Snacks, Social Media, and Slot Machines
By Amy Willis
Do you suffer from scarcity brain? According to Michael Easter, the answer is, “probably.” Many (perhaps most) of us often have the feeling that we can’t get enough, and in this episode, host Russ Roberts welcomes Easter back to talk about it. Easter argues that modern technology has figured out how to get us not to moderate and even push us into more-whether we’re talking about snacks, social media, or slot machines. Consuming less has never made sense in grand historical perspective, says Easter; “more” has long conferred a survival advantage. How, then, have we arrived at this “evolutionary mismatch?”
Will you share your thoughts with us? Let’s keep the conversation going.
1- What are the three parts of the scarcity loop, according to Easter? How have slot machines and social media, respectively, perfected the scarcity loop? In what other contexts can you see the scarcity loop operating, and how? How has our transition to the digital world changed how we experience compulsion?
2- What do we tend to get wrong when thinking about dopamine, according to Easter, and why does he believe people have more agency than our typical conversations regarding dopamine suggest? (And what do you think previous guest Robert Sapolsky would say in response to this claim of Easter’s?)
3- Roberts and Easter discuss misogi challenges. What is the nature of such challenges, and how might they help us overcome the temptation of the scarcity brain? Have you ever undertaken such a challenge? If so, in what way(s) did it help you? What are some misogi challenges you might be willing to try?
4- What advice does Easter offer to change your mindset by changing each part of the scarcity loop? Which parts of the loop are the most challenging to combat, and why? Is there any additional advice you might offer?
5- How have the ways in which we spend our attention changed over the last 100 years? Easter describes the time he spent in a monastery. What did he learn from this? Why might Benedictine monks be happier on average?