Incentivizing Understanding

This is how my sons ride to school.

Usually they have a grand time, talking shop about school work, school friends, and what is likely to be for lunch.

And occasionally, as brothers do, they disagree with each other.  

The more trips they take in the bike, though, the less these misunderstandings turn into actual fighting.  The space incentivizes gentleness and understanding since, if they start a fight, they have to live with an angry brother for the remainder of the ride.  This vulnerability incentivizes the peaceful resolution of tension.

In public and private life, we, like these two brothers, will disagree with each other.  The modern world (fueled by the interwebs) gives us plenty of places to deal with this disagreement unproductively, to stoke our self-righteousness and circle the wagons on the moral high ground.

But what if, instead, we were to act like we were strapped into a modestly-sized cargo bike with our adversary?  What if we acted like our collective well-being depended on our ability to create structures that incentivize gentleness and understanding?  

My hunch is that is very well may.

PS – For more on this, check out Boston College’s free MOOC on the Synod on Synodality and Jon Haidt’s timely new Substack.