Oct 13 • 59M

Jonathan Haidt: social media kills the internet utopia

What hath Twitter wrought?

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Razib Khan
Conversations about science, culture, and current affairs
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Jonathan Haidt is the author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. One of the pioneers of Moral Foundations Theory and a founder of Heterodox Academy, over the last few years Haidt has been focused on the impact of social media on our politics and culture (he is writing two books on the topic).

Razib and Haidt begin their discussion with the blockbuster piece in The Atlantic, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. They both agree that in many ways the 1990’s and 2000’s were an information utopia, where the mind-opening possibilities of the internet were being realized. But Haidt lays out the case for social media, and more precisely functionalities like Twitter’s “quote-tweet” feature, having degraded online discourse, and driven offline polarization. He also argues that government and tech have to protect children from social media, making a case for enforced age restrictions on access.

Razib presses Haidt on his theory about the “moral foundations” that differentiate liberals from conservatives. They discuss the possibility that ideological orientations may have been scrambled by the same processes that drove polarization in society more broadly with social media. Haidt also discusses his resignation from an academic society and the climate of intellectual conformity that is now seeping into every corner of the scholarly world.

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