It is generally agreed that diasporas are the most important drivers of migration. When you arrive in a foreign country or even just a new city it is the people like you that are already there who tend to give you advantages from information to material support. New Russian arrivals are better off in Brighton Beach than in Chinatown.
That said, sticking with your own kind creates a problem, though. Living inside the comfort zone or “bubble” of what’s known from back home will hinder your creativity. Errors, obstacles and friction (to shamelessly borrow a term from Anna Tsing) are essential for creating new ideas.
Tsing observes friction to have useful results, as in rubbing two sticks against each other to light a fire. “Friction is not just about slowing things down. Friction is required to keep global power in motion. It shows us where rubber meets the road,” she writes in Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection.
Seekers of new experiences should look beyond familiar sentiments, the comfort of narrow diasporas and instead choose the “people who are not like me” option. Just like young people moving out of their childhood home don’t necessarily seek a new place with more people resembling their moms & dads.
But what is the right amount of friction anyway? Surely there can be too much of it? Consider the simplest of models by Yuri Lotman:
A and B are participants in a conversation. Differences between them can not be absolute since in such a case nothing is understood. Yet, differences can not be zero, since in that case nothing useful is created.
To overcome the difficulty of comparing nuanced human characters in precise terms, I have created a small model for myself when planning my relocations. I just think of three dimensions:
- Age of people around me
- Nationality of people around me
- Interests of people around me
For truly creative interactions I try to go to places where preferably only one of these dimensions is common with people around me. Or, if to reduce friction a bit for a specific goal, such as making a decent living: you could do better with two out of three.
If you are a fifty-year-old Basque wrestler and want a creative environment, just go to a place where twenty-year-olds talk mostly about politics or poetry. Unfortunately the model also predicts that if you have absolutely nothing in common with new people around you, no-one gets much out of it either.
We are building Teleport to reduce barriers and reduce friction for people on the move. But we’ll promise to leave some creative friction in there still for your enjoyment.