Listen now (76 mins) | A few years ago, writer and cartoonist Tim Urban started becoming troubled by what he saw going on in the world around him. He noticed that while technology was progressing in unbelievable ways—people were going to space on private rocket ships and computers were the size of Starbucks coffee cups—it seemed like people were unhappier than ever before. We were petty. We were turning against each other. We were tribal. And he noticed that the very things that had allowed for unbelievable technological progress—things like democracy, liberalism, and humanism—were under siege.
My moment of clarity came when I was sitting with my parents in my college's executive suite and a set of administrators told us that there was no need for them to explain what events they were disciplining me for and that they could simply decline to answer any questions about the subject, and my mother told them that this would never stand up in a court of law.
And the administrator's response came: "We're not in a court of law".
My mother replied that we could get it there, and we did, and we won, but it just astonished me that for all the high pretenses of colleges in general and this one in particular, they weren't even interested in arguing that they were doing the right thing. Saying that they had some reason for their actions, even a flimsy reason, even a lie, would have cost them nothing. But they couldn't even be bothered. And I felt like in their eyes, it would have been demeaning to even admit that they were bound by any notions of due process or more broadly of telling the truth. They had the power, and that was all that mattered. Or so they thought.
So many things are like this now.
Speaking as a grateful fan of Bari and the Free Press, I don't have a lot of confidence in systems which purport to distinguish between two kinds of political speech: upper brain rational and low brain tribal.
I think it will end up like the "fact checks". We'll acknowledge there's a few low brains on our side of the rivalry (whichever side that is) but clearly there's many more low brains among our opponents.
Our constitution, wisely, doesn't expect us bring our best intentions to the table. It acknowledges what a bunch of self-righteous, self-deceiving bums we are.
I was born in 1960 in a college town. Everyone thought their political opinions were well informed and rational. They were just as biased and intolerant as anyone else.
Human beings engage in politics to be superior.
Instead of pretending to be rational and lying to ourselves about our true intentions, I suggest we take a look at the most obnoxious one of our rivals and say, "If I were as mean spirited as that person, I would still see myself as the good guy so I better express my opinions with humility."
intellectually insightful, funny, generous in spirit--great episode
I really like Tim Urban’s website and his simplification of complex ideas. This is a good, interesting topic and interview. FYI the podcast (Apple) has several problems with the conversation skipping around and repeating (see how many times Bari says ‘the marshmallow test’ around 24 mins left.) Keep up the interesting interviews - It would be great if they were transcribed also.
This has to be the best Honestly interview I’ve heard to date. It’s title does it a disservice. I listened out of weekly habit to listen to this podcast, but it’s not a catchy or meaningful title.
Someone recommended the Free Press to me as a place to find critical thinking, integrity, and open mindedness.
This interview revealed privilege, hubris and hypocrisy. I suggest you get out of your own privileged echo chamber and come down to the earth with the rest of us for a while. This is neo-neoliberalism at its worst.
Procrastination is a problem of privilege, not technology. So-called "neurodivergence" (which is not really a thing) is the unfortunate result of technology combined with privilege combined with unhealthy narcissism.
You are right to say that higher ed isn't teaching critical thinking skills, but it's not the fault of progressives or SJF, it's the fault of corruption at the highest levels. Veritas is a joke when it comes to scientific research, at least in the field of medicine (my field).
I suggest you do a deep dive into corruption in research before commenting on people not "trusting science". It's not the science we don't trust - it's those with power to mess with the science for their own again that we don't trust. Can you blame us? If you don't know the full story, don't judge.
As a mother I'd like to ask Tim a question about his sweet baby girl. Imagine her at 2 and then 12 and then 16 and then 22. How would you feel if she came to you and told you she'd been abused by a pastor, or a teacher, or a boss? What would your reaction be? Would you tell her she'd asked for it? Would you suggest she forgive and forget? Would you tell her not to talk to anybody about it? Would you explain to her that "boys will be boys"?
I hope not.
But that is what society has been doing to girls and women ever since the neoliberals let Bill Clinton off the hook for his bad behavior. By not holding the Abuser-In-Chief (Charming Bully, covert narcissist) accountable for his behavior, all Clinton's flying monkeys set this country on a horrible trajectory.
Tim - If you love your daughter, don't you dare talk about Monica's agency. Picture your daughter as Monica. Don't pretend that it could never happen to her. It can and it very well might - because YOU are not calling out the abusers for their behavior.
Women, people of color, the poor... anyone who is not at the top of your stupid ladder (which in reality is the ladder of privilege) continue to be oppressed and abused because it benefits YOU.
You don't really want free speech for everyone. You just want free speech for people who think like you do. You're just like the guys behind The Coddling of the American Mind. Same silly arguments that only take into consideration people of privilege.
I was excited to read your book, but now I won't bother.
If you're truly interested in other opinions, I have a lot more for you. I'd be happy to have a conversation.
Not Substack, but you can read me on Medium.
Great episode! I have downloaded Tim Urban's new book and look forward to reading it. I would like to add that stress and a dysregulated nervous system are what drive us to this lower form of thinking. To think liberally (in the enlightenment sense) and be open or tolerant to other ideas we need to use our prefrontal cortex. We become fight or flight when we are overloaded. Unfortunately, corporations, media, and politicians have figured out to hijack our primitive limbic system for power and $-they give you some dopamine hit-sugar, click bait, porn, political rage, video games, etc. You get a temporary hit but the strategy actually adds more stress to the system long term. Things like exercise, petting your dog, hugging your friend or laughing with someone are net positive hits that don't add extra stress to the system but no one can make money or gain power with those. I think we need to address this issue too if we are to maintain our liberal democracy.
Also wanted to add that my big a-ha moment came when I realized patriarchy probably came out of men's ability to be more productive in a pre-fossil fuel world where muscle strength was your engine and then realizing women's liberation was actually dependent on technology and dense energy. This is why I'm hoping you'll do a roundtable podcast on the energy transition, Bari. I don't want to end up back in the days when girls stayed home from school on Monday so we could wash the linen. Thanks!