The Social Architecture of Impactful Communities

💌 The Roundup // 016

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The Social Architecture of Impactful Communities

Since this month's essay is long, I'm just going to post a teaser here and link to my website where you can read the rest. I may start doing this more often, so let me know what you think.

Recently, there's been a Cambrian explosion of new communities:

While some may have started with purely financial motivations, most community builders aspire to help replace some of the social capital that America's waning institutions once provided. However, that’s no small task.

This guide distills some of my learnings from building, managing, and participating in a spectrum of thriving communities. It covers topics like:

  • Why member quality is more important than member growth

  • How to reward members with status

  • What a flywheel for a thriving community looks like

And much more. To read the whole post, just click the button below:

Read the post


🤓 Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution

(8-minute read by David Chapman)

Another function communities perform is protecting subcultures from getting ruined by hype cycles.

Subcultures typically begin with a group of geeks building hype around a new scene. This excitement attracts ordinary members of the public (MOPs) who support the growth of the subculture, but don't tend to contribute as much time or energy as the geeks. Eventually, the MOPs attract sociopaths who infiltrate the group and extract value away from the geeks, leading to the subculture's demise.

Thoughtfully designed communities can protect subcultures from decay and help them thrive by:

  • Creating a clubhouse that facilitates valuable interactions between geeks

  • Inducting MOPs into the subculture and incentivizing them to contribute to its success

  • Screening out the sociopaths to prevent them from taking advantage of the geeks

👑 The Next Experiments in Elitism

(17-minute read by Venkatesh Rao)

Examine any period in history, and you'll likely find a group of people who operated outside of the normal rules of society and enjoyed a special set of privileges. This class of people, who we refer to as elites, turns over from time to time, but almost always has a group occupying its ranks. As we ponder the future of elitism, the question is not whether this designation will continue to exist, but rather how society's definition of elites might change.

One theory says that the function of elites is to serve as a model to the masses for how life "can and ought to be lived." Using this definition, "good elites" should provide guidance about how to live the good life. While some of our current elites seem to live aspirationally, how many seem like people you’d want to model your life after?

As our old institutions crumble and new ones take their place, it seems likely we are due for a new crop of elites. Will we simply get new faces behaving in similar ways? Or might these new elites come ready to model new and better ways to live?

🤹‍♂️ The Polymath Playbook

(9-minute read by Salman Ansari)

The introduction of GPT-3 has alerted knowledge workers to the possibility that their jobs may not be as safe from automation as they once thought. In response, many are wondering how this new technological development should inform their carer strategy. The template of the Polymath may hold some clues.

Polymaths engage in extended learning across disparate fields and apply their knowledge to connect ideas and solve problems in unique ways. By nature, they’re well suited to thrive in a constantly changing environment.

The key advantage polymaths hold is their ability to develop mental models from different fields and apply them to solve problems in a unique way. This enables them to differentiate from their competition. Further, it creates opportunities for them to find truly meaningful work by pursuing their passions.

By sampling frameworks and models from a variety of domains, you can build specialized expertise, that will make you hard to replace.

🕊 Another Kind of Freedom & The Spectrum of Judgment

(25-minute read by Hanzi Freinacht)

Throughout the history of civilization, emotions have played an important role in regulating human behavior. During the Babylonian dynasty, people were governed by a fear-based regime that included an exacting code of gruesome punishments.

This eventually made way for a guilt-based regime that replaced violence on earth with promises of rewards and punishments in the afterlife.

More recently, as the role of religion has diminished in our lives, a shame-based regime has taken hold. Here, our emotions are regulated– not out of a desire to remain pure in the eyes of God– but rather to remain in good standing among the rest of the community.

Could this explain the emergence of cancel culture? Not as a weapon in the culture wars but as an emergent social technology to help society keep order in an age of increasing interconnectedness?

🧠 Mental Wealth

(16-minute read by James Beshara)

Estimates suggest 83% of us will experience a mental health crisis at some point in our lives. Society's stance on mental health interventions is reminiscent of how we dealt with physical health 50 years ago. We wait for something to go wrong, then we prescribe pills. What might it look like if we took a preventative approach to our mental well-being instead? James suggests the following five areas that each of us can invest in to make a significant impact on our long term mental wealth: Sleep, Diet, Exercise, Stress Management, and Exogenous Compounds.

🗺 Expiring vs. Permanent Skills

(4-minute read by Morgan Housel)

During the mid-1800s, every West Point cadet was required to take art classes in order to be able to quickly draw maps of battlefield topography.

While this was once seen as a critical part of a military officer's job, software eventually replaced the need for hand cartography. Today, art classes are no longer offered at West Point. Cartography turned out to be an "expiring skill" that diminished in importance as technology improved.

Today’s expiring skills tend to be the ones that employees are highlighting on their resumes: SQL, No Code Tools, Salesforce Administration all fit this bill. While these skills may be hot now, technology will eventually make them obsolete.

The opposite of expiring skills are permanent skills:

Permanent skills are different. They’ve been around a long time, which makes them look stale and basic. They can be hard to define and quantify, which gives the impression of fortune-cookie wisdom vs. a hard skill.

But permanent skills compound over time, which gives them quiet importance. When several previous generations have worked on a skill that’s directly relevant to you, you have a deep well of relevant examples to study. And when you can spend a lifetime perfecting one skill whose importance never wanes, the payoffs can be ridiculous.



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