Lex Fridman Podcast #360 – Tim Urban: Tribalism, Marxism, Liberalism, Social Justice, and Politics
Tim Urban is the author of the blog Wait But Why and a new book, What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies.
The problem of Tribalism
Humans are naturally tribal creatures who tend to form groups based on shared identities and beliefs, and then demonize and dehumanize those who belong to different groups.
Tribal instinct is often exploited by politicians, the media, and social media platforms to create polarization, division, and conflict in society. We need to overcome our tribal biases and try to understand and empathize with people who have different perspectives and values than us.
The problem of Marxism
Marxism is a political and economic theory that advocates for a classless society where workers own the means of production and distribution of wealth. Marxism has some valid criticisms of capitalism, such as its tendency to create inequality, exploitation, and alienation.
Marxism has many flaws and dangers, such as its disregard for human nature, individual rights, and incentives; its reliance on violence and coercion; and its failure to account for the complexity and diversity of human societies. Marxism is not a viable or desirable solution for the problems of capitalism.
The problem of Liberalism
- Liberalism is a political philosophy that values individual freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
- Liberalism has many benefits and achievements, such as promoting tolerance, diversity, innovation, and progress.
- Liberalism has some challenges and limitations, such as its difficulty in dealing with collective action problems, externalities, and moral dilemmas; its vulnerability to corruption, manipulation, and extremism; and its tendency to create a culture of relativism, narcissism, and consumerism.
- Liberalism needs to be balanced with other values and principles, such as responsibility, community, and morality.
The problem of social justice
Social justice is defined as a movement that seeks to address the injustices and inequalities that exist in society based on factors such as race, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, etc.
Social justice has some noble goals and motivations, such as fighting discrimination, oppression, and violence; empowering marginalized groups; and creating a more fair and inclusive society.
Social justice can have some negative consequences and risks, such as creating resentment, guilt, and victimhood; imposing ideological conformity and censorship; and undermining meritocracy and rationality. Social justice needs to be pursued with nuance, humility, and evidence.
The problem of politics
Politics has become increasingly polarized, dysfunctional, and corrupt.
There are several factors, such as the influence of money, media, and special interests; the lack of accountability, transparency, and representation; the rise of populism, nationalism, and extremism; and the decline of civility, trust, and compromise.
Some possible solutions for improving politics include reforming the electoral system, the campaign finance system, and the media system; increasing civic education, engagement, and participation; and fostering a culture of dialogue, respect, and cooperation.
The Problem of ourselves:
Individual psychology and behavior play a key part in creating and solving the problems of society.
We often have cognitive biases, emotional reactions, and moral intuitions that interfere with our ability to think critically, rationally, and objectively about complex and controversial issues. We often have personal flaws, weaknesses, and vices that prevent us from living up to our ideals, values, and goals.
We need to be more aware of our own limitations and biases and more willing to challenge ourselves, learn from others, and change our minds.
The problem of solutions
- There is no single, simple, or perfect solution for any problem, but rather a range of possible solutions that have different trade-offs, risks, and benefits.
- There is no guarantee that any solution will work as intended, or that it will not create new problems or unintended consequences.
- We need to be humble, curious, and open-minded when evaluating and experimenting with different solutions, and be ready to adapt, revise, or abandon them if they prove to be ineffective or harmful.
The mind of Tim Urban
- Humans operate at multiple social levels—they can be independent individuals and they can be colonies or collectives.
- Our understanding of intelligence and consciousness is very human-centric – probably very limited and science is very young.
- The human ability for rational thought is intertwined with the survival mechanism.
- Tribalism is a natural human tendency that can be both good and bad.
- Social justice is about creating a fairer society by addressing systemic inequalities and discrimination.