Add from the dating doc
I think the culture I want is basically:
- Chill, happy, matter-of-fact, low-stakes, free criticism and disagreement is the norm. I imagine a surfer bro going 'woah man lol, every part of that sentence sounds super false to me' and then happily sitting back to listen to the other person's counter-argument / explanation / update.
- By default, all statements and conversations are assumed to be about objective reality. (Like, we might be wrong about what's really real, but we're at least trying to talk about it. Reality is our subject matter, the thing we're attempting to capture in our words.)
- Borrowing from circling / authentic-relating / NVC: it's always OK to talk about your feelings and gut and surface impressions, always OK to do focusing or brainstorming or experimenting-with-new-lenses; but there are strong norms for super carefully flagging these as feelings / surface impressions / etc., not necessarily as truth-claims. And, especially when talking about others' mental states, there's a strong norm to flag claims as inferences rather than as observations.
- The culture recognizes that bruised egos and status jockeying are real problems, and tries to be pragmatic about the issue rather than just wishing it away. People are encouraged to initially make emotionally charged criticisms in one-on-one conversation with the person you're criticizing, rather than tweeting it to the world; then they're encouraged to go ahead and tweet it, if it seems important enough after you've had 72 hours to think about it.
- As much as possible, the status hierarchy is based around people's actual virtues and their expected real-world impact, taking into account changing facts on the ground (at the time the person acted). A deliberate effort is made to explicitly state what community members want the status hierarchy to look like, so that proposals can be talked about and critiqued, and revised when and if facts on the ground do change.
- The culture has very clear norms for signaling if you want to opt out of certain societal defaults and live in a weird subculture with different norms.
- ADDED: There are specific monosyllabic words (e.g. 'glom' for 'glomarizing') that are used to indicate that you choose not to say anything; and these terms are used very widely, and there are people tasked with making sure that folks are regularly socially rewarded and encouraged for doing this. Crucially, glomarizing is casual and folks are encouraged to also use it as a sort of filler noise even when they don't have a specific thing in mind they don't feel like sharing. And encouraged to just randomly 'glom' sometimes to be coy, even when they do kinda want to share a thing. All of this helps reduce the extent to which glomarizing communicates unwanted information.
Pretty much every 10+ minute conversation includes at least one 'circling' aside to focus on feelings, and most include multiple such asides, even though the default (outside of this circling frame) is 'words are endorsed literal claims about reality'.
Example from the FB comment: I'm imagining two people deciding whether to go to the movies, and one of them interjecting 'I have a story according to which you're currently feeling tired -- is that right?'. Congrats, you circled!
As a default, object-level disagreement is for the public square, while personal criticism exists primarily to help people self-improve and grow (not to help steer third parties' beliefs about how virtuous you are). Personal criticism is therefore most helpful if given to the person you're criticizing, and if it occurs in a space where the person can quietly think about the feedback without letting their thoughts focus on society-at-large.
(Note: Part of my model here is that society is too danged big nowadays, compared to the Dunbar-ish communities our ancestors evolved to model. I think this might be breaking people's brains a bit, causing too much conformity, causing the wrong kinds of conformity, etc. Also, it's possible that our ancestral level of conformism is too high too, since we now live in a very different world. In the modern world, the objective personal costs of heterodoxy are a lot smaller than than they were 500,000 years ago, and the objective societal benefits are a lot greater.)
Since reputations do matter and it's important that people have broadly accurate models of each other (especially, e.g., accurate models of the track record of subject matter experts), there exist special institutions and holidays for publicly aggregating and discussing reputational information (including sufficiently important criticisms) in a way that's optimized to be fun, relaxed, friendly, etc. This includes 'gossip reservoirs' whose purpose is to hear all the low-importance stuff in case any of it adds up to something important in aggregate.
E.g., if you divide up individuals, projects, and virtues according to Hogwarts houses, a reasonable progression might look like:
Stage 1: Gryffindor gets the most honor, because humanity's priority is 'figuring out what destination to shoot for; uniting around shared vision, values, and purpose'.
Stage 2: Ravenclaw gets the most honor, because humanity's priority is 'figure out how to navigate to that destination'.
Stage 3: The houses of pragmatism and efficacy (hufflepuff and slytherin) get the most honor, because humanity's priority is 'now that we've figured out what path to take, let's do the hard legwork of actually traveling the path'.
Stage 4: Everything is awesome now, and humanity is no longer in emergency triage mode. So we can just set up status hierarchies in whatever way is most fun and directly conducive to human flourishing. Attempting the impossible task of predicting utopia, I might guess that ideal status-y dynamics would (1) be highly multidimensional, so we can be extraordinary on different axes; (2) exhibit lots of churn, so different people can be The Best at different times; and (3) not make it feel so crappy to be low-status.
On that breakdown, I think we're currently in Stage 2, and my own community role is mostly gryffindor-ish, with a dash of ravenclaw and hufflepuff. All the houses have virtues and accomplishments that are worth celebrating, and we'd probably benefit from having four separate holidays to honor each one, regardless of the exact ranking that makes sense in our current physical environment.
One piece of the puzzle here is that esteem has a smaller effect on people who are super used to it. So if we're trying to create a happy, motivated community of people with multiple different kinds of skill and focus, there is indeed extra value in celebrating and appreciating the less-visible virtues and achievements, since there's a larger motivational effect in taking notice of usually-neglected people and virtues.
An example of this that I've practiced in real life for several years, with my primary partner, is that we encourage each other to say 'polo' (as in the marco-polo game) as a response to 'I love you', rather than always reflexively answering with 'I love you too!' or similar. We use this pretty regularly, sometimes multiple times a week.
'Polo' is meant to be a warm 'I hear/acknowledge this' -- an easy way to engage with what was said, without feeling pressured to express love more than one wants to. The goal being to make our words more contentful and more in contact with reality, and to make it more obviously unforced when we do say 'I love you' back and forth. 🙂
Adding a bunch of little things like that to culture, IMO, would be very valuable, and is pretty necessary for actually doing the vulnerability/honesty thing. Sharing what's in your head shouldn't be forced.