Review: What’s Our Problem?

Review: What’s Our Problem?

The world we are living in is getting complicated and more sides on every issues are popping up. People love to take side: being a leftist vs rightist, religious vs secular, and any other differences in perspective. Meanwhile, some others enjoy their view by standing right at the center and watching how people pick up some arguments on why they are having the absolute correct opinion. I think we can all agree that as the world goes crazy, the question “what makes he/she think so?” comes more frequent in our head.

A popular blogger, Tim Urban, observed what happens to society and spelled out his point of view on and why we believe the things we believe. Urban uses The Higher Mind, The Primitive Mind, and the spectrum in between as his basic outline to cover various issues in societies and politics. Despite the heavy and complicated subjects, this book has well-written explanations supported with Urban’s catchy illustrations.

Warning: be ready to prepare a group of discussions because some of you might pick human biases (or even your own biases) on several arguments in this book. There are a lot of issues or even self-reflections that can be raised to challenge our awareness on society.


The Higher Mind

  • truth seeker
  • more experience → wiser
  • love to think and act well along with advanced civilization
  • the rational one
  • does not mind to change their opinion as they are exposed to the novel reality and discovery

The Primitive Mind

  • love to confirm of their own existing beliefs
  • just want to survive and reproduce and help its offspring
  • when our Primitive Mind taking control, we lose our sense and don’t even realize something is happening.

The Ladder

  • the spectrum between The Higher Mind and The Primitive Mind.
  • As long as our Higher Mind is holding the control, our Primitive Mind still gets its bliss so we could act like an adult and making sure everything is done for the right cause.
  • Rungs between The Higher Mind and The Primitive Mind:
    • Rung 1: thinking like a scientist
      • has processes of thinking in a consecutive way from “I don’t know” → collecting information → assessing information → putting together a hypothesis.
      • know when to skeptical or when to trust to certain information.
    • Rung 2: thinking like a sports fan
      • already have a pre-existing beliefs and tend to cherry-pick the gathered information just to confirm beliefs and refuse to mind changing.
      • The Higher Mind is still available so when the strong evidence comes out, the Sports Fan will unwillingly rethinking their mind.
    • Rung 3: thinking like an attorney
      • not only cherry-picking evidence, but also building their own argument to match what they believe.
      • being confidence about some things that are not actually true.
    • Rung 4: thinking like a zealot
      • seeing the world as black and white.
      • their mind cannot be convinced in any way, no matter what.
    • Thinking like a scientist and sports fan → high-rung thinkers
    • Thinking like an attorney and a zealot → low-rung thinkers

Idea Labs

  • an environment fo collaboratie high-rung thinking
  • people see one another as experimenters and their ideas as experiments
  • value independent thinking and viewpoint diversity
  • Ideas are treated like hypotheses, which means people are always looking for opportunities to test what they’ve been thinking about
  • a support network for flawed thinkers to help each their stay up on the high rungs
  • can simultaneously respect a person and disrespect the person’s ideas.

Echo Chambers

  • when a group’s intellectual culture slips down to the low rungs: collaborative low-rung thinking
  • cultures of groupthink and conformity
  • While Idea Labs are devoted to kind of thinking, Echo Chambers are devoted to a set of beliefs the culture deems to be sacred
  • disagreeing seen not as intellectual exploration but as rudeness making an argument about ideas indistinguishable from a fight

Why diversity bias is crucial?

  • Diversity bias → decrease blind spot in the communal brain
  • When changing mind is supported → easy to spread new discovery across system → outcome: multi-mind thinking system so every individual able to learn, detect, and distinct truth from fiction.

Why individual bias is dangerous?

  • Individual biases → all driving to the direction of confirmation to their existing beliefs → not learning new things and stuck with their own way of thinking

Author: Tim Urban

Publication date: 21 February 2023

Number of pages: 746 pages


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