Last weekend I had a huge zoom call with my extended family. Parents with nine siblings each equals many, many cousins. I met cousins who I hadn't talked to in years, saw nephews and nieces I've never met, and enjoyed old family stories I'd never heard.
It was a moment of connection and rekindling old ties.
That doesn't happen often enough.
Those communal ties kept coming up in one form or another this week.
It started with today's essay: I was planning to do a piece about charity, but that quickly turned into an epiphany on communities. And as I thought more about communities, insights about their workings started sneaking into completely unrelated books.
Meeting with my family and realizing that I didn't even know where everyone else lives was eye opening. How do you stay in touch in a world where we're all so spread apart?
I don't have an answer yet, but I found some hints. Sharing them below in this newsletter, Community Edition
What I'm writing
Effective Altruism is not Effective Enough
"Your community can be anything you want it to be, but it won’t be real until you know their stories and they know yours."
Visiting a homeless camp led me down a path of deciphering why it felt better to donate my time instead of money. Turns out ancient cultures understood this and they all offered the same advice:
Build your Community. Support each other.
Read the full story here
What I'm reading
The Art of Doing Science and Engineering (book)
The biggest risk to future progress: Social institutions evolve much more slowly than technology
As we adapt ourselves to technology instead of adapting technology to us, we may end up breaking our community structures without having an alternative ready. In fact, this already seems to be happening as most of our interactions to move to broadcast based social media like Facebook and Twitter. It's easier to let someone shout into the void instead of facilitating mutual conversation.
This book has been dropping a new insight every other page. I'll probably be sharing highlights for a couple weeks 🙂
The Psychology of Habit (book from 1887)
A 130 year old book on habits, and many points still sounds like something you'll find in a book from last year.
But one bit was novel:
"Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance"
Habit is the glue that lets society keep it's shape. In other words, it's the culture
The implication: Culture keeps us functioning the way we do, for good or bad.
To improve society you need to improve it's habits. But changing people's habits without considering how that will affect the culture is like blindly removing a brick while playing Jenga. Everything might be fine for a while, until you remove the wrong brick and it all comes crashing down
Sometimes it can be better to NOT offer feedback. Offering feedback can make the other person feel less ownership over the idea.
"One of the things I noticed was that the people making the decisions would try to make the idea just a little bit better. Someone would come to you with a 95% idea and you would be like 'Oh my god, have you thought of this? This is going to move the this project from 95% to 95.5%. I am a genius, right?' And what I noticed was that the willingness of the person to own the idea, to be motivated to execute, went down."
Note that this only applies when your feedback is something minor.
What I'm thinking
How would you design an online community that would help people form deeper ties with each other?
It would need to be something that understood that people can only have close ties to a small group, something that facilitated deeper ties between you and everyone else, where you know their stories and they know yours.
I saw hints of how this could be done in Write of Passage, and in the family Zoom call, but there's a lot more untapped potential
What have you seen that helps tie communities together tightly?
Till next week