound's founding principles strike them.
It's not their fault. They're using the forum as their instincts tell them to, because no other example has been set. And, of course, aggressive, parochial know-it-alls are inevitable in online forums. But if the site's credo had been more evenly dispersed, chowhoundish assertions, though not shared by all, at least wouldn't seem so bafflingly new. And pushy folks, who repel newcomers and reject the unconventional, wouldn't be allowed to dominate. Even without me around, there'd still be cultural critical mass (as there still is on some of Chowhound's message boards).
It's the result of scaling. In the first installment of "Bubbles, Slogs, and Selling Out", the tale of Chowhound's sale to CNET, I linked to a goodbye page which we'd prepared to throw up to announce the site's demise. It reads, in part:
The solution would be for a plethora of small communities to flourish, with kindred spirits sharing notes via email, Yahoo Groups, etc.. Small groups can ferret out much treasure, and participants will learn to trust one another. And small groups minimize expenses, headaches and nuts, and offer less incentive for opportunists to subvert. Small private groups would be better still. Resist the urge to consolidate. Eschew ambition. Keep things small and managable and in the spirit you value.In the second century, Rome conquered the furthest eastward region ever to be absorbed under its control. After the victory, the emperor stood for a moment, thinking. Realizing it was just too damned far from Rome to effectively administer, he granted them their independence and marched home. History judges the empire's decline to have begun at that moment. To some historians, he's the shmuck who let glory slip away. To me, he freaking nailed it.