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Social Technologies: Cultural Infrastructure for Cooperation and Meaning

February 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST

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What are social technologies?  How can they be used to address the challenges facing our world?  Join veteran hosts Linus Lu and Dave Crouch to discuss how we can build and adapt cultural constructs to encourage peace, cooperation, and tolerance in a constantly-changing world.

We mostly think of technology as devices, tools, and machines: physical objects that are made from components manipulated through our knowledge and ingenuity for our benefit. But what about social technologies, where instead of physical components, the components are shared human behaviors, expectations, and value systems? What systems could we build that would allow people to coordinate effectively, achieve shared goals, and hold societies together?

Social technologies (not to be confused with social media!) are working systems made up of beliefs, habits, responses, preferences, and other concepts shared within a population, such as religions, institutions, customs, and traditions. They can also include behavioral microclimates like “office culture”, rituals like small talk before meetings, or neighborhood events. Broadly defined, social technologies are any deliberate patterns of social behavior that create systematic efficiencies for a group’s goals.

This salon will first define and flesh out the concept of social technologies and uncover some expected and some unexpected examples we can find in the world. We’ll also look at lost social technologies of the past and possible ones in the future, discuss what we can learn from past failures, and brainstorm about what new social technologies we might produce moving forward to build opportunity, safety, and acceptance, as well as meaning and richness of life for our friends and communities.

Recommended reading:

An introduction to social technology by Samo Burja

Optional (but interesting) further reading/watching:

The Moon landings: How one small step inspired a generation

Aligned Organizations and Meaningful Communities

How Late Zhou China Reverse-Engineered a Civilization – Samo
Burja (preserving empires by reviving social technologies)

Game Theory 101 – Intro to the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” – Zach Smithwick (useful for thinking about coordination costs)

Thread – Tyler Alterman on kindergartens as a starting point for changing the world

And a few interesting Twitter follows, tangentially related:

Samo Burja
Eliezer Yudkowsky
Danielle Fong
Tyler Alterman




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February 1, 2022
5:00 pm - 8:00 pm EST
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