An experiment in using mythic mode to confront the meaning crisis.

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Setting context for this post is going to be tough. It’s gonna get weird but I try to tie it all together into a useful proposal by the end. Bear with me!

I tossed this idea out the other day:

This is an idea that’s been developing in the back of my head, in very nebulous regions of my notes and thoughts, after a number of long-running themes have converged for me. My book on productive disagreement is out, and the 3 years I spent researching and writing it have really crystallized for me both the urgent need for new ways to relate to one another, which require new ways of having conversations, which require new ways of thinking about the world. …


A few prototype myths offered as an experiment in designing a personal mythology.

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1.

A tiny snake woke up in a chaotic and dark forest. It asked, “What am I?”

A spider, hovering over it with hungry eyes, said, “You’re a part of the forest. Go back to sleep.”

The snake fell back asleep.

It’s difficult to wake up.

2.

A tiny snake woke up in a chaotic and dark forest. It asked, “What am I?”

A spider said, “You‘re a part of the dark forest. Here let me help you go back to sleep.”

The snake smelled the warm ripe breath of the giant spider, and was repulsed. …


Chat transcript between Kevin McGillivray and Buster Benson.

Buster: For my new year’s resolution, I’m starting a low-quality, short-lived blog with musings on a question that might not have an answer:

Kevin: This reminds me of this post on “gardening games”:

Exploration game: player fights / loots their way through the game, and when they leave the environment is left less interesting from them being there.

Gardening game: the more time a player spends in an area, the more interesting that area becomes. The game is infinite play, ambiguous, and the environment isn’t 100% controllable, only influencable.

I’m thinking exploration games are a byproduct of the hero’s journey, and gardening games might represent this alternative you’re questioning for. …


Dear Nobody,

Our fixation on the Hero’s Journey is causing problems. I propose that we look for alternatives.

The alternative I’m looking for isn’t the Fool’s Journey, because in most Hero’s Journey stories the hero starts as a fool.

And I’m not looking for the Anti-Hero’s Journey either because that’s just a Hero’s Journey story flipped around. Every hero needs an anti-hero, and vice versa.

The problem I have with the Hero’s Journey is that the hero is biased to only address problems that they can solve, and to deny that anything else is a problem.

What if not all problems are solvable? The hero will throw up their hands and walk away. Why should we worry about problems that aren’t solvable? Surely every problem can be addressed at least in part! We just need the right hero, is all. …


Weekly technical notes on progress as we rebuild 750.

Disclaimer: My plan is to share unpolished notes on progress at least weekly while building 750 Words V2. It’s going to be filled with details that you may find incomprehensible, boring, or completely misguided. Lots of details that should be included will be missing, while at the same time many details that could have been left out will be included. I’m sharing it here without attempting to make it entertaining or worth your time at all, because that would take too long for me to curate, and I just want to share it in case someone is willing to do the work filtering out all the noise. …


10 years later, a chance to give this little side project the love it deserves.

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A 1-month streak on 750 Words.

750words.com was originally launched on December 15th, 2009. The blog post I wrote a few days after launching it accidentally got deleted many years ago, but I found it on the WaY bAcK mAcHiNe. I launched it 4 days after thinking of the idea:

I thought of building this little tool (let me check my wiki) on December 11th. I was still thinking (and writing) about it on December 12th, so I bought the domain. On December 13th I used one of my stub Rails site bundles to get the basics up and running (Facebook Connect, jQuery, Compass) on my shared server, created a few models, and looked up a few jQuery plugins I’d need. Tested it on December 14th, launched on December 15th. …


The spaces where we disagree have a hidden effect on our arguments

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Illustration: Siggi Odds

Think back to a recent argument. Now put aside the argument itself and think about the environment that the argument happened within. Was there anything about the environment that encouraged or discouraged different fruit of disagreement to emerge?

What was the power dynamic?

What were the expectations for what had to come out of the argument?

Was there any additional hidden context that influenced the argument without making itself explicitly known (like cultural norms, shared history, the medium of communication it was happening in, the constraints of time, etc.)?

We like to think of our arguments as existing outside the context of time and space, as perfectly rational dissertations that clash and resolve based on their objective merits alone. But the physical space that disagreements occur in actually influences the voices we listen to (whom can we hear?), the dynamics of the conversation (what roles of authority are people playing?), how people participate (who is allowed to speak?), and even who participates (who is allowed in the room?). …


Take a break from whatever you’re doing to consider just how amazing it is that we exist simultaneously as a collective of intuitions, as individuals, as members of teams, organizations, nations, and as a small part of the natural world — all folded into a marvelous, thinking fractal.

I had a weird thought.

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Thinking Fast and Well

Thinking happens at the level of neurons, synapses, and neurotransmitters at approximately 10 quadrillion (10 million billion) bits per second within each of our heads. That’s pretty cool. What’s even cooler is that this thinking happens at multiple different levels of abstraction that allow slower, more deliberate thinking to keep an eye on the faster, more reactive thinking.

For example: we can think from part of ourselves (like the angry part, or the professional part, or the sad part), we can think as a whole person, we can think as a member of one of the many teams and institutions we belong to, or as a citizen of a country, or as a single cell within the entirety of the human race, or even as a part of the entire natural world and universe beyond. …


A brief tour of the framework from Why Are We Yelling?

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http://busterbenson.com/whyareweyelling

Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement comes out on Nov 19th. It’s on sale today.

New products often give you a tour of what they do to help you decide if they’re worth buying or not. Books like to remain more mysterious because of the fear that their ideas are too easy to compress into much shorter pieces.

I would like to face this fear head on because my approach was different… I tried to pack as many multidisciplinary ideas into the book as possible, each chapter organized around a practical “thing to try”.

I’m not an expert, I’m a curator and synthesizer of experts in service of making them more approachable and useful in everyday life. I don’t get invited to expert panels because none of the ideas are “mine”. But on the ground people like me are useful, I think. …


A 4-step roadmap for developing an always-on, honest relationship to bias.

In 2016, I published the Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet on Medium, and as of today it’s been read over 1.3 million times, and inspired a book titled Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement, coming out this November. In the meantime, I’ve continued to try to simplify things in the hopes of getting to the true core of what biases are, how they help us, and how we can best manage our relationship to them.

TL;DR —

We can’t avoid our biases. The best we can do is maintain an honest dialogue with our blind spots and commit to identifying and repairing inadvertent damage caused by them as efficiently as possible. …

About

Buster Benson

Author of Why Are We Yelling? — a book about the art of productive disagreement. I run 750words.com. Previously product at Patreon, Slack, Twitter, and Amazon.

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