๐Ÿ“‘ Ark Head

Bookmarked Ark Head by Venkatesh RaoVenkatesh Rao (ribbonfarm.com)

One mental model for this condition is what I call ark head, as in Noahโ€™s Ark. Weโ€™ve given up on the prospect of actually solving or managing most of the snowballing global problems and crises weโ€™re hurtling towards. Or even meaningfully comprehending the gestalt. Weโ€™ve accepted that some large fraction of those problems will go unsolved and unmanaged, and result in a drastic but unevenly distributed reduction in quality of life for most of humanity over the next few decades. Weโ€™ve concluded that the rational response is to restrict our concerns to a small subset of local realityโ€“an arkโ€“and compete for a shrinking set of resources with others doing the same. Weโ€™re content to find and inhabit just one zone of positivity, large enough for ourselves and some friends. We cross our fingers and hope our little ark is outside the fallout radius of the next unmanaged crisis, whether it is a nuclear attack, aliens landing, a big hurricane, or (here in California), a big wildfire or earthquake.

In order to survived the battered psyche, Venkatesh Rao explains that way have resorted to the ‘ark head’ mental model. This involves giving up on solving the world’s ills and simply hiding in our ark.

Ark-head is an interesting collective diagnosis. Itโ€™s not depression, anxiety PTSD, or collective brain fog, though all those currently common comorbidities tighten the grip of ark-head on the psyche. Itโ€™s an unconsciously adopted survivalist mindset that draws boundaries around itself as tightly as necessary to maintain the ability to function. Itโ€™s a pragmatic abandonment of universalist conceits to save your sanity.

He suggests that it is very much the mental model for the Dark Ages. The way out is through telling stories beyond the ark.

It was interesting reading this alongside Ed Yong’s discussion of the ongoing pandemic:

The U.S. will continue to struggle against infectious diseases in part because some of its most deeply held values are antithetical to the task of besting a virus. Since its founding, the country has prized a strain of rugged individualism that prioritizes individual freedom and valorizes self-reliance. According to this ethos, people are responsible for their own well-being, physical and moral strength are equated, social vulnerability results from personal weakness rather than policy failure, and handouts or advice from the government are unwelcome. Such ideals are disastrous when handling a pandemic

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