The pyramids could not have been built from a small subset of humans rational thought any more than a market price could be intelligently set by one or a few minds. Nick Szabo gives examples (with the help from Smith, Hayek, and Leonard Read) of the complexity of advanced construction of this sort, and how it must necessarily “evolve” (rather than be planned).
Furthermore the pyramids act as a consensus mechanism for the society they represent. If a pyramid takes 30 years to build, everyone has a very strong approximate timeline of stability through predictability, provided of course there is some standard to each block that falls in place.
In a related blog post Szabo also points out labor can in fact be a proxy measurement of value:
…using labor, or more generally cost, as a measure of value is a common strategy of our institutions and in itself often quite valuable thing to do
For the pyramids “labor” or the cost of a placing a pyramid block, might have evolved to become a fairly predictable basis for a society. If we think of the Egyptians as being ultra efficient and placing many blocks, it might be that “block-time” was a very valuable standard. The great Khufu’s pyramid is said to have taken only 23 years to lay over 2.5 million blocks! This amounts to:
10-hour day: every 2 minutes a stone (34 to 43 per hour)
8-hour day: nearly a stone every minute (42 to 53 stones per hour)
While construction the pyramid the rate of delivery was 1 stone weighting 2.5 tons every minute.
Depending on the competition to place blocks, this could be an accurate, stable measurement which could serve as a basis for a more complex monetary system.
We often ask “HOW could the Egyptians build the pyramids?” since in hindsight it seems impossible for a civilization thousands of years ago to do something we still cannot yet conceive of how to do. But I think we are approaching the problem wrong, or rather our representation of a reality in the form of a problem, has caused us to miss the true context.
Is it possible rather that the pyramids were NATURAL successive iterations of a consensus mechanism?
This would suggest the pyramids not only functioned as some form of the foundation of the Egyptian economic system, but possibly the basis for a larger “Kula Ring” where the Egyptians largest contribution is the pyramid as the basis of some archaic ledger system-the Egyptians then contributed stability of finance and foreign commerce (money or the facilitation of trade albeit in some unrecognizable form from our perspective).
In hindsight it SEEMS like there is an absolutely immense amount of necessary planning. Could anyone truly argue versus the idea that such a plan was not possible? I would like to suggest only by the natural evolution of competitive “labor markets” (ie incentivized competing workers) could blocks be so accurately put in place that such an ideal and massive structure could defy gravity so much and for so long.
Such an observation has ramifications, for example it might not be that the Egyptians planned for a longevity of thousands of years for their tombs, but rather there is instead a simple possibility that the only revelation to be understood, is that without the accidental (but natural) creation of the Great Pyramid and other such lasting structures, we simply still wouldn’t know who we are to any significant extent that we do today.