The Ideaspace

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

New self

13 posts

Follow your difference

In recent years a lot has been made of filter bubbles. The idea that because we consume different media we have different realities and we become different people. There's often this kind of longing that you hear to go back to the days when there was one truth. When it was all so simple. 

I get that desire. I understand it. I feel it too sometimes. But I also think it's unrealistic and it goes against the grain of who we actually are.

You could also say that these filter bubbles don't make us. We choose them. Because we're different people, we choose different media. 

I can remember all the way back to the world before COVID when my wife and I would go on double dates with other couples. Sometimes you go on a double date with people who don't watch the same TV shows as you. You think the pandemic is bad? Try to have a conversation with somebody who has different taste!

People are actually different. There are NPR people and there are Fox people and there are HBO people there are soap opera people. The marvel of the modern world is that cable providers created thousands of channels and the internet has taught us that there's actually enough relevant stories to fill every single one of them with many more left over.

That's the beauty of the world. We're all in it, we can all hear each other, and we all have something to say. That sounds scary, but there’s room for all of us. There's room for every one of us to speak our truths. But -- and this is a big but -- you have to respect other people’s truths as much as you respect your own. That's the secret. 

I lived in New York City for 20 years and left a few years ago. Living in New York teaches you what it means to respect someone else’s truth. New York has little physical space, you’re all packed in on each other. So when you go on the subway everyone has a right to their bubble. These bubbles are good things. Everybody gets one. They protect you. 

The attitude in New York is “hey buddy, you do you.” If you don’t bother anybody else, it’s fine. It doesn’t sound like it, but that’s enlightenment. That's what enlightenment looks like: “hey buddy, you do you.”

It’s great for you to be different. It’s great for me to be different. We can all be different and still find plenty of ways we’re the same. We all have individual desires and individual experiences. But we also have more in common in our individual experiences than we think. That’s what we learn in places like the Bento Society. That we’re different but also the same.

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Rethinking Self-Interest

In the late 1990s, people around the world began to live in a state of rising fear of two missing numbers.

The computer bug known as Y2K threatened to wreak havoc on the global infrastructure through the tiniest of details: computers being programmed to represent years in two digits (“99”) instead of four (“1999”). Headlines warned that systems would go haywire — crashing planes, freeing prisoners, and potentially leading to “The End of the World as We Know It?” as a 1999 Time Magazine cover posed.

We laugh at Y2K today like it was just another Skidz-like ‘90s fad, but that’s only because computer scientists successfully fixed the bug. (The immovable deadline helped: computer scientists had raised alarm over this exact issue since the 1950s but it took until basically the night before for anyone in charge to do something about it.)

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Don't be scared, you're not the only one

Sup y’all. It’s been a minute. How’s your apocalypse going? Yeah, mine too.

Sending love to everyone right now. The chaos is overwhelming. Even more disturbing, it’s already normal. I write this as my windows are blanketed in smoke from the West Coast fires.

We’re hoping that 2020 is a blip on the radar. But at the same time we’re saying things like “when things go back to normal…” less and less. There’s unmistakable evidence that we may have entered a period of significant decline for the well-being of life on Earth. Everything from our health and safety to our food to our freedom of movement to our social cohesiveness to the future prospects of democratic governance and the existence of all other species on this planet are threatened like never before.

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A Different Kind of Freedom

What does it mean to be Bentoist or, if you like, Bentoish?

It means prioritizing others’ needs along with your own.

It means making a conscious effort to consider now and the future.

It means pursuing outcomes that meet all dimensions of your self-interest.

In many ways these are basic things. Obvious things. That doesn’t make them easy things. More than once this week I failed to live up to them. But striving to seek coherence between ourselves and our worlds is at the heart of Bentoism.

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The Ownership Crisis

Hello from the Bento Society. I’m Yancey Strickler.

In a recent post we explored why “chill” may become a newly important value and how transparency, exercise, and mindfulness emerged after past crises. Today we’re going to talk about another value that’s about to undergo a significant change: the value of ownership.

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Theories of Time

I recently read a book I’d been curious about called The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book theorizes that history changes through generational shifts, and that these changes happen in predictable and repeatable patterns.

One of the big questions the book poses is the nature of time. The authors present three theories for how time functions:

  1. Time is cyclical (the four seasons; the cycle of birth, life, and death)

  2. Time is linear (things are getting progressively better)

  3. Time is chaos (there’s no order at all)

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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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Our New Normal

Gas is cheap but nobody’s filling up.

Houses are full but streets are empty.

Businesses are dying while others can hardly keep up.

We’ve gone from juggling millions of things to the experiential austerity of the 19th century only with wifi.

This is our new normal.

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In the Network We Trust: Coronavirus and the Potential of Networked Consciousness

When I was 10 years old growing up on a farm in rural Appalachia, I went for a walk with a group of friends.

As we walked up the overgrown driveway and by the crumbling barn behind my house, I heard a strange sound coming from the grass next to us.

I distinctly remember thinking two things at that moment: 1) that I’d never heard a sound like it before and 2) I still somehow knew it was a rattlesnake.

I turned towards the sound and saw a coiled-up rattlesnake hissing and shaking its tail just as I feared. We scampered away and called for our parents.

Hearing the sound then turning to see the rattlesnake is one of those childhood memories that’s stayed with me. I can easily replay it in my mind, and often do.

To this day I find myself wondering: how did I recognize that sound? What knowledge bank was I drawing from?

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The Art of Experiencing

“Arriving late at a performance, and seated in the center of the second row, I looked up and saw what I thought was an actor having a seizure onstage. Embarrassed for him, I lowered my eyes, and it wasn’t until the young man who’d brought me grabbed my arm and said, ‘Watch this guy!’ that I realized he was acting.”

— Pauline Kael on seeing Marlon Brando for the first time

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In Defense of Normal

We often underrate the value of normal.

We think normal means dull, average, or mediocre. Normal is unimaginative. Normal is being like everybody else.

Ads promise to save us from the tragedy of being normal. “Don’t be like them,” they say, “be like you.”

At school and in our careers we work hard to distinguish ourselves. We strive to be star performers, standouts,

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Beyond the Dark Forest Theory of the Internet

Two weeks ago I sent an email about the dark forest theory of the internet. I used the dark forest theory to explain why we’re afraid to be public online, and what we could be losing as a result.

I first connected the dark forest theory and the internet earlier this year when I had a strange realization: that I knew how to be myself in real life, but I didn’t know how to be myself on the internet.

In “real life” I’m a reasonably

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