There wasn’t *pre*-planning but yeah, there was explicit (though emergent) coordination.
I had loved the idea of stopping right as the sun vanished, from a practice drum-circle that Brent led in the Berkeley hills earlier in June. I didn’t find any way to mention this prior to getting out to the clifftop, but then once we were there and there was kind of a small circle where most of the drummers were, I indicated to them to stop when the last bit of sun was gone.
Cody was nearby without a drum and overheard me saying this, and asked “should I pass that along to the other drummers?” (because not everybody was right next to me, although all of the biggest drums were) and I said “yes!” and she did!
And yeah, it was really magical, I think in part because we didn’t *quite* have common knowledge that we were going to stop then—even I didn’t know if everyone would get the message, or would follow it, etc.
It’s not a full-on “You Are Willing To Devote 100 Hours Of Your Life To Seeing If Self-Help Really Works, Here’s The Best Way For You To Do It”, but I did start working on a flowchart to respond to people who asked me for productivity advice. Many people wanted a list of top tips or something, but this is like giving a list of the top anti-depressants: nearly useless. You don’t need to read a list of 10 ideas, you need to do a list of 1 idea.
The basic structure of what I got asks “Have you tried the pomodoro technique?” and makes a recommendation for giving it a serious try if you haven’t gotten it to work yet. Then if the person has already had major success with the pomodoro technique, or if they’ve deemed that it won’t work for them, it has a few other next major questions. Very much a Version 0.2; I haven’t gotten around to expanding it but it feels like it would be worth doing.
Here’s an email newsletter that’s based on this flowchart (due to lack of limitations in interactivity in email, it doesn’t have the full detail of troubleshooting why the pomodoro technique might not work for someone the first time)
Epic. I remember talking to some people about this at EA Global last year, and I’m excited to see that you’ve continued working on it and are ready to double down.
I’ve donated & shared this article on FB!
I’m really excited about this post on a whole bunch of levels.
One post on my list of posts to write is called something like “Everything is Improv”, and I feel like you captured a decent fraction of what I want to say in that post, here! Plus a ton of additional pieces that I hadn’t yet notice or connected yet. These two sections in particular felt very important:
“Another challenge here is that the part of us that feels like it’s thinking and talking is (usually) analogous to a character in an improv scene. The players know they’re in a scene, but the characters they’re playing don’t.”
“But it’s hard to sort this out without just enacting our scripts. The version of you that would be thinking about it is your character, which (in this framework) can accurately understand its own role only if it has enough slack to become genre-savvy within the web; otherwise it just keeps playing out its role.”
This means that certain acts of meta-communication almost become kind of like breaking the fourth wall. I’ve pointed at this in Acts of Speech & States of Mind:
At Upstart, we’re never just having conversations. We’re also training ourselves to think differently. We’re a theatre troupe that isn’t just performing but also practising, which involves having the skill and mutual trust so that at any moment any of us can pull out the director’s chair and say “cut” and we go meta and start talking about the way in which we were just talking. This is a key part of being able to help each other level up in this way.
But, as Val points out, it’s really easy for this going-meta to just find its way back into the very dynamics that one is attempting to point at.
For example, have you ever tried pointing out that someone seems to be doing a social dominance move? In most contexts, that pointing-out action ends up itself being a social dominance move! Which isn’t a problem, per se, but definitely makes it hard to shift out of that particular dance and into something else.
For that to work, you need a bunch of additional shared framework/context/intent around what the “something else” is and why you’d want it, as well as proficiency in a core ~applied mindfulness skill to avoid the temptation to continue playing out the current roles. I think Looking is one way of pointing at this skill. So an act of meta-communication is often attempting to say “Look, and become the actor, not just the character!”
This breaks character, and the fourth wall, which is a really awkward thing to do if other people aren’t able to break out with you.
But with enough practice it’s doable, even to the point of being able to pretty consistently act consciously rather than just playing one’s character, and to do this with other people in a way that allows rewriting social scripts. Not easy, but learnable.
Since Val could edit his post, but not this comment, here’s me echoing his MD5 hash so that it is more verifiable in the future: 24e07349c9134ff91d77a6a38cf23183
I would add:
4) Success comes from collaborating with others
Trade is one way to have an economic interaction where value is created, because each of us might value something twice as much as the other, so when we trade, we get more value. But we can also create value where no value existed before. If you and I play a game together that we both enjoy, we’re not trading something: we’re creating new experiences that we value. If you and I start a company together, we might be selling our products on a market, but the value we’re creating by working together is probably something that neither of us had on our own, therefore not well-modelled as a “trade”.
Some might argue this is the same as 3, but it seems like an important distinction to me, and very relevant to improv, also.
Might I propose renaming the post The Social Improv Web? Like Raemon, I think that “Real World Omega”, while being an important component of what you’re saying here, is less likely to act as a sticky handle for this post.
Perhaps leave the old title in a parenthetical for continuity’s sake: The Social Improv Web (aka “Real World Omega”).
(I have written on naming concepts to reduce incidents of people thinking they understand terms they haven’t even heard before)
I did this 6 years ago, also for a non-religious “lent”. I was actually very strict about it:
nothing with “sugar” (or an artificial sweetener as an ingredient)
nothing that is more than 5% sugar by mass.
The latter one means that most fruit was out (except lemons, limes, and (surprisingly!) strawberries & raspberries).
Everyone had told me this would have an effect on my mood or something, or that I would notice things if/when I went back to eating sugar. It didn’t. I have since concluded my body is uncommonly resiliant to eating different things.
Oh, except that that all 3 times I have tried a low-carb diet (2× “slow carb”, 1× keto) I have gotten ill (usually ~flu) about a week in. Could be a coincidence but feels worth noting.
You get what you incentivize.
I absolutely get that incentives matter. I also think that responsibility and accountability are important, and my proposal of “hwa” is not intended to suggest otherwise.
I will point out, however, that guilt/shame/punishment etc have additional incentive costs that are often unrecognized: they incentivize people to deceive each other and themselves. If I am navigating by avoiding punishment or avoiding guilt (an internalized form of social punishment) then I’m incentivized to avoid taking responsibility so as to avoid that punishment: both recognizing what I’ve done socially, because if I did then others would punish me, and also recognizing what I’ve done internally, because if I did then I would feel bad.
As you say: you get what you incentivize. And I want to build my relationships and my sense of self in such ways that deception is not incentivized. Therefore, taking a post-blame approach to responsibility.
“Hwa” does not assume that people are saints. It does, however, assume that they care. This is a decent assumption for most relationships, and if it’s not true, I recommend getting out of that relationship, whether business, romantic, or otherwise.
(This comment thread isn’t a context where it’s making sense to me to attempt to bridge all of the inferential distance that we’re working with here, but this response was something I could manage. I am going to continue to write on this subject, and I value the articulations of the gaps between my explanations and what-I-am-trying-to-say, as provided by Said and others.)
I would use the term “anti-inductive” to point at the thing you’re using “adaptive” for. Relevant articles: Markets are Anti-Inductive (talks about economics) and The Phatic and the Anti-Inductive (talks about social stuff).
I also think that anyone who’s interested in thinking more about conflict, both as it shows up internally and as it shows up between people, would get a lot out of checking out Perceptual Control Theory.
I appreciate the point you’re making in your second paragraph. I think that the structures you’re pointing at are something that we’re on the same page about.
Most of my energies are focused on the creation and development of contexts where post-blame/post-fault (essentially what you called “the spirit of HWA”) is something that everyone is committed to, and I think that within such a context, “HWA” is actually helpful for consensus-building, as it gets the judgments out of the way so that the details can be explored together, and the parties can figure out what happened, why, and what to do next, and what collective story to tell about it—a story that doesn’t have to invoke the guilt vs innocence dichotomy at all!
But you’re making a great point about how HWA (like pretty much any tool) can also be used coercively, to shut down people whose perspectives need to be heard in order for the group to function effectively.
HWA may be good for friendships, but I’m not sure it’s good on larger scales of human interactions.
I think it’s harder for (eg) business relationships than friendships, but all the more important because of it. But yeah, in order for it to facilitate the sharing of stories, you need the post-blame mindset, not just one little verbal tool. And you need that to be built into the context, not just something that’s incidentally & inconsistently present.
This is similar in a lot of ways to how rationality is fundamentally a way of thinking not a collection of tools. If you aren’t truly truth-seeking, then you can use all of your rationality tools for rationalization. If you’re not seeking to get out of coercive dynamics, then you can use HWA for obfuscation.
(I want to note that a lot of the terms I’m using here (particularly “coercive”) are sort of jargon on some levels; they have quite specific meanings to me that may not be apparent. I shall write more posts to explain these; in the meantime I figured it would make sense to write some sort of response here.)
Thoroughly agreed that it’s worth doing and also really hard.
Based on several years of experience of trying (and succeeding, to a large extent) to live without blame, in a context where others are doing the same, my read is that blame isn’t a biological imperative. I would say something like… “meaning is a biological imperative (for humans)” and then “many of our main cultural meaning narratives are blame-based”. But post-blame meaning is way better. Whether “meaning” is the thing or not, I’m inclined to say that blame as such is just pica for whatever the underlying biological need is.
Hmm… I guess there’s a few dimensions to it. A necessary aspect of meaning is concepts like responsibility, accountability, etc. You can get rid of blame without getting rid of these (and since they’re necessary, you need to keep non-blamey versions in order to be able to let go of blame.)
I haven’t yet made a good write-up on exactly why one might want to let go of blame, but if you’re familiar with “Should” Considered Harmful, it’s basically the same line of reasoning.
Not officially at this stage; we’re in a process of overhauling a lot of things, including answers to questions like “who are we?” and “what are we calling ourselves?”
That said, this category of posts on my blog has a lot of content about our philosophy, models, culture, etc.
We don’t! Each of the individual members themselves aren’t necessarily Kegan-5, but the person spearheading the project (who is in her 70s) certainly is. And so, therefore, are our models, our equivalent to a “charter”, etc.
It’s also the case that the mode of interaction that we’re training here is fluid as opposed to systematic, which shows up in the ways that we make agreements, commitments, and the general way-we-do-things-here. I was very much operating in (and committed to!) systematic mode when I first joined several years ago, and I’m still getting comfortable with this. It’s challenging but worth it, and we’re working to build a bridge to meta-rationality to make that learning process easier.
I think that Duncan’s intended context will potentially be (a) an awesome place to go from Kegan-3 to Kegan-4, and (b) an awesome place to operate in an exceedingly high-functioning Kegan-4 way. It asks that of its members. I don’t expect it to create a demand for most Dragons to operate in a Kegan-5 way, which is the core different between it and the project I’m a part of.
I’m totally with you in wishing that Kegan levels weren’t getting socially entangled with claims to superiority!
...but that can’t be achieved in the way you describe: they would be a fundamentally different thing if they didn’t come in the order they do. It’s not a personality typing system, it’s a model of human development over time. Probably some people who are talking about them are self-aggrandizing; people are known to do that with just about everything they can get their hands on.
I suspect that your heuristics about not trusting people who brag about their Kegan levels are probably decently good heuristics, as it could be reasonably expected that that would be ineffective in just the way you’re describing here.
I first learned about the CDT model from a conversation I had with someone who used to work with Kegan, and who readily noted that he was not himself consistently operating out of stage 5. Robert Kegan has said that about himself too, which I found surprising and originally interpreted as being a failure mode in the opposite direction—false humility or something. But now it strikes me as not that unlikely. There’s a big difference between being able to recognize abstractly (or in others) what it means to be subject to one’s own interpretations & ideologies, and being able to actually not do it.
There’s an unfortunate phenomenon here, where the value of the concept gets diluted because the people who are finding the Kegan models helpful but aren’t claiming to be at higher Kegan levels than others… are harder to notice.
Anyway, I realize that I may sound like I’m making a superiority claim here myself. I will address that directly, kind of like Duncan is doing re: skulls above.
My understanding—based more on reading things like this than Kegan’s own work—is that the “fluid mode” (~=K-5) does have capabilities that the “systematic mode” (~=K-4) does not; much like multivariate calculus can be used to re-derive the equation for the volume of a sphere, but not the reverse. Is multivariate calculus superior to sphere equations? In functional senses yes, but not in a social status way. And also not in all domains! It’s certainly slower if you just need to calculate the volumes of a bunch of spheres.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past year working to develop the ability to operate in the fluid mode, and I think that that makes a lot of sense for me and many other people, but I don’t think that that’s highest priority for everyone right now. Hence my strong support for Dragon Army.
I want to publicly express my strong support for this experiment/meta-experiment.
I think that my support is particularly noteworthy as I’m presently a core member of a different taking-each-other-seriously co-living experiment that is profoundly different in its philosophy. (Mine is not in Berkeley, nor rationalist.) Therefore some people might assume that I would be opposed to Dragon Army Barracks.
Things in common between the experiment I’m part of and Dragon Army Barracks:
is “high-commitment, high-standards, high-investment”
is trying to actually make & achieve something together
is addressing unanchored abandoned loneliness thing
has consciously explicated commitments and assumptions
is intended to produce a high-level of consistent excellence and ability to effectively collaborate
Things that are different:
We’re very far from authoritarian or hierarchical. Although we’re also not egalitarian, consensus-based, or even democratic per se… but we have essentially zero of telling-other-people-what-to-do
Our basic collective navigating framework is [Kegan-5 / fluid mode / post-rational], rather than [Kegan-4 / systematic mode / rational] (good summary of this distinction)
Our focus is almost entirely on the meta-level of building the new cultural platform we’re building. We don’t have any expectations of each other on the levels of specific object-level projects or explicit behavioral norms (aside from ones necessary for the house’s function)
I think that these differences are core to why I am part of this project that I’m part of, and why I consider it to be the most valuable investment I could be making with my time and energy. I am, therefore, non-Berkeley-residence aside, not going to be applying to DA. As I said above though, I strongly support Dragon Army Barracks as an experiment and potentially as an ongoing resource to individual and collective growth.
Reasons why I think that DA is a good idea:
Expected value of high amounts of worthwhile object-level output. As Sebastian Marshall says, “the gains made from living more purposefully are forever—the time you’ve spent well will remains well-spent even if you fall off for a while sometimes. Most people don’t even try, which is why most people don’t succeed.”
I expect it will also produce a lot of developmental progress for people involved; that if you were to be able to sort rationalists by amount of growth in a year, the Dragons would all be in the top quartile, and would occupy many of the top 10 slots. This, even if the experiment were to end after 6 months.
The DA Barracks is an intervention that is attempting to produce change on a very fundamental level of the system that is a group house. This is a powerful leverage point (see Donella Meadow’s article… I would say this is around a 2 or 3, and most group houses have only done mild experiments at the 4-6 level.)
I agree with and/or resonate with the six points that Duncan makes in Section 2 of this document.
The project-level value of learning here is also very high: this will greatly inform future experiments, whatever their leadership basis.
If I had kids, I would absolutely sign them up for any summer camps or classes Duncan was running. I think the amount of power he would have in relation to them would be similar to the amount of power he’ll have in this situation.
A final reason is this: I think that we as humanity need to rapidly make progress on being able to effectively coordinate in non-hierarchical ways, which is what the project I’m part of is about. Corollarily, humanity is kind of mediocre at doing this in many contexts. Therefore if non-hierarchical projects aren’t emphatically directed towards solving that challenge itself, I expect them to be outperformed by projects that are leveraging existing understanding about how to coordinate effectively in hierarchical ways. i.e. in this case, Dragon Army Barracks.
I am open to being an outside advisor / buddy / contact etc to individuals within this and/or with the project as a whole.