Exploring Ourselves | Tim Urban on Infinite Loops

Check out the Infinite Loops Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • As a creator, you must have the internal belief that you can create great things even though you don’t yet have support from other people
    • Delusional optimism is helpful for both creators and entrepreneurs
  • Tim believes every person has 2 minds: a higher mind and a primitive mind
    • The higher mind can see the world in real-time, understands what culture and society are, and understands all of the lessons we’ve learned during our lifetime. It follows a more long-term thinking process.
    • The primitive mind is the ancient software that is a survival program from 50,000 BC. Its purpose is to remind you to eat, reproduce, and be socially accepted. It follows a more short-term thinking process.
  • “If you are determined to believe something, there is absolutely no one who is going to stop you from believing it” – Tim Urban
    • For instance, there’s a growing group of 10,000+ people who believe the Earth is flat and won’t change their minds no matter what evidence you show them
  • Most of your beliefs are probably wrong, be open to changing them. Seek the truth instead of seeking to be right all the time.
    • Think of your ideas as models and be open to changing models when presented with new evidence
  • “The best way to change behavior that is happening naturally is to publicly shame it and to make it uncool.” Tim Urban

Intro

  • Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers. With wry stick-figure illustrations and occasionally epic prose on everything from procrastination to artificial intelligence, Urban’s blog, Wait But Why, has garnered millions of unique page views, thousands of patrons and famous fans like Elon Musk. 
  • Co-host: Jim O’Shaughnessy (@jposhaughnessy)
  • Co-host: Jamie Catherwood (@InvestorAmnesia)

Books Mentioned

Be A Delusional Optimist

  • A lot of creators fail or quit because they don’t believe in themselves
    • As a creator, you must have the internal belief that you can create great things even though you don’t yet have support from other people
      • Delusional optimism is helpful for both creators and entrepreneurs
        • Over time, you’ll start to get external validation from people for the work you’ve created and your internal belief in yourself will rise even higher

Your Two Minds: Higher & Primitive

  • Tim believes every person has 2 minds: a higher mind and a primitive mind
    • The higher mind can see the world in real-time, understands what culture and society are, and understands all of the lessons we’ve learned during our lifetime. It follows a more long-term thinking process.
    • The primitive mind is the ancient software that is a survival program from 50,000 BC. Its purpose is to remind you to eat, reproduce, and be socially accepted. It follows a more short-term thinking process.
      • Oftentimes, your higher mind and primitive mind come in conflict with what to do. If you can get in the habit of following your higher mind, that’s a superpower.
  • Our primitive mind and genes are wired to go with the group because historically, that gave you the best chance of survival
    • However, in today’s world, people that go against the consensus (entrepreneurs, creatives, etc.), have a better chance of success and living a good life

Difficulties of Changing Your Mind

  • It can be difficult to go against the masses because your primitive mind is uncomfortable with uncertainty 
    • That’s one of the reasons why it’s so hard for most people to change their opinions or beliefs because they’re going against what their group or tribe believes in
      • “If you are determined to believe something, there is absolutely no one who is going to stop you from believing it” – Tim Urban
        • For instance, there’s a growing group of 10,000+ people who believe the Earth is flat and won’t change their minds no matter what evidence you show them
  • Trying to convince someone they’re wrong about someone can actually make them feel even more sure of themselves, it’s called the backfire effect
  • The key to changing your mind is having the humility to accept you can be wrong about something
    • “It’s a liberating superpower. It’s taking off the ball and chain. You’re not putting yourself down. You’re freeing yourself to be nimble.” – Tim Urban

Thinking As A Spectrum

  • Tim’s thinking spectrum:
    • On the top of the vertical axis is the scientist who is open to changing their mind when presented with new evidence
    • On the bottom of the vertical axis is the zealot who is determined to not change their mind
    • On the horizontal axis, you have the individual on one side and a group on the other
      • When you have a group that thinks like scientists, that’s an idea lab. It’s a place where people find it fun to think and break ideas.
      • When you have a group that thinks like zealots, that’s an echo chamber. It’s a place where it’s not cool to disagree on an idea.
  • Common echo chambers in today’s world: political TV stations, newspapers, radio channels, etc.
    • Extreme echo chambers can lead to hate groups, violence, and even genocide
  • Social media can be an idea lab, but it can also become an echo chamber
  • Most of your beliefs are probably wrong, be open to changing them. Seek the truth instead of seeking to be right all the time.
    • Think of your ideas as models and be open to changing models when presented with new evidence
  • It’s okay to say “I don’t know” when you aren’t sure about something
    • Avoid people who are 100% certain about all of their beliefs

Changing Behavior Through Shaming

  • “The best way to change behavior that is happening naturally is to publicly shame it and to make it uncool.” Tim Urban
    • In the past, if you littered on a camping trail no one said anything. Today, you’d get shamed by others for littering.
  • Being publicly shamed feels awful because it’s a similar feeling to being kicked out of our tribe thousands of years ago
  • Right now culture is not penalizing awful, mean, bullying behavior on social media
    • In fact, it sometimes rewards it (like cancel culture)

Additional Notes

  • Tim views curtailing free speech, whether it’s through cultural pressure, through tech company policies, or through government, as a violation of the first amendment 
  • The first step to changing your behavior is self-awareness
    • Ask yourself, how am I being a zealot? Where am I in an echo chamber? 
Infinite Loops : , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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