The Potential of Online Communities
I have always been a technology-focused optimist. I loved sports cars and video games, and I loved to read about upcoming game consoles and cars and imagine how they could be much better. I never had a name for it. It was just a collection of views I had, which I didn’t exactly see in anyone around me. It was up to me to nurture my interest, to blaze my own trail. It was not that easy. And I was not a very purposeful, focused young man, so I spent years drifting in various directions without ever fully investing in my true calling.
There wasn’t a beacon for tech optimists. A community. An easy entry point. Now there is. One person like Balaji Srinivasan boldly, unabashedly shining the tech optimist beacon activates hundreds, thousands, millions of tech optimists. Gives them something to dig into and unite around. Gives them a program to follow and encouragement to branch off in their own directions.
Imagine living in 1821 and having somebody tell you that if you came up with an idea, you could instantaneously transmit it to every corner of the globe. How exciting would that be? And it would be /free/. And you could do it as many times as you wanted, and nobody could stop you*. So you could form a community with people anywhere, and find the 100 or 1,000 people in the world with the same vision as you and collaborate with them to make it real. You might have an idea already and go to work blasting it out and finding likeminded people. Or you might feel encouraged to look for a big, ambitious project that you collaborate with people on, knowing that you could pull together a group of people to work with you on it.
You would be surprised to learn that 200 years later, billions of people in the world had access to just such a magical ability, but used it mostly to find people who agreed with them and compulsively read opinions that either confirmed their existing beliefs or enraged them. You would be disappointed. It would seem sad. You might be surprised to learn that humans seem more prone to fighting than building.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It feels like creation in a variety of forms is getting more and more widely distributed, and the tools and techniques for forming purposeful, constructive online communities are gradually improving. Subreddits, Discords, Twitter communities, DAOs. Perhaps, as they say, web3 solves this. There’s a lot of positive energy and participating in this kind of community in the last decade has been very rewarding in many ways for many people, but…probably nothing.