The Ideaspace

Interviews, essays, and research exploring the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest


10 posts

The Bento in 2020

This past week I’ve kept thinking back to a slide I made for a talk back in 2017 to illustrate the shift from “old growth” to “new growth” that our growing challenges were calling for.

As we exit 2020, it strikes me that this has actually started to become true. The column on the left represents where we were entering 2020. The column on the right represents where we’re moving as we leave it. 

To be clear, in no way does this mean hard times are behind us or our challenges are on the verge of being solved. We can all look around and see this is not a thing to be celebrated and that there are almost certainly harder times ahead. But this year we could feel a shift. The winds changed.

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Haa Shagoon with Morgan X’agatkeen Howard

Earlier this year during a Weekly Bento discussion on long-term thinking, a member of the audience raised their hand. Morgan X’agatkeen Howard introduced himself as a member of the Tlinget tribe, and he shared their tradition of intergenerational thinking called Haa Shagoon. This practice, he explained, weighs the considerations of past, present, and future generations equally. Morgan’s perspective had the room in rapt attention.

A few weeks later Morgan and I connected directly to talk more about his life, the practice of Haa Shagoon, and how it helps guide the Tlinget for-profit Sealaska where he is a Board member. This conversation is the first in a series of interviews with members of the Bento Society about who they are and what they do.

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In Praise of Standardization

From BusinessWeek on how Asian companies are becoming leaders in addressing climate change:

After years of pressure from mostly European investors, Asian companies are pulling ahead of their North American counterparts when it comes to climate risk reporting.

In Asia, a key turning point was 2017, when the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures finalized its recommendations for reporting climate risk. The proposal offered companies a standardized framework that helped boost disclosures…

“Climate change went from a topic that might have been one item on an agenda somewhere in a meeting,” Simmonds said. Now, it’s “probably the first question asked by investors on every presentation.”

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Community building with Tina Roth Eisenberg

More of my energy has gone into community building this year than any other time in my life. Being locked in dramatically increased my desire to reach out.

For me, this happened through the Bento Society — a global community that gathers virtually every week to connect and explore ideas. A number of communities like the Bento Society gained steam this year: Exponential View, Ness Labs, The Third, and countless Discords, Slack groups, and other dark forests of the internet that arose to offer collective enlightenment.

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Data is Fire 🔥🔥🔥

If you’ve ever slept outdoors or even just watched a survival reality show, you know the importance of fire. Fire is warmth, energy, safety. Fire bridges the line between comfort and discomfort. Even life and death.

Early humans’ ability to tame fire — which took hundreds of thousands of years to develop — changed the course of history. Human biology too. Taming fire led to cooked food which increased the calories in human diets, growing the size of our brains.

Fire was and is pivotal. But fire is also dangerous. It kills people. It’s difficult to tame. It’s not easy to get.

We see ourselves as far more advanced than our ancestors, but we face a strikingly similar situation today with a force just as powerful and mysterious. Our fire is called data.

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The Values Stack IRL

Sup y’all and welcome to the Ideaspace. I’m Yancey Strickler.

Return of the Values Stack

Two weeks ago I shared the Values Stack as an illustration of how values operate.

Values are expressed through three layers. At the deepest layer are a culture’s Morals. Those Morals are expressed as Rules. Those Morals are also positively expressed as Incentives.

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Social Exchanges

Last week a group of academics in the Netherlands announced plans for a radical but pragmatic shift in the country’s priorities. Among their proposals:

  • Provide every citizen economic security while reducing each person’s working week so that jobs and meaning can be plentiful

  • Move the nation’s framework for success away from GDP growth and towards the growth of specific values (clean energy, health, education) and the degrowth of others (fossil fuels, advertising).

It’s basically our STIFF vs BENTO chart from last week in public policy form.

The crisis is opening many people up to new ideas like these.


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Post-Capitalism for Realists

The other night I was invited to dinner with several wealthy and powerful people. This is not a normal thing for me. During appetizers and drinks I was a wallflower, but opened up over the first course when my dinner companions asked what I did.

“I just wrote a book,” I responded.

“Interesting! What about?” they asked.

“How the world was overtaken by the belief that the right choice in any decision is whichever option makes the most money,” I replied. “My book tells the history of that idea and what we should do instead.”

A mix of expressions gree

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Resist and Thrive

This is a talk about what happens when a culture is driven by the need for money to make more money.

A simple way to think about this is through real estate. Throughout history it has been advantageous to be a land owner, and today is no different. People make a lot of money buying, developing, and selling land. Even after the crash of 2008, commercial real estate has climbed again.

As investors and developers churn through properties, there’s a significant impact on the communities that actually live and work there. For families and neighborhood businesses, they must significantly increase how much money they make or they have to leave. No matter their importance to their community, they can’t stay if they can’t pay. And few can.

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