Urban’s words

Tim Urban words

This post is part of our new dictionary series. Words are information about how we can think and how we do think. These are from Tim Urban’s March 2022 appearance on The Psychology Podcast.

Low rung thinker. Think of a ladder. Climbers are high rung thinkers. They approach life like scientists, with curiosity and inquiry. They look around. Non-climbers are low rung thinkers. They approach life with dogmatic and group thinkyness. 

Our height is not static. We climb up and down the ladder. Changing the scope of your media is one way to affect the height. 

An inverse proxy for height is conviction. Depending on the topic, the more confident person the lower they likely are.

Grand Theft Auto Dating. Think of dating as a GTA level. In the game avatars run about stealing cars, shooting bystanders, and running from the police. There is a lot of exploration and not a lot of consequences. 

Dating can be like that. 

It’s not when we use innate norms. We evolved in small social groups where the cost of standing out was high. But we mostly don’t live that way anymore. Yet we act as if we do. 

Instead, says Urban, treat dating more like GTA (minus the carnage). Treat dating as having GTA rules rather than evolutionary ones. 

Identity rocks. Imagine identity as rocks in a backpack. We carry these rocks around with us and they can get heavy. They don’t allow us to change. 

Identities serve (at least!) two purposes. First, they give us membership to a group. As evolved creatures that used to matter a lot! Second, they embody what we want to be. ‘Caring’ is embodied in religion. ‘Freedom’ is embodied in politics. ‘Change’ is embodied in movements. Disembody the sensation from the identity. 

Idea lab. A real imaginary place where collaborators can throw out crazy ideas and freely disagree. It’s where “ideas are like science experiments.” 

Often this is in the culture of a place. One way to create this culture is by having two bosses clash. This shifts the incentive from appeasement to truth-seeking

But naming a room “the idea lab”. That frames it nicely. 

Loved Flash FM (YouTube). Also, the ideas around social groups and status games are in this post. Also, naming a room isn’t crazy. Some founders put a toy elephant in the corner of their meeting rooms so they never forgot about the elephant in the room.

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