Big love is a renewable building material, says Clay Shirky. Like the Ise Shrine in Japan which is rebuilt — out of love — every 20 years. Turns out the longest lasting things don’t have an enduring edifice, but an enduring process.
Clay says the best predictor of longevity for a system is not to inspect the business model but to answer this question: Do the people who like the place/building/system/product take care of each other? Not just take care of the object of veneration but take mutual care of the fans?
In other words, do they run on love?
About five years ago I wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal declaring that the “internet runs on love, not greed.” You can read it here. Clay has expanded, deepened, and brilliantly enhanced the argument. He ends a recent talk with these memorable lines.
We have always loved one another. We’re human, its something we’re good at. But up until recently, the radius and half-life of that affection has always been quite limited. With love alone, you can get together a birthday party. Add coordinating tools, and you can write an operating system. In the past, we would do little things for love, but big things, big things required money. Now we can do big things for love.
Here’s the video of his talk: