The Jonathan Haidt Interview

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The Jonathan Haidt Interview

New format: The All-In Interview! (00:00:00)

  • Trying something new with the podcast.
  • The audience loves interviews and the content from the All-In Summit.
  • They don't want to miss out on the weekly news discussions.
  • Introducing the "All-In Interview" format.
  • Two hosts will interview one guest instead of the usual four hosts interviewing one guest.
  • This format will be an experiment, with plans to do it about 10 times a year.
  • Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.
  • He is known for his research on moral psychology and political polarization.
  • His book "The Righteous Mind" explores the psychological foundations of morality and how it shapes our political views.
  • Haidt argues that humans have evolved to be moral creatures, and that our moral intuitions are shaped by our evolutionary history and our social environment.
  • He also discusses the concept of "moral foundations theory," which suggests that there are five universal moral foundations: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.
  • Haidt believes that these moral foundations are the building blocks of our moral reasoning, and that they can be used to understand political differences and conflicts.
  • Haidt discusses the increasing political polarization in the United States and other countries.
  • He argues that this polarization is due in part to the fact that people are increasingly sorting themselves into like-minded communities, both online and offline.
  • This can lead to a lack of exposure to different viewpoints and a greater tendency to view those with different political views as enemies.
  • Haidt also discusses the role of social media in political polarization, and how it can amplify extreme voices and make it more difficult to have civil conversations about politics.
  • He suggests that we need to find ways to bridge the divide and encourage more respectful and productive conversations across political lines.

Jonathan Haidt joins Jason and Friedberg: broader themes of his work, gamification and supercharged social media (00:00:59)

  • Jonathan Haidt's research combines evolutionary biology, psychology, anthropology, and cultural psychology to examine the impact of rapid societal changes on human behavior.
  • Haidt emphasizes the need to understand the profound effects of technology, particularly social media, on our psychology and social behavior, while acknowledging its benefits.
  • Social media platforms use addictive features, such as gamification and machine learning algorithms, to exploit human psychology for engagement.
  • The shift from television to algorithm-driven social media has increased the attractiveness and addictiveness of media consumption, potentially leading to broad societal implications.
  • TikTok and similar short-form video platforms stand out as uniquely harmful due to their short-form, dopamine-driven content, which can have significant negative effects on users, especially children.
  • Unlike television, TikTok uses a behavior response loop to reward users for certain actions, making it highly addictive.
  • TikTok's algorithm prioritizes content that makes users pause, click, and react, rather than content from people they know.

Understanding how humans are wired from an evolutionary biology perspective (00:12:39)

  • Humans have a reinforcement system that rewards certain behaviors, such as finding a mate or achieving status, which has been beneficial for survival and reproduction.
  • Evolutionary psychology can help us understand human behavior and how certain aspects of technology, such as social media, can exploit our psychological vulnerabilities.
  • The constant dopamine release caused by social media, particularly platforms like TikTok, can be addictive and have negative consequences for individuals, including mental health issues.
  • Puberty is a key factor in the mental health crisis among Generation Z, as the rewiring of the brain during this time makes adolescents more vulnerable to mental health issues.
  • The introduction of smartphones and social media during the crucial years of puberty for Generation Z has significantly impacted their development, leading to increased anxiety and depression.
  • Desire and dualistic thinking are seen as the root causes of many of the world's problems, with dopamine playing a role in desire creation, particularly through anticipatory desire rather than satisfaction.
  • Status and desire are closely linked, with individuals often desiring things they see others possessing, leading to a constant pursuit of what others want.
  • Influencer culture represents an extreme example of this phenomenon, with individuals focused on gaining likes and followers rather than developing valuable skills.
  • The rise of influencer culture has made celebrity status more accessible, creating a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction among individuals who feel they should be famous.
  • The constant exposure to curated and idealized lives on social media platforms like TikTok further exacerbates this sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction, as individuals compare their own lives to the seemingly perfect lives of influencers.

Haidt's proposals to help younger generations (00:27:22)

  • Jonathan Haidt proposes four norms to mitigate the negative impact of smartphones and social media on children and teenagers: no smartphones before high school, no social media until age 16, phone-free schools, and increased independence, free play, and responsibility in the real world.
  • Haidt argues that these norms are essential to break out of collective action problems and restore childhood.
  • The reaction to these proposals has been positive, particularly among those who haven't personally experienced the adverse effects of smartphone and social media use in children.
  • Gen Z students generally believe that social media has negatively affected their generation, with the majority wishing it had never been invented.
  • Gen Z is actively engaged in discussing and addressing the issues caused by social media.

Linking themes and trends in Haidt's books with recent college protests (00:33:12)

  • Jonathan Haidt's book, "The Coddling of the American Mind," explores the increasing fragility and demand for protection from speech among college students, leading to the decline of higher education's reputation.
  • University leaders' failure to punish disruptive behavior, such as shouting down speakers and intimidation, has contributed to this decline.
  • The recent protests and encampments aimed at pressuring universities to take a pro-Palestine stance are seen as a continuation of this trend.
  • Intersectionality has become a dominant ideology on campuses, in journalism, and in museums, leading to the firing of white guides and other controversial actions.
  • Businesses have begun to move away from intersectionality as it has not improved the lives of minorities and has instead created division.
  • Cancel culture has recently declined after both the left and the right took it too far.
  • In institutions dominated by the left, such as journalism, the arts, media, universities, and most of the scientific establishment (excluding hard sciences), the left has gone too far by making everything about anti-racism and race.
  • There is a move towards common sense and away from extreme ideologies, but there is still a subtly racist element that needs to be addressed.

Explaining traditional liberalism and conservatism (00:48:17)

  • Political orientation has a genetic component, with openness to experience and conscientiousness playing a role.
  • Liberals tend to push for change and progress, while conservatives emphasize caution and preserving institutions.
  • A healthy democracy requires a balance between progressive and conservative forces to avoid unchecked change or excessive repression.
  • Social media has empowered the far-left and far-right while silencing the center, leading to increased polarization and division in society.
  • Modern liberalism focuses more on individual rights and social justice, while conservatism emphasizes traditional values and limited government intervention.
  • The progressive activists on the far left are not liberal but illiberal, focused on pulling down the top rather than bringing up the bottom.
  • The Republican party has gotten rid of nearly all its moderates and is now the party of Donald Trump, doing things that are hurting the country.

Lightning Round: Parenting tips, Gen Z employees (00:56:55)

  • To address children feeling excluded due to a lack of smartphones and social media, parents should collectively agree to delay providing smartphones until high school and restrict social media access until age 16.
  • Instead of focusing solely on restrictions, parents should offer a positive vision of childhood by providing exciting and fun activities that encourage outdoor exploration, self-governance, and creative projects to earn screen time, fostering creativity and reducing device addiction.
  • Excessive screen time, particularly video games, can lead to problematic usage in boys, affecting social and dating skills, while girls exhibit different behavioral patterns regarding screen time usage.
  • Gen Z employees are often perceived to have a poor work ethic, communication skills, and resilience compared to previous generations, with immigrants from non-English speaking countries demonstrating a stronger work ethic.
  • Gen Z employees struggle with anxiety and have difficulty handling criticism or feedback. The concept of "antifragility" can help them grow and develop, and they are willing to improve if given the opportunity.
  • Hiring people on a project basis can assess their work ethic and ability to handle intensity.
  • Free-range parenting and childhood experiences shape resilience and success in the corporate world.
  • The current college admissions and hiring processes should focus on signs of independence and adversity handling rather than solely on high GPAs and extracurricular activities.
  • Companies should have a clear mission and purpose and discourage employees from engaging in side hustles or activism during work hours.
  • Resources such as the books "Coddling of the American Mind" and "Anxious Generation," the website anxiousgeneration.com, the substack afterbabble.com, and the organization letgrow.org provide further insights into these issues.
  • Jonathan Haidt's organization, Let Grow, advocates for less restrictive parenting and more freedom for kids to explore and learn, and it seeks philanthropic support to expand its operations.

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