I’m excited to share this conversation with Tim Urban. Tim is, in my opinion, one of the best and most engaging writers of our era. He’s tackled many of the most interesting topics in the world from AI to procrastination. I interviewed him in 2017 in an episode we called “Grand Theft Life”, and it remains one of my favorite episodes ever.
In the 6 years since that episode, he hasn’t published almost anything. That’s because he’s been writing the book we discuss in this episode. The book is called “What’s Our Problem”, in which Tim investigates the big issues facing society.
The reason I love Tim’s writing so much is its density of ideas and ridiculously clear explanations: a rare combo that makes reading a joy. I hope you enjoy this great round two with Tim Urban, and go buy and enjoy his great new book.
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
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[00:02:50] - [First question] - What it’s been like spending seven years thinking about a single topic: Tim's book, What’s Our Problem?
[00:05:05] - How he’s come to articulate the big question he’s trying to answer in his book
[00:07:58] - A dinner experience where a single question showed just how much of a problem there was to solve
[00:09:47] - Group ideology and the different ladder rungs of human thinking
[00:17:28] - The concept of a social golems and genies and their implications for society
[00:23:02] - His favorite genies and golems throughout history and their impact
[00:29:07] - Examples of canonical high functioning genies across history
[00:34:20] - The key ingredients within liberal democracies that allow for and correct golems
[00:40:44] - Media’s role in shaping ideas and society and what’s changed about it in today’s media landscape
[00:46:46] - What else is going on that has him worried about modern institutions that are failing as social immune systems
[01:01:15] - The gap between what we say publicly versus what we feel privately and the growing pile of unsaid things
[01:07:18] - What’s to be done in order to help society repair itself
[01:14:09] - Whether or not the direction we’re most afraid to run is where we should
[01:17:37] - Thoughts on AI having written extensively on it and the new wave of emerging tools
[01:22:13] - The role and impact of leadership in regards to golems and genies