The Fracturing Of The Human Mind with Jonathan Haidt and Guests

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  • ℹ️ Published 6 months ago
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Welcome to another episode of Conversations with Coleman.

This episode is a recording of a live event that I did with Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff, and Rikki Schlott.

Jonathan Haidt is a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business. He is also the co-founder of Heterodox Academy, which I once wrote a blog post for back when I was probably 21 years old. Jonathan is the author of many books including "The Happiness Hypothesis", "The Righteous Mind", and "The Coddling of the American Mind" with his co-author Gregory Lukianoff.
Greg Lukianoff is the president of FIRE which is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and probably the pre-eminent defender of free speech on college campuses. Greg is also the producer of several documentaries about free speech and is also a trained lawyer. Rikki Schlott is a columnist for the New York Post, a fellow at FIRE, a contributor at Reason Magazine, and the host of the Lost Debate Podcast.

We all discuss what has changed since Jonathan and Greg published "The Coddling of the American Mind" back in 2018. We talk about the effect of social media on political polarization and mental health. We also discuss Jonathan's recent viral Atlantic essay called "Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid", and lots of other related topics. Unfortunately, because of the constraints of the live event, this is a shorter podcast than usual. However, I'm getting Jonathan back on the podcast very soon to have a full-length discussion about all this stuff.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

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💬 Comments
Author

Jonathan is one of my favourite speakers and social psychologists . Great interview

Author — lindon tilson

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Really love John, he is able to articulate the issues with social media perfectly. His Tower of Babel metaphor he starts around 17:30 nails it, people talk different languages and can't even understand each other

Author — WildWoody42

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This is very important work. But, in PC places (Red, Blue or Green) these problems have been around for a long time. I can give many examples I experienced in the 1980s and 1990s. Also, 20 years ago I made a complaint to the UCSC bookstore that there was not a single book or publication that presented a conservative perspective. And I was far from conservative, in fact quite a radical. I think much of censorship has to do with victim mentality. Nearly anything is justifiable when one uses a victim’s perspective to justify it. The SPLC has been slandering decent people for decades. As nice as it is to hear public intellectuals talking about these issues, I feel a bit resentful that I (a ghetto-raised flunky) was pointing out many of these things long ago. Most people are social cowards, and as long as that’s the case, even free speech won’t free people’s minds. Intellectual honesty is extremely rare.

Author — Kevin Browning

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Outstanding and interesting conversation! Keep up with the Haidt speech

Author — Ambrose Ling

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For me, I noticed the shift occurred right around 2012 because that was the year that over 50% of Americans owned a smartphone. Conversations and relationships shifted drastically from this moment on in my family and friend circles.

Author — We Are Fulcrum

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Terrific show, Coleman. Great guest. Good length of time! Yes, the word Babble = linguistic chaos, confusion and disorientation. That's why Ecclesiastes, the first existential philosopher, who could observe--without any media, radio, TV, etc--that "there's no news under the sun" was so brilliant. That's why many Americans (especially, those who haven't read former NYU professor of Philosophy, Leonard Peikoff's, "The Cause of Hitler's Germany"), can't see that the "Lens of Race, " too and the current moral. disorientation is a flip side repeat of Weimar Germany and equally idiotic, dogmatic, dangerous to downright sinister. That's why various Black intellectuals who speak courageously about what McWhorter calls, "Woke Racism, " or about "Racelessness" are on to something important, even if they lack the European pre-WWII perspective which Peikoff unpacks like no other (def, a must read for you, Coleman).

Author — Wes Columbus

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Excellent discussion! Would love to see the follow up book to Coddling of the American Mind.

Author — Curtis Lundberg

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I need this conversation to be longer and in liquid form so that I can consume it intravenously 24/7.

Author — Life Alchemy

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Haidt is fantastic. Definitely, get a full episode with him.

Author — quinn tissiere

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FANTASTIC discussion. Thank you for bringing this to us, Coleman.

Author — 911heroesandme

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I'm generally sympathetic to the arguments this group makes, but Haidt is misrepresenting both the strength and the proper interpretation of the evidence on social media and mental health for teenage girls. I appreciate Hughes for putting this question to him, and I find his response disappointing.


After stating this, Haidt says that you would be "completely insane" to let your daughter use social media, given this correlation of r = 0.2. Haidt is well aware that r = 0.2 is not a causal estimate; it's a correlation. He's addressed this in his scientific writing, saying that there are other reasons to believe that there is a causal effect of social media use on negative mental health outcomes. And that's fair enough, but he doesn't say it's r = 0.2! And yet, everything he says after addressing the effect size issue is couched in causal language. This is a serious caveat that should have been acknowledged.

But, let's go ahead and suppose r = 0.2 is a genuinely causal effect. That still would not justify the claim that one would have to be "completely insane" to allow social media use. And I'm sure Haidt knows, r = 0.2 is a very weak effect size when it comes to individual predictions. He correctly points out that weak effect sizes for individual predictions can still be of serious public health concern at the aggregate level. But to talk about what you should or should not let your daughter do is to switch from the topic of aggregate effects to individual prediction, and from that point of view the variance in individual mental health outcomes is overwhelmingly influenced by forces other than social media use.

And this is assuming that mental health outcomes are being quantified using measures with good reliability and validity properties, which for the most part they aren't. This isn't Haidt's fault; we're talking about something that is tough to measure well. But consider again the effects he lays out as comparisons: lead on IQ and smoking on cancer. IQ may be controversial, but it has far better psychometric properties than the mental health measures used in most of these studies. And cancer... yeah, that's pretty easy to measure.

None of this is to say that social media use isn't harmful to teenage girls (or adults, for that matter!). Haidt makes many compelling arguments at to why is could be. But his response to Coleman's question about the strength of the empirical evidence should be taken with a grain of salt.


(If it matters to the reader, I'm a statistician)

Author — Ben Prytherch

Author

OMG, Haidt is right. We have entered the Singularity/Last Days, and there was a shift in the continuum. There are 2 paths: one path into the Matrix (as AI become sentient and nations are destroyed), and the other the human path. I felt the shift after the BLM riots, a mass hysteria over something that does not exist.

Author — Nuclearman

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The Dynamics and phenomenon that they are seeing with preteens, teenagers, and 20-year-olds, is also happening to a great degree with the parents of these groups. How did that come about?

Author — safebelayer

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Greg looks really healthy, must have lost 50 lbs since the last time I saw him!

Author — stvbrsn

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Excellent discussion (as _ANY_ conversation with Haidt is) but one thing puzzles me... there are 6 water glasses for 4 people... who's the thirstiest?

Author — HermitTheFrog

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These kids don't realize they are foot soldiers in a collective authoritarian wave that will only cripple their rights in the long run, and hinder their ability to think objectively on an individual level, which will make them easier to manipulate...

Not to mention, this is giving them a thin skin, and reducing their ability for forgiveness...

This has echoes of Mao's cultural revolution among other things...

Author — blaisetzu

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Excited for lukianoff’s follow up to coddling

Author — William Summers

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Good grief are they shadow-banning the crap out of Coleman - I don't think I've seen your content on my feed in months, and I only have like 30 people I sub to on YouTube.
I'm going to catch up on listening. Hope you are well!

Author — Craig Morning

Author

Another Illuminating conversation, thanks.
Spreading the reality of the problem helps, there are still so many people out there who don't think there's an issue.

Author — Ty Sparks

Author

Where's the line between playing nice and giving constructive criticism or disagreement? For example, in this talk, it is assumed (credited) that depression and self-harm is a product of the social media spaces, YET the woman on the panel gets away with exemplifying the victim narrative by blaming her own generations narrative that magazine companys were to _blame_ for unrealistic body types (indirect body shaming). Where is the personal responsibility if the micro aggressions are from pictures on a Facebook page of someone's vacation? Why is the attention seeking seen in both cases not equated?

She is fully displaying the negative stereotypes supposedly deemed socially damaging by the research, YET she gets a pass by being part of the panel?

To me, the greatest fault of this current generation is the fascination with empathy as an empirical quantifiable belief (as-in, the belief you can equate your thoughts or feelings with another person's directly) and _ally-ship_ . I think the 2 are negatively intertwined as well.

Author — J H