As individuals, we have the ability to develop a unique set of views on the world. We can believe in X about topic A, Y about topic B, and Z when it comes to topic C.
However, the problem with being an individual is that, while it gives you the freedom of belief, it limits what you can do. Doing most things requires coordinating with other people. This is why we form groups.
However, a group’s effective functioning benefits from its members holding similar beliefs. It’s more difficult for groups where the members of the group hold different beliefs to get something done than for groups where the members hold similar beliefs. As a result, some individual beliefs are sacrificed for the belief of the group. This transforms the group into a tribe.
The advantage of tribes is that they make it easier to get things done. Their disadvantage is that they do this by trading away individually held beliefs. In other words, they produce power at the expense of dissent.
In a romantic view of the world, we can each thrive as an individual. However, that’s not a steady state outcome. Due to the benefit of tribe formation on getting things done, individuals have an incentive to defect from their individuality to form tribes. And these tribes are more likely to thrive than non-defecting individuals.
In other words, game theory shows that you can’t thrive without being part of a tribe. In today’s world, you can fortunately survive. If you had lived sufficiently in the past, you wouldn’t have been able to even do that.
If this trend continues, maybe there will come a day when you can thrive as an individual.
Until then, if you want to get something done and thrive, you have to form or join a tribe.
When you do, it’s important to recognize the tradeoffs that everyone in your tribe is making in their individually held beliefs. This will help you balance the need for the similar beliefs which ensure that your tribe thrives in the short run with the need for the voicing of the different beliefs which ensure that your tribe addresses the blind spots it needs to address to survive in the long run.
Also published on Medium.