Human Systems is a research network for innovation in human systems (organizational policies, political institutions, economic mechanisms, social technologies, group practices, etc). We look for new human systems which better support participants' agency and life meanings.

During COVID-19, we are mapping the social innovations now emerging. We are gathering new social formats which—even after the crisis—can be used to build a more sustainable and meaning-oriented society. As part of this work, we are finding the most innovative fb/telegram/slack groups sprouting up and running surveys in those communities. We will highlight innovations which drive meaning and agency, and spread them. We are mapping innovations in these areas: First: local volunteer & workforce coordination; Next: scientific collaboration, trustworthy media, online spirituality & play, and talent discovery; Finally: workplaces, social & entertainment venues, and housing communities.

Current Status

Human Systems uses Time Well Spent Metrics to evaluate new social systems. These metrics have been in use at Facebook, Apple, and other tech companies for a few years to measure success regarding user values and meaning. Time Well Spent metrics use user surveys to pull apart the users' motivations (see Four Social Worlds 🕵️‍♂️🌳💍📈) and help them analyze when they are able to live by their values and when not. We have been training people to use these metrics for two years.

Our school has trained 300+ well-positioned product people in our design methods and metrics. Our alumni have used what they've learned to redesign large-scale systems at Facebook, Github and Apple; to change direction at several startups, and also to redesign small scale systems like schools, co-living settlements, and families. Our pool of alumni puts us in a good starting position to build the research network.

<aside> 👉 For an hour long talk about our metrics, see Is Anything Worth Maximizing? or take our class HS202: Monitoring for Values and How They’re Working Out . This is just a quick summary.


After Covid-19: Research Network as a Service

We will start with ~500 researchers in the field of human systems (organizational policies, political institutions, economic mechanisms, social technologies, group practices, etc), focusing at first on innovations due to covid-19, and later expanding to a broader set of innovations. If we tap out that market, our next research fields will likely be AI research and then public policy.

We think this is a large market, and we can be a new kind of research network. Many orgs have unsolved research questions and people paid to work on them. This includes orgs that do knowledge work, product development, global strategy, or engineering[1]. Many orgs also own experimental platforms—social networks are platforms for sociology experiments and data mining; media channels are platforms to test different kinds of content; product and marketing companies run a/b tests, etc.

Open source brought software development outside of the walled gardens of individual corporations—we think we can do the same for research. While some orgs want to capture these research results as trade secrets, for others an extra-org pool of researchers, collaborating, would be attractive. Such a pool could use experimental platforms from several orgs to resolve research questions more quickly.

<aside> 👉 Read more at Research Network as a Service



Joe has been working on values-based metrics and design since 2007, when he was at CouchSurfing and set the company metrics there. Human Systems is the result of a 5+ year research project he began after cofounding TWS/HumaneTech with Tristan Harris.

Having struggled to hire key roles at previous startups, Joe delayed funding HS until he found and courted exactly the right team. These people are phenomenal, and could guide the org well without Joe.

One way to learn about Nathan, Caro, and Anne is via their turtle questions at theHS Web of Questions.